TIM [Timothy John Andrew] SHEPPARD (1955-2009)
[What follows is a small selection of poems from Tim Sheppard's handwritten & typed manuscripts, entrusted to me after his death by his partner Kevin Tims. A year or so before, Tim had shown me his typed selection, Celtic Harmonies, 1975-79. Apparently the last editor to see the poems was Stephen Murray-Smith of Overland magazine, perhaps 30 years ago. (Tim wasnt entirely sure it was Overland to which he'd submitted; perhaps Clem Christesen at Meanjin, --and had Clem actually published a poem? We discussed it a couple of times & he firmed on Overland.) A mutual friend had played go-between. A long time elapsed before the editor communicated he'd appreciated the poems but confessed they "werent for us". It's not difficult to see why! 'Bias Australian, temper democratic' didnt describe his poetry whatever his own political preferences! After that experience, Tim didnt approach the literary scene again. Some hurt or confusion might have persisted, but Tim was probably not meant for the literary life, except as a reader of course. Although always returning to whom he'd regard as Traditional poets, he was curious about the Modern Contemporary. If he favoured the Romantics, Hopkins, the Georgians, Edward Thomas, Eliot, Kathleen Raine, Edwin Muir, it wasnt that he didnt nibble at Berryman or Ashbery or modern Europeans in translation. Mind you, he also spent time & money on Emily Dickinson & Auden before releasing them too!
The foolscap-sized hard-covered book, with handwritten entries from the early '70s & even one from childhood, containing poems & thoughts & some essays (for example, a study of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn chapter from Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows), is "dedicated to 'the motion and the spirit that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things.' " --quoting from Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey. Between the Wordsworth quotation and the equally famous verse of Blake (To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.), Tim added "and also dedicated to Kevin my friend and lover 21.7.99". On the book's inside cover is Virgil's "Sunt lacrimae rerum; mentem mortalia tangunt", from the Aeneid of course, of which Tim assumes general knowledge; the best translation of which might still be R D Fitzgerald's, "They weep here / For how the world goes, and our life that passes / Touches their hearts." (See the fascinating discussion of translations of Virgil's line on the Raminagrobis site, November 9th, 2006 posting.)
It's clear that Tim Sheppard wrote a religious poetry, Christian & mystical, 19thCentury in its expression, classical in its accommodation of divine forms. Poetry was an expression & embodiment of his philosophical search. It was autobiographical but without what he probably regarded as the literal banalities of self expression. Perhaps the most contemporary sounding of his poems are the haiku, which he included in his book from its beginning.
On an inside page is stuck a portrait of Rupert Brooke, beneath which Yeats' lines, "A pity beyond all telling / Is hid in the heart of love..."
It's astonishing & humbling to hold such a book/ such a life in one's hands. I'm sure similar documents/histories abound in our society --that life-writing, as it were, which intersects literature by dint of its existence let alone its form of expression. There is a book to be made from these manuscripts by Tim Sheppard's family & friends, --one which properly records his Christianity, his sexuality & psychology. I hope that this will happen one day.]
LOVE : A Haiku
Eyes reflected in water
Two solitudes touch.
A thousand wings extending
Throughout the cosmos
Darkness and light
Unopposed, blend with the
Emergence of form
Slowly creating itself
From within its own mystery.
Form, slowly breaks the silence of the void
While the soul extending, awakens the marvel
Of their flight across the evening sky.
For each lie told --
God wears a new mask.
Dusk, and the shadows lengthen,
and the heart surrenders to a beauty
of deep sorrowing -- ,
for in the silent-peacefulness
I am asked : "Who am I?"
I have come once more into the moment --
where sunrise does not follow night -- as
thought follows thought -- ,
but is complete as bird and sky
in stark relief -- , where
cry is not of bird alone
but of meeting
where bird and sky and eye combine --
dumb in the heart of man....
Between the Buddha
and the Christ I walk;
No distance --
for the hem of the Son
is wide. . . .
For the Compassionate One to touch. . . .