Michael Aiken Reviews Duncan Hose

By | 4 May 2016

Some of the more unique pieces in Bunratty build on the folky feel that dominates the book, but give it a further twist. For example, ’Criterion Hotel Gundagai.’ is Bunratty at a baroque amplitude. Opening with a slew of blended cultural references from Shakespeare to Jim Jarmusch, it descends into a just-literal-enough swarm of hyperreal images, recalling something of James Wright and the power of the deep image:

A boxer       A spastic      A mauruader        Maugre Triponions
A Queen

The trees around dance on the hills like little black devils in the plural
Rusted railway nodes lay about as littered cursives, the sinking punctuation of
     an Imperial

It closes with the final, perplexing line of very Hosean vernacular: ‘I’ve over a dozen donkey hides on the keep but I think I’ll go nude / Though this is not to be free’. These lines read like an invocation of malevolent forces, admiration for the ‘sinking’ of authority, notably arising in a poem that opens with a scepticism for divisions of high and low art, and in which Hose seamlessly validates his pervasive, inconsistent spelling by relapsing into Shakespearean language. The darkly incantatory mode manifests again in ‘Preacher’s Blues’, which opens: ‘M upholstered skull is a place of exalted gloom, each skull is a temple / a rodential temple’; and closes with the unfathomably delightful, ‘I pace the floor in m little satin devil-boots’.

This book is not quite like anything else going in Australian poetry; at once viscerally liminal, evocative of the seeping bodyliness that won’t be contained, while playfully disruptive on a parallel plane of language – the whole project of broken rules and boundaries held together by a semi-submerged, thoroughly formed, internal mythology.

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