Book Reviews


Simon Eales Reviews On Violence in the Work of J.H. Prynne

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Violence and poetics are the key poles in Canadian-Australian critic and poet Matthew Hall’s new scholarly release. Hall charts how the British late-modernist poet, Prynne, responds to violent events of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries – from the Holocaust, through apartheid, Chernobyl, and Australian colonialism, to Abu Ghraib. These affective sites of violence are linguistic, too: chapter two takes its subject as the ‘the sociolinguistic war’ which takes place under ‘the strain of economic factions and the reach of the multinational resource sector’.

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Review Short: Cassandra Atherton’s Exhumed

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Exhumed by Cassandra Atherton
Grand Parade Poets, 2015

Dazzling, vibrant and terribly witty, Cassandra Atherton’s Exhumed does not give itself over entirely to the horribly serious, gruesome images invoked by its title. Nor of course does it travel down to the desperate depths of its epigraph’s hero, Rosetti, who (in)famously ‘recovered’ the book of poems he had buried with his wife. Yet Atherton’s collection of prose poems is nonetheless morbidly fascinating and even darkly exhilarating, with some of the more raw, emotionally-fierce poems evoking similar queasy feelings in the twenty-first century reader, perhaps, as the nineteenth-century poet might have experienced recovering writings from the grave of a loved one.
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Review Short: Peter Rose’s The Subject of Feeling

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

The Subject of Feeling by Peter Rose
UWA Publishing, 2015

From the beginning of the latest work by Peter Rose, the reader is given the impression of an unfolding tableau or score, the creases and outlines of which to be generously shared. A sense of intimacy is engendered from the outset: we are let in on the scales and arpeggios that a musician practises, as if each poem, or note that it reaches, ‘might lead somewhere / or fail to ascend.’ The seemingly off-hand candour of such admission serves as an indication that one is in for a special experience from a master of the craft.

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Caren Florance Reviews Dan Disney and John Warwicker

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Report from a Border by Dan Disney and John Warwicker
light-trap press, 2016

The book starts with a full stop. It orders me to stop before I begin. On the next page there is a font that looks like a zebra crossing. It straddles the page spread, white shapes on flat black. I stop, looking hard at the letters to make sense of them, and then realise what they’re saying: WALK WALK STOP! I’ve followed orders; how biddable of me. I move on, turning the page. There’s another black expanse: it says WALK in the same font, followed by a full stop. I guess I have permission to move on. So far, so good.

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Michael Farrell Reviews Philip Hammial

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Asylum Nerves: New and Selected Poems by Philip Hammial
Puncher & Wattmann, 2015

Poems don’t need condescension any more than we do. If we pick up a book and the poems come to life only at a certain page, maybe it’s our brain that needed a refresh. Philip Hammial is certainly up for a refresh of everyday culture: of foodie-ness, for one, such as in the high school project scene of ‘The Float’, where food is garbage and his art teacher gives him an A; or the vegetables of death in ‘The Vehicle of Precious Little’. There are enough stories in his poetry – represented here through a selection from twenty-five collections – to replace a whole bookshelf of novels.

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Brigid Magner Reviews Gregory Kan

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

This Paper Boat by Gregory Kan
Auckland University Press, 2016

Iris Wilkinson (also known as Robin Hyde), a pioneering poet, novelist and journalist, has influenced many New Zealand writers since her death in 1939. Hyde’s writing has been extensively mined by scholars – especially her diaries and letters – due to their immense readability and colourful subject matter, including details of her struggles with mental illness, her love affairs and her two children born out of wedlock. This Paper Boat is an homage with a difference. Gregory Kan, a young New Zealand poet whose background is Singaporean, traces his own history through that of Wilkinson.

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Phillip Hall Reviews Connie Barber, Meg Mooney and Jenni Nixon

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The Edge of Winter, by Connie Barber
Ginninderra Press, 2015

Being Martha’s Friend, by Meg Mooney
Picaro Press (an imprint of Ginninderra Press), 2015

swimming underground, by Jenni Nixon
Ginninderra Press, 2015

These three poets, who exist outside university creative writing and humanities faculties, have ‘chosen’ a publisher independent of Australia Council arts funding and have been somewhat neglected by critical attention and awards recognition. All three poets collect richly lyrical and narrative poetry that praises the natural world and interrogates different aspects of our ability to live in it respectfully. All three collections are beautifully presented and feature stunning cover artworks that reveal each poet’s preoccupations and intentions.

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Review Short: Mike Ladd’s Invisible Mending

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Invisible Mending by Mike Ladd
Wakefield Press, 2016

Adelaide poet, Mike Ladd, is best known for his long-running Poetica program on the ABC’s Radio National (eighteen years all up before its casual destruction in 2014). The breadth of taste and openness to a wide range of influences Ladd displayed in Poetica is also to be found in Invisible Mending, his first poetry collection since Transit in 2007.

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Michael Aiken Reviews Duncan Hose

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

An abundance of impudence

Bunratty by Duncan Hose
Puncher & Wattmann, 2016

The bio of Duncan Bruce Hose describes the Australian poet as coming from ‘the softslang line of the chansonnier, whose reference points range between Trefoil Island, Melbourne and Coney Island.’ In Bunratty, his third collection, that ‘softslang line’ delivers a suite of deftly composed (post)modernist folk songs, characterised by a highly idiosyncratic orthography and a preoccupation with sex and booze.
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Review Short: Love, Sex and Death in the Poetry of Bolesław Leśmian, Translated by Marcel Weyland

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Love, Sex and Death in the Poetry of Bolesław Leśmian
by Bolesław Leśmian
Translated from the Polish by Marcel Weyland
Brandl & Schlesinger, 2015

In this new collection of translations, Marcel Weyland acquaints contemporary readers with Bolesław Leśmian (1877-1937). The book makes us witness to the self-construction of an early twentieth century ‘outsider’ poet who won’t hesitate to invite you into his world. Weyland has taken up the heady task of translating a poetry that is difficult in its original form. Leśmian is celebrated for his creative morphing of language, playing with rhythm, and inventing of words in Polish.
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Caitlin Maling Reviews Alison Whittaker

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Lemons in the Chicken Wire by Alison Whittaker
Magabala Books, 2015

Gomeroi poet Alison Whittaker’s debut collection Lemons in the Chicken Wire is a necessary addition to contemporary poetry. Deftly handled at both the level of the poem and the book, Whittaker’s work introduces us to the worlds of queer Aboriginal women living on the rural fringe of New South Wales.
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Review Short: Dennis Haskell’s Ahead of Us

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Ahead of Us by Dennis Haskell
Fremantle Press, 2016

‘Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything,’ wrote C. S. Lewis in a work of prose, published soon after his wife died. Under such conditions poets are apt to explore their grief by way of lyricism, and, while it is uncommon in the Australian context, recent years have seen several international male poets producing collections in just these circumstances. From the United Kingdom, for instance, we have Douglas Dunn’s Elegies and Christopher Reid’s A Scattering, and, from the United States, Donald Hall’s Without.
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