Self Portrait

The images cut to the core. Orpheus limping from the hole
of hell to sing. Or Christ slumped on a cross

screaming at the silence of his god. Or a red fox running
through bent bracken

as night drops. Or my own birth sign: two antinomian fish
locked in a jagged tidal stream —

that geometric counterpoint. These are my icons where endings
are beginnings, where the country of despair

borders the frontier of possibility. But above all,
one image from my childhood:

the water lily at the centre of the kitchen-garden pond,
its long stem slowly winding down

and down into a bed of slime — and what moves me
is its mauve bud opening out into the sun,

disclosing its many petals one by one, hieratic and exact:
forgotten chakra in the skull.

Listen to the Author read the poem:



Abbs’ direct, declarative and weighed towards the bold existential significance of its images and themes. This style usually acts as a kind of quickening that adds to the ecstatic urgency of the work. Overall, this is a volume both exciting and contemplative, forward-looking and backward nodding, peregrinating and transforming. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Peter Abbs, this would be a good place to start.

-Craig Jordan-Baker in Urthona

The poetry of Peter Abbs is many-layered; it is partly that quality that makes it ring like a bell in the mind after reading. It is hard to imagine a body of work that is so completely true to the inner vocation of the poet, bonded with and bedded into tradition, while singing so clearly and urgently to the needs of the 21st Century.

-Sean Street in Acumen

Voyaging Out is haunted by endings as well as beginnings, by death and the prospect of death. The poems seek through time for timelessness, and through the finite for infinity...Voyaging out is all the stronger for the courage with which the poet struggles towards the frontiers of possibility, through the country of despair.

-Jeremy Hooker in Resurgence