Ela Fornalska Reviews Andy Jackson

4 May 2005

aperture.jpgaperture by Andy Jackson
Self published, 2003

Andy Jackson writes with immense skill. His poetry seems effortless, yet it is haunting, requiring contemplation. That is not to say that it is inaccessible. On first reading of a Jackson poem you experience sensation, but then you feel compelled to think about the poem, and read it again to marvel at the skills employed in writing the piece.

Aperture is Jackson's second collection of poetry that I am familiar with, although there is a third, which is indeed the first: Carpet Insomnia. His hymns of doubt could be gobbled in one sitting (just delicious!) whereas aperture asks the reader to spend far more time to savour and enjoy the pieces it has to offer.

The poetry in aperture is personal, sensitive and sometimes humorous. These poems take the reader into the sensory experience of situations; they are not mere comments or observations. This is evident in the very first poem of the collection, entitled `Hearing things at the interactive sound exhibit'. With lines like “You sniff around with your fingers, curious” the reader is transported into the title's exhibition.

In Jackson's world inanimate objects become alive with an intriguing charm. For example, in the opening of `The inscrutable price of coffee these days':

The pursed lip of the coffee bean
smiles smugly closed like a hand
over the pitched liquor of soil
the scream of sun condensed into seed.
An eye shut snugly into prayer
it is the monk of acceptable drugs

Jackson also explores more earnest themes through his poetry. Death, sorrow, loss and injustice are dealt with in a sensitive yet poignant way, as in, for examples, `Political scientist and the crisis of faith' and `Woomera Easter 2002'.

These poems are concerned with grave issues and employ powerful imagery to achieve their strong effect. `Birth certificate' is a most solemn poem dealing with parentage and paternal identity, and engages the reader through its use of imagery:

I have heard the gumtree seed
can split the concrete
as the sun pulls it up
like treasure
    and who are we
to take the axe
always to memory?

Yet Jackson can also be humorous, as in poems such as `Ordinary Australians' where the reader can laugh to him/herself out of recognising the poem's comical situation:

Behind me, on the street,
the guy with the funeral
     of a haircut
     says something
     very ordinary,
and suddenly my body twitches
in its corporeality

                         I shrink into myself.

(“Who are these people?!”)

A particularly touching poem is `This is not a metaphor or a euphemism', which reveals the poet's softer side. It is a poem of adoration for the subject of the piece. A similarly moving poem is `The body, shaped like a question mark', an honest, precise and raw piece that demands the reader's attention.

`Microphone confession' seems to