Book Reviews


FRESH

Caitlin Maling Reviews Ellen van Neerven

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Poems about food, such as those comprising Ellen van Neerven’s first collection Comfort Food, are often framed in terms of ideas of connection, community, and commonality. Van Neerven engages directly with these ideas, but emphasises their fault lines as much as their strengths. The poem I keep returning to appears early in the second of the book’s six loose sections.

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Phillip Hall Reviews Maggie Walsh

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Sunset by Maggie Walsh
Vagabond Press, 2016

Maggie Walsh is a Bwcolgamon woman from the First Nations community of Palm Island, a tropical paradise located in the Great Barrier Reef only sixty-four kilometres northwest of Townsville. But this is a paradise with a troubled history since European settlement – with a lack of jobs and housing, and a tragic reputation for violence and disadvantage. In 1999, for example, the Guinness Book of Records named Palm Island as the most violent place on earth outside of a combat zone.


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Phillip Hall Reviews Ink in Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer by Sylvia Martin

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Ink in Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer by Sylvia Martin
UWA Publishing, 2016

This biography is another powerful testament to the tragedy of difference. Sylvia Martin writes of an idealistic creative pragmatist who was victimised for her gender disphoria and, while loved, never accepted. Aileen Palmer is yet another outspoken and independent woman hounded to the mental hospital and shock treatment.


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Review Short: Adam Aitken’s One Hundred Letters Home

Monday, August 8th, 2016

One Hundred Letters Home by Adam Aitken
Vagabond Press, 2016

It has taken me more than a hundred days to read Adam Aitken’s One Hundred Letters Home. The book arrived in my letterbox in Sydney at the beginning of May. Autumn turned into winter, and the fragments of Aitken’s palimpsest-memoir started to unfold themselves to me.


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Review Short: Barry Hill’s Grass Hut Work

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Grass Hut Work by Barry Hill
Shearsman Books, 2015

The poems in Grass Hut Work are a kind of coda to Barry Hill’s 2014 non-fiction epic Peacemongers, a book of self-discovery and intellectual journeying that took him to the heart of the East, to India and Japan.


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Review Short: Liam Ferney’s Content

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Content by Liam Ferney
Hunter Publishing, 2015

Liam Ferney’s Content is a book of poems largely composed out of memes, or slices of culture. The notes at the back of the book state:

Some of these poems contain allusions, sentiments, words, phrases, sentences and images that have been lifted from the culture. And Cordite’s comments. If you’re not sure, Google it. At this stage your guess is as good as mine.


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Review Short: Gwen Harwood’s Idle Talk Letters 1960-1964, edited by Alison Hoddinott

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Idle Talk Letters 1960-1964 by Gwen Harwood
Edited by Alison Hoddinott
Brandl & Schlesinger, 2015

The letters in this illuminating and entertaining volume, written by Gwen Harwood to her friend Alison Hoddinott (the collection’s editor) and her husband Bill Hoddinott, cover the period leading to the publication of Harwood’s first book of poems. 1960-1964 were the years in which Gwen Harwood’s poetry was coming to light in literary magazines in Australia, sometimes under her own name, sometimes under one of her three nom-de-plumes: Walter Lehmann, Francis Geyer and Miriam Stone.
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Erin Thornback Reviews Chris Edwards and Toby Fitch

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

O Sonata: Rilke Renditions by Chris Edwards
Vagabond Press, 2016

The Bloomin’ Notions of Other & Beau by Toby Fitch
Vagabond Press, 2016

Chris Edwards’s O Sonata dwells in the vortex of the underworld, plumbing the depths of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth and resetting the entrails of Rilke’s Sonnette an Orpheus into a crossword puzzle ready for consumption. In the eponymous sequence, Edwards offers up a renewal of the Orpheus (also known as ‘the futile male’) myth to signal his reconsideration of repetition and originality as the basis of a literary revision – releasing a suite of renditions that purposely misinterpret, transliterate and obscure.
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Review Short: Rose Lucas’s Unexpected Clearing

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Unexpected Clearing by Rose Lucas
UWA Publishing, 2016

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: Nhã Thuyên’swords breathe, creatures of elsewhere

Monday, July 11th, 2016

words breathe, creatures of elsewhere by Nhã Thuyên
Translated by Kaitlin Rees
Vagabond Press, 2016

The relation of place to identity and self-making is central to much poetry, indeed to writing more generally. It won’t be lost on the reader, therefore, that Nhã Thuyên, writing from Hanoi (‘river within / inside’) – a city built on lowlands; a city of lakes situated in the Red River delta, where rainfall is high – makes an impassioned plea for poetry (and thinking) that is fluid, unbounded, borderless.


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Review Short: Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s Diurnal

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Diurnal by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa
Grey Book Press, 2015

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s Diurnal is a slim chapbook of 24 numbered poems of seven two-line stanzas, which by my reckoning makes it a sonnet sequence. The cover of the edition I received is reminiscent of silver gelatin, with stark tree branches visible in the glooming (the chapbook comes in a series of three colours). The image is evocative of the tone of the poetry and while the title evokes the daily, it suggests that there are long, dark days of the soul, as well as nights. What of the noir of the day?


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Chris Brown Reviews John Kinsella

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems by John Kinsella
Pan Macmillan, 2016

The poetry of John Kinsella will need little introduction in a forum such as this, though with the recent publication of his Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems, aspects of Kinsella’s biography move more meaningfully into focus. Author of over forty books, Kinsella’s writing career spans three decades. What with the wealth of material available to him, Kinsella and his editors might have been spoilt for choice; though how to bring this wealth into a general coherence?
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