Book Reviews


Review Short: Liam Ferney’s Content

Monday, July 25th, 2016

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

Monday, June 20th, 2016

On Violence in the Work of J.H. Prynne by Matthew Hall
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015

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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