Literary analysis of the early poetry of Scott Hastie by Aria Ligi



Selected Poetry – A bouquet of Poesy

Scott Hastie’s ‘Selected Poetry’ is a collection that harkens to the Romantics of old as well, as the modern enthusiast at times straddling both with deft efficiency. He begins with a pastoral paean to nature:

On a still summer’s afternoon

Finches chatter in the hedgerow

And neat cottage gardens burst forth

With the first fresh blooms of June,

Delicate pastel peonies

And hardy green roses plump in the bud.

Feathered chestnut blossom lingers high

In splendid old trees,

And on the meadow’s gentle slopes

Tired cattle seem lost in a sudden heat

That almost stops your heart.

Nature’s mellow pause

In a changing English season,

Edged by echoes of birdsong

And gentle breezes in barley.

One can almost hear Wordsworth in these lines when he describes the ‘delicate pastel peonies’ and the ‘feathered chestnut blooms’ this is not merely though, a poem that details the varied vegetation in the garden but one which through rhyme brings you into the moment, suddenly you are transported into an English meadow such as the lush greenery of Wordsworth’s lush Northumberland.

From here he proclaims the delights of summer,

Fresh fractured singing surf

Dances at the foot of the sheer cliff edge,

Perpetually humbled and yet splendid in its arrogance.

We stand and watch in the sunshine

As its white spray stings the ragged face of time.

This is the poetry of youth, finding joy in every sunrise, and every sandy-hewn cliff. Yet, for all his melodic fancies, he does not risk thematic redundancy, by sticking us solely in the sanctum of the summer’s joyful agrarian bliss. There are depictions of the cold landscape of

The winter landscape displays more clearly

Its spread of flat, open, naked space.


The very features on her virgin face,

Though covered, glow still in the gloom.

This is the work of a young artist, stretching his poetic wings, searching for his voice, trying out one, mastering it, and then another, as one a musician would having learned the acoustic guitar finds him/herself curious about the electric, the classical, and maybe even the bass. If we see this as a starting point from which to launch our poetic ship Hastie’s ‘Selected Poetry’, is a grand place to begin. Each work builds upon the previous one. We see the poet too, transforming from his youthful dalliances into Wordsworthian poesy to his more modernist work. Having read and enjoyed Hastie’s later work, you can hear reading in this his mature voice, peeking through like a friend waiting in the wings to be introduced. This is evident in such lines as

And so here we are, my love and I,

Just doing our best…

Like sunny morning nudes

We sit together scheming happiness.

And the sensuous allusion to the goddess Aphrodite

in the good green grass,

My body seeks the velvet crimson of a tiny crocus,

Sweet Goddess of desire.

And later, when he speaks of the birth of his child, in the ever personal and beautiful

Bathed in rhythmic floods of energy

That stretch and squeeze,

Stretch and squeeze,

Until the magical hour arrives

When breath and pain quickens to a frenzy,

And then suddenly there it is,


Black and blue and bloody,

Soon writhing in your hands,

Softly screaming.

The voice here is not just that of the father, but an observer of life, of the disparate energies, that ebb and flow within all of us as life is created. And this is the point of poetry is not? To reflect back to the reader, not merely what one see’s but the emotions and undercurrents that are ever-present, but not always noted. It is the poet’s job to do that. To be an echo of life. Hastie’s work is a shining example of that for it amplifies the darker (subliminal) energy and that which lifts up as well. I can think of no finer example of what poetry is, and of the emergence of it, than this collection which subsumes the reader as it harkens the old and heralds the new.



New Poetry – Plaint Symphony

In reading Hastie’s work, New Poetry , after taking in his sublime Selected Poetry , I was not sure what to expect with this latest (though published first in the 90s) offering. Would it be as varied as the previous work? Would it capture my imagination and heart as richly as the first? The answer to both of these questions is an unqualified yes.

New Poetry (as Selected Poetry did ) starts slowly, is the overture of a symphony (think Braham’s 4th) its rhythms like a slow pianissimo, hum sweetly in your ear.

A drowsy stream,

Once stiff and iced in winter,

Trickles freely over a bed of pebbles,

Past grassy lumps at the meadow edge,

Where seedlings struggle through silvered moss

One can almost see and hear this “drowsy stream” and see the “silvered moss”. Hastie not stopping, uses such metaphors intertwining the wonders of nature in such a way as to juxtapose those with his young daughter

Her hair fair with tiny ringlets

She might never notice,

Her joy is so open.

How strong and sturdy she grows,

And yet how she still loves

The simple exquisite things,

Like splashing me with water

Or kissing cool cotton sheets

On a sticky summer’s night.

And then

Look closely in the garden,

At the tired but pollen-laden shrubs,

And you will see how even now

A host of insects

Are busy harvesting gold

In this still and inky darkness.

As for Louise,

She’s calmly asleep with all her dreams.

The rampant sun has ebbed away again,

And at the end of an all but exhausted day,

How prettily the moonlight lingers

Over this, the perfect silence of happiness.

