The Fickle Pendulum book

The Fickle Pendulum


“If there are no easy answers here, there is nevertheless a sense, as Browning says, that ‘All our life is some form of religion.’ In verse that is measured and always thoughtful, Scully weighs the detail and delight of things against their difficult, confronting implications.”

– Martin Langford, Author of Ground


“A numinous gaze sequesters these apocrypha from history’s barbs and the traumatic coalitions of religion and empire. Yet there is clarity and grace in Scully’s poems and homages. A quiet harvester, he writes poignantly of the past, making words whisper and shine.”

– Michelle Cahill, Mascara Literary Review

The Fickle Pendulum assays belief and doubt through three historical figures – St. Thomas the Apostle, Galileo Galilei and Laura (Riding) Jackson – and uses them to pivot into wider thematic worlds. The writing is thoughtful, exploratory and never weighed down by its subject matter, and the language vibrant and rich in metaphor. The reader ineluctably mixes Paul Scully’s meditations with his or her own.

Published in 2021 by Interactive Publications

Click to read samples

Thomas Texts

Sayings from the Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas records “secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and that Didymos Judas Thomas recorded. And He said, ‘Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.’ ”

Uproot yourselves, give away all you own, seek, travel until sight
loses you, make each day its own Sabbath, then ask a child
about your place in the great creation and marvel at what you have lost.

You ask what I am truly like. A lion, a fish, a sage, a fool, a drunkard?
I am the one who releases the falling knife, who tensions the string
when you nock the bow, who is both flight and steadfastness.

The builders of this earth will cast me aside as misshapen stone
that does not fit the pattern, mortar that will not hold. But know this,
I am the level, the keystone, I bind both lime and silica.

They will lay down palm leaves before me, sing me hosannas, even
celebrate my donkey in verse, then they will flog me and kill me.
My death will be reborn and become a psalm for the ages.

The world gladly worships a smile, while you have chosen a path of fire
and whip. Things will be done to you in my name, so that you will
grow to hate me. Indulge this enmity. It will be the measure of your love.

The Common Sense of Bats

If you could penetrate the cleft that is shadow
and depth in the rock-face, you would find

us hanging from the roof of a goblet-shaped cavern,
in chrysalid pods, at wing-folded rest. Purblind,

you might think, whereas our insight is profound,
for it resides in our eyes and our ears. Our kind

sends calls to the world that resound on return to flaps of skin
kitted like drums on the sides of our heads. We unwind

the pitch of the waves that engulf us to explain the terrain.
We touch the face of the earth, its mien enshrined

in a forested brow, in an eye-lit lake. The stories
they tell: An inchoate swell? What sings in the land behind

this discourse? What pivots unbidden? Our thought is mating
and forage, things we can hold: for us, it is no matter, no mind.

Responsorial Psalm

Bruno burned martyrdom
would not have become
you nor would your prestige
have flamed higher for Newton
foraged in the colony of vectors
you shouldered into the Two New Sciences

You gorged on the contest
as much as the search you railed
you lampooned traded scalpel for rapier
when disagreement took the field
especially when your assailant hilted
his treatise in Joshua and Solomon

Women lurked in the penumbra only
a mother but not a wife to you
two tender-aged daughters you offloaded
into a cloister deemed unworthy
of your son’s upgraded birth the Tuscan legate’s
Contessa as convent patrona and the Virgin

In your youth a paean to Dante
his people-speak you took as your own
you as text for Urban’s verse yet your Dialogue
spurns poetry as mere imagining How then
these symbols these metered lines
these comforts on our “blind journey”

Suture Lines


“The range of these poems is as extensive as their generosity …. underpinning the whole collection is a warm intelligence which reminds us of the many forms and dimensions of love. This surprises with its gentle insistence, coupled with an acutely inquiring poetic mind.”

– David Musgrave


“… a book in thrall with language. Like the birdsong that populates so many of these poems, Suture Lines is a chorus, lush and full throated ….. Warm, nourishing and reverberating with spirit …”

– Caitlin Maling


“He draws on knowledge across many fields … He is inventive in his treatment …. His eye for landscape and the human condition is acute…. a collection that will surprise in many ways and have the reader wanting to dig deeper”

– Malcolm St Hill

Published in Ulladulla in 2016 by Guillotine Press

Read Malcom St Hill’s review of Suture Lines



Read an interview with Paul that compares An Existential Grammar and Suture Lines.

An Existential Grammar


“I imagine Scully’s poems as fence posts across the boundaries of a vast property. Thinly spread but meticulously placed they both observe and make real the territories of existence.”

– Les Wicks


“Classical, erudite and unassuming at the same time …. Scully approaches his subjects with a subtlety and reserve behind which, deeply informing the gaze, lurk extensive experience, powerful feeling.”

– David Brooks


“….a collection of great variety and intensity. Scully’s well chosen language, lively unusual characters and vividly drawn settings shine throughout.”

– Charles Freyberg

Published in Hobart in 2014 by Walleah Press

An Existential Grammar was shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award

Read Charles Freyberg’s review of An Existential Grammar

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