Alyson Miller

Alyson Miller teaches literary studies at Deakin University, Geelong. Her short stories and prose poetry have been published in both national and international publications, alongside a book of literary criticism, Haunted by Words. Her collection of prose poems, Dream Animals, is forthcoming.

Alyson Miller Reviews berni m janssen’s between wind and water (in a vulnerable place)

In ‘speaking out’, the final poem of berni m janssen’s fifth collection, between wind and water (in a vulnerable place), a choral cry for resistance is offered, a lyric that insists on the ability of individuals to provoke immense change: ‘one voice small forms fight in strength / one voice strong gains another / i’m with you, go boldly’.

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Review Short: Berndt Sellheim’s Awake at the Wheel

In Awake at the Wheel, Berndt Sellheim’s debut collection of poems, Australia is imagined in gothic terms, from the eerie and persistent presence of the ‘bushland’s dark parchment’ to the bones and ghosts which haunt an endless landscape. An homage to country, there is little innocence embedded in these poems of insides and outsides, which speak not only to a transforming sense of self but also to an environment that ceaselessly, and often uneasily, shifts.

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Review Short: Michele Seminara’s Engraft

In ‘Sky Burial’, a poem about ‘the secrets inside / that we shamefully hide’, Seminara offers a provocation: ‘So listen / why don’t we share them? / Cut our guts open / and air them?’ It is an invitation to confession, but the visceral imagery is also a confrontation, an insistence on exposure which characterises much of Engraft, Seminara’s debut collection of poetry.

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Review Short: Rose Lucas’s Unexpected Clearing

In ‘Balancing,’ Rose Lucas describes how Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist made famous by his walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, ‘launched into a fitful middle space.’ With a ‘steady grip of muscle,’ Petit is imaged as a ‘machine riding air and sky,’ defying gravity as he dances ‘from element to element.’

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Review Short: Anna Kerdijk Nicholson’s Everyday Epic

In the untitled preface to Everyday Epic, Kerdijk Nicholson describes how ‘the poet grinds down / a sum of parts / to atoms’. The result is a world in which the most quotidian of instances and images are made ‘alchemically new’, an echo of Ezra Pound’s credo to repeat, but with difference. These lines also suggest that the process of grinding down is at once violent and erotic, displacing and magical, disturbing and strangely familiar.

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Review Short: Evan Jones’s Selected Poems

These lines, suffused with an abiding sense of melancholy (perhaps unsurprising given Jones’s advancing years), encapsulate the contemplations of the poet throughout the collection: the possibilities of language, the significance of the quotidian and the inescapable experience of loss. Along with Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Jones is one of the few remaining Melbourne University poets and writers from the 1950s and 1960s. This circle comprised poets such as Dinny O’Hearn and Vincent Buckley and focused on a more academic style of poetry.

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Review Short: Zenobia Frost’s Salt and Bone

In its own words, Zenobia Frost’s Salt and Bone slinks ‘between ibis-legged houses / and wakeful graveyard’, and belongs to ‘the hour of the curlew’, a liminal space that speaks of ghosts and transformation. As a collection, the poems are pervaded with a sense of haunting, plagued by abject bodies ‘aching for salt and bone’, the suffocating presence of water, and the archeology of death. It is noteworthy that Frost’s work both begins and ends with a warning of the power of unknown and strange things; a reminder, perhaps, of the gaps that exist between the ‘real’ and the imagined.

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Review Short: Lucy Williams’s Internal Weather

While Lucy Williams’s Internal Weather is split into the unavoidable cycle of life – birth, childhood, and death – the collection as a whole is a love song, a tribute to ‘difficult events’ and ‘unattended shadows’. The poems emphasise how the ‘forming of words’ and the ‘making of stories’ locates these instances in specific moments of memory and time. Indeed, love is the lung-set of Internal Weather: love for a child, first love, romantic love, love lost, love for the dead, love that ‘surprises … like religion’ and thickens ‘doubt into determination’.

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Dream Babies

It has a full set of teeth and shouts her name, demanding conversation after months of entrapment in that dark wet space—it wants words, not food. And it is not forced out of her but pulls itself free, tiny fingers …

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