Though he revels in the beauty of nature he is not insensate to the deformities in it, as well as humanity

At its edge young bushes, thick with thorns,

And tall colonies of giant serried nettles

Fail to hide completely the ugliness

Of shattered plastic and rusty metal

And then laying the blame where it must be

the old weathered bricks

And crumbling cement that have tumbled down

In the centre of this muddied woodland clearing,

Where man once lingered thoughtlessly

And nature still struggles to cover the spoiled space,

Where his sad monuments still linger,

Stubborn and hopeless.

The meter is strong and lingers over your mind like a warm bath, weltering and at times stinging your skin over the open wounds that humanity has willfully inflicted. His is employs here a Frostian mode, but Frost with an erudite, and at once accessible to the modern ear, bite.

It is, therefore, not surprising that not long after, we hear the voice of Hastie’s, (which we would as any reader of his would recognize) his mature poetic voice seeping through. It is there on the edges of many pieces, peeking its head out, and then popping back in, like a child at the door, wondering if he dares to venture out into the cold.

This becomes apparent first in the first four paragraphs [page 16]

Ancient feelings sow seeds of delight

Fed by needs and desires,

Both petty and bestial,

That foster none of the peace and contentment

Of those who, with simple hearts,

Find acceptance and chase little more

Than the day’s end, such is their trust.

To know no more than this though

Is perhaps the best of life’s blessings.

For in quest of innocence long departed,

There is no road back to the calm naked

Islands of hope that once we were.

So hold me tight, take all you want of me,

And in this, the sudden, sharp passion

Of our secret world,

I promise you that

The lines here are a narrative, the poet breaking the fourth wall addressing the reader, says, “Of those with, with simple hearts, find acceptance and chase little than the day’s end is their trust…” and in the final paragraph “So hold me tight, take all you want of me, and in this, the sudden sharp passion of our secret world, I promise you that,” The final paragraph returning the reader to the metrical rhythms of the previously engaged.

We will spill and share our souls.

We will be all we should be,

At least until the morning comes

It is as if the poet, still searching for his voice, does not, or has not decided between the two genres, that of free verse, or the more classical (and thematically familiar) Wordsworthian, Frostian, mode. How does he choose? It seems the choice is made slowly, and through poetic play (as all good poets do) and by the events of life (foisted on upon us) causing the artist to submerge himself collectively within the nebulous (and ephemeral) void of consciousness.

Witness the unmetered sonnet

Within the golden riot

Of a flat freezing autumn

Coldness quite suddenly

Has its own specific and final smell,

A smoky meld of musk and damp,

The smell of loss and completion.

Now tomorrow is made anew,

Though every step forward

On the soft first frost of winter

Will seem like an agony of intrusion,

Like walking on sacred relics,

Or broken bone china

That might crack and spit at you

With its own sense of finish, of perfection

The meter is imperfect, it is not iambic, the first two lines being heptameter, the third hexameter, and the fourth iambic, the fifth hexameter, and the sixth hexameter, ending with the three-syllable word, completion. The second stanza continues in this vein of imperfect rhythms, but what completes it, rounding the entire with a continuity that gives the work bulk, is the last word, again three-syllables, perfection. It is as if the artist, is cognizant of the inclusion in the work and as such, in highlighting it through the subtlety of meter announces that it is complete and perfect in its own imperfection. That the “imperfections” are, is what makes it so.

Again, and again, he returns to this vegetive exquisiteness highlighting through the use of personification no more and nowhere profoundly, an aged weariness that exists in nature (as in humanity)

A diseased tree dying alone

In an empty field.

Its trunk and branches roughly broken,

Snapped by a merciless hope.

Its sap, once fresh and sticky,

Set fast and solid now – finished

Like the ugly look of its piebald bark

-Peeling, tatty and torn.

This bust broken giant

Seems to be mourning an elephantine loss.

Robbed of growth.

What is notable, and it comes forth later and to a greater extent, is the emphasis is now two-fold, on beauty and loss. Hastie’s reverence for the tree acknowledges what has been, the “once fresh and sticky” [sap] that has “set fast” and the “ugly look of its piebald bark. “, Even in delineating the wasted youth, there is beauty. Not long after this, he tells us so-

Fat greedy birds sit and beg

From the spiky frozen branches of naked trees,

Whose silhouetted limbs eat into the air

This is a fiercely brave book for its daring to go not just into the mire of nature’s bounty, but to then weave seamlessly into this concoction a brew that will resonate deep within the soul because this is not Hallmark verse that one would use for holiday cards, it is heartfelt, (which is, verse for the common man) retaining poetic structure and nobility, while reaching furtively beneath the layers collective consciousness that all of us use to guard our at once solipsistic, tender humanness.

This ‘humanness’ is nowhere more evident than in the author’s perceptions on the death of a lost love, detailed near the end of the collection. He speaks of visiting her graveside.

I knelt for hours though,

Chasing back our memories together,

Until their sweet resonance

Made it almost impossible to leave,

Anchored by your loss.

The pink roses

I left to drip in cellophane.

