Justin Clemens Reviews Pam Brown

11 August 2013

In my recent double review in Cordite Poetry Review of two of last year’s feuilletons by Brown and Ken Bolton – mais où sont les feuilletons d’antan? – I tried to analyse the public traces of their shared-divided history of a love of poetry that has been criss-crossing itself asymmetrically for decades in their leaflets of verse. To catch the fleeting inscriptions of such a transference, a history of events in local poetry which cannot be written, but which deposit traces – these are certainly part of a long-pursued poetic love. For:

this treble clef
      transfers energy,
an exact exchange (74)

But this is not the same as seeking a love that escapes this love, by essaying to create a solitary love or love of solitude, in – and out of – the vibrant mist of words and things. The love of poetry does not exhaust poetry itself. There may well be no exact exchange for this ‘little portable cosmogony’ (119).

For the title Home by Dark is also a lonely and terrifying one. The modesty with which Brown sculpts the quiet polyphonies of these little reports of ordinary everydayness, the understated self-deprecating humour of the images of near-nugatory remembrance, the presentation of the composition of the self in images that deliberately and discreetly blend light art with pop kitsch, should not obscure her extraordinary mining of the vicissitudes of existence. As she says,

an indestructible host organism
		has the softest touch 

strike another match, go start anew (64)

Note the lack of any full-stop, because there is no full-stop in the great concatenation of events of being (and nothingness). Hence one can be:

flat out,
  too tired to die (65)

where the:

atmosphere’s leaden now you’ve said that,
          done and gone, poorly,
nothing left marvellous, only living (72)

Again, no full stop, because poems – no less than the gouache of a Parisian air on a Sydney box-top lid – never quite end.

With Brown’s poetry, we are constantly disoriented and reoriented in the same and single gesture, set to drifting through the creative detritus of everyday accidents, and buffeted by the ferocious auto-collaging of vast global forces whose reason may never be found. The French sociologist Jean Baudrillard once wrote that ‘Fate is in the dividing line between chance and necessity.’ This book, Home by Dark, is such a work of Fate, which slips quietly in and out of the solitude of the soul, the body’s guest – or rest

... sunk
into a bucket of silence’ (118).
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About Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens's books include Villain and The Mundiad. He is currently working on an expanded version of me 'n' me trumpet. He teaches at Melbourne University.

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