In THE OTHER SIDE OF DAYLIGHT, David Brooks curates a selection of his poems that span back over 50 years or so, plotting his own maturation and evolution as well as that of his poems. The pathway is set through the gravitas of the first poem ‘Wild Duck Sutra.’ It introduces a moment of contemplation where ‘what they don’t say/is how much you have to clear away/before the simplest things become evident.’ And through the structure of this collection, that is precisely what Brooks has done. With the wisdom of age, we see how much has been cleared as his deceptively simple insights are crystalised, offering insight into nature and the complex relationships between humans as well as with non-human animals.

With his new offerings in ‘Peanut Vendor’, Brooks has drawn on the immediacy of his own surroundings, nestled in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney’s urban sprawl. His poems are layered with imagery that captures the distinctiveness of the region and the effect is visceral. Familiar morning mists locate us within the rugged terrain. The call of the bush is made audible through sounds of Australian birdsong and details that illuminate the wonder, diversity and precariousness of the environment. His much-loved rescue sheep, affectionately imbue vignettes of rural life with a sense of comfort that settles the reader in a space of domestic tranquillity. Combined with a personable voice with regular speech patterns, his poetry is easy and enjoyable to read. 

The natural elements evoked through his poetry are juxtaposed with images that mark human intrusions upon the landscape. His free-flowing verse capture deeper truths into the human condition, acting as a conduit for deeper introspection. Brooks adopts a reflective tone, and at times his poetry heads in unexpected directions, rewarding the reader much like a newly formed friendship.

Confessional at times, he explores intricate ideas of love, loss and connection. In ‘Stolen Lemons’ the imagery of lemons that he previously enjoyed watching ‘glow in the evening/ like lanterns amongst the dark leaves’ acts as the catalyst for meditations ‘that an almost-friend/ hasn’t also been stolen somehow.’ Brooks’s ability to create deeper significance through such analogies exposes fragility in the ordinariness of life, drawing personal contemplation that deepens connections to the poems. 

Beyond the intrapersonal, Brooks explores a labyrinth of nuances to reveal the contradictions of human behaviour. He explores social divisions and injustices to present social commentary that causes reflection on our values and priorities. His tone hardens and satirical elements appear to reinforce his strong sense of social justice and in particular, animal advocacy. The serenity of our flora and fauna which at one time evokes tenderness is then dismantled by the brutality of farming and hunting practices. Moments of catharsis serve to evoke understanding and empathy. 

The exploration of acts of kindness clash with points of cruelty as his poems probe social and cultural values. Poems like ‘Easter 2016,’ alluding to the work of W.B Yeats, ‘Passports’ drawing on Australia’s treatment of illegal immigrants, and ‘Romanée-Conti’ which juxtaposes the absurdity of excessive wealth against the barbaric suffering in the world evokes images that linger beyond an initial reading of his work. 

Brooks poetry meanders along, and with every poem, we take a step back in time to see the connections between the poems and poet at the start of the collection to how they have formed.  The focus of his poems softens. As he reaches back to through a more urban landscape, it’s interesting to identify the trajectory of the younger poet’s concerns. Distant lands call, and yet his work remains distinctively Australian. Through the collection, his poems have a stillness, a quiet that causes the reader to take an extra moment to savour and appreciate the small or intimate moments that he captures so perceptively to enrich our worldview.