"A Comet Streamed in Language Far down Time": Poetry of Earth


  • Colette Rayment University of Sydney


Les Murray, declares in the opening line of his poem "From Where We Live on Presence" that "A human is a comet streamed in language far down time", by which I take him to celebrate the human capacity to write (and indeed read) poetry. In general, Murray's image is an appropriate way to trope that human trait, literacy; but in particular, it is a useful way to introduce the Australian poet, Peter Steele S.J. It is appropriate, first, because Steele's propensity to be such a comet "streamed in language" is borne out by his own endorsement of Mandelstam's more earthly dictum that "to speak means to be forever on the road"; and secondly, because Steele frequently writes his poetry (and his criticism and homilies) in images, if not of comets, of other scientific or pseudo-scientific, celestial phenomena; and thirdly, Murray's image is appropriate for Steele, because in Steele's oeuvre such pseudo-scientific images serve to depict nothing less than the presence of the glory of God in the universe.

Author Biography

Colette Rayment, University of Sydney

University of Sydney