Born in 1945, Robert Gray is an Australian poet renowned for his imagistic style, drawing strength from his fastidious concern for the precision of language and a meticulous contemplation of physical existence. Gray’s works are unconventional in structure, and prevalent throughout his poems are the recurring themes of humanism, consumerism and naturalism, peppered with allusions to personal experiences. Gray’s thematic concerns arise from his personal context, alongside his love of the Australian environment, “My poetry is very physically located” and his Buddhist ideals which influence his literary style. Gray’s thematic concerns and themes are manifest in all of his poems, demonstrating copious readings, including psychoanalysis and deconstruction, especially palpable within “Diptych” and “The Meatworks”. Multiplicities of poetic techniques are used to reinforce Gray’s thematic concerns, including symbolism, anecdotes and imagery.
Diptych is a confessional poem depicting Gray’s sentiments on humanism, while also psychoanalysing his parent’s relationship, “as the inadequacies of their temperaments are an underlying attitude of my poetry”. The name Diptych is a metaphoric allusion to his parents, who were “like the panels of a diptych, forever separated while in close proximity.” Reinforcing this notion is the absence of evident stanza, and the utilisation of a two-tiered structure, while also exemplifying the detachment of his parent’s relationship, through the composition of each panel symbolising their relationship. The first stanza depicts a portrait of Gray’s mother, whereby the first person view and conversational tone augment the friendly nature, “My mother told me how one night…” Despite the first stanza being about the mother, the anecdote presented features considerably about Gray’s father; “becoming legend”, symbolising his authoritarian domineering over his mother. Psychoanalytically, the anecdote of Gray’s mother biting “off the tail of a lizard”...
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