After this, the remaining poems have a natural infusion of morbidity; recurrent themes persist as the author ponders death, growing old, the suffering of others, at the hands of those whose sights are set on cupidity and malfeasance. Even later in a piece in which he contrasts his infant son with grown men

Even the most finished

And brawniest of men

Can look so childlike, so vulnerable,

Curled up and alone

Beneath simple white sheets.

my baby boy.

Thick breast-fed bones,

Already solid

Beneath layers of puppy fat

He returns at the end to the previous loss,

Buried, but growing strong beneath

Warm furred sheets,

Once as smooth and as cold as a mortuary slab.

His pain is palpable, as he calls himself “the last man alive” that he “dreams of lush green grass” but later notes that “He is impotent now” and “like a tiny black flower” these are the sentiments of one who is inured in grief, though longing to move on. His awareness that he can “never be quite so innocent again.” Gives one pause to ask, if the death of his love was something, he felt guilt for, and if not, is he torturing himself for some unknown, and unspoken reason? He does not let us in on that but keeps the movement going. [Remember this is a symphony and we have now entered the final part].

In the denouement, he returns us to nature, for it is from her, that he can revive, imbibe sustenance, begin to make sense of things and then not so much move on, but move forward putting into place lessons learned, and from there reconstruct his life using that knowledge to feed himself, spiritually and this the heart of it, and New Poetry , is about. Feeding the soul. The movement is evident in

How existence

Surely gets sadder

And yet more beautiful.

Like the swollen patterned body

Of a pregnant spider,

As it rests tentatively on the silken net

Of a seemingly mortal tragedy,

That truth glows.

Hastie’s words, cognizance of the “sadness” and that in that, there is beauty is a plaint, sung through the vision of spider’s swollen pregnant belly weighing on the silken net, for are we not all like this in our existence, balancing on those tentative threads, hanging precariously over that which we know, and that which is.

Aria Ligi, Writer and Poet, San Francisco, 2021.


  1. Mahnaz


  2. Laura

    Oh my!! Aria is a genius with words. Her review is poetic in itself!!
    You hit every note within Scott’s beautiful and sometimes tragic moments
    Bravo to you Aria for you are the most talented writer and woman I have met as of yet!

  3. Wow! Some people spend their lives trying to connect with the human spirit but always fall short. This is not the case with you dear friend! You are so gifted! Keep shining your brilliant light. The review is so beautifully detailed and on point I couldn’t possibly add to it. It is perfectly said!

  4. Sunaina

    Very nice

  5. I also think that Aria Ligi’s review provides a very good analysis of Scott’s work. It seems to me that looking at those developmental aspects of the poetry generates interesting perspectives in keeping with the Romantic cast of his work.

  6. Jt Smith

    I’m no professional critique artist but if i was i’d emulate Aria Ligi’s epic yet tempered commentary on Scott Hastie’s early poetry. Tonight, I listen to American Music Club on and I felt like everything was ideally, perfectly composed here. I suppose Mr. Hastie’s allegiance towards the English Romantics is quite evident. I know that the genesis of these ideas create an elegantly adorned foundation. I can only marvel at the wisdom and knowledge for someone so young. we all wish we were a child once or twice in adulthood. Thanks Aria for your profound analysis on my dearest friend’s compositions. Be one with the masters of lit.

  7. Sharmishtha Basu

    A bouquet of flowers from one poet to another! I hope you wont mind if I share it in my blogs and Ezine.

    Your words are pure magic!

  8. Rebecca O’Donnell

    This is beautiful. Aria’s breakdown of your poetry is spot on. She has a lyrical soul which recognizes who and what you are.

  9. I applaud Aria’s in depth review here on Scott’s amazing work. I echo her critical analysis when she said- “One can almost hear Wordsworth in these lines when he describes the ‘delicate pastel peonies’…” Her eloquence in critiquing Scott’s poetry is praiseworthy enough to quite understand her amazing literary skill. Her artistic expression on a great poet’s work certainly has proved her as talented a poet as Scott himself. Very well done to Aria Ligi!

  10. Aria Ligi’s review of New Poetry shows how brilliant an interpreter of poetry she is. She taps into the deepest vein of Hastie’s Romantic-Era-inspired verse, providing the laymen a way to mine what is most precious. She begins at the surface descending with surety through a myriad of layers toward the pith festooning Hastie’s poetic imagination. As many composers of the late 18th and 19th centuries realized, beauty at its most profound level is often associated with the deepest sadness. Ligi’s read of Hastie’s collection, New Poetry, validates the truth in this. Bravo Aria Ligi! Bravo Scott Hastie! J. John Nordstrom

  11. Don Maciver

    After reading this, Aria Ligi’s most recent review, I have felt a renewed sense of inspiration and the need to delve deeply into your treasured words once again.

    Aria has such a gift in her analytic prose as it were. I found myself entrenched in the chosen written selections of your work and I really must say that they are a tremendous representation of the spellbound, deeply resonating writings that you have devoted so much of your life ‘bringing to life’ before our very eyes, sense and sensibilities.

    I must engage with her work shared online and will seek her out with great expectations.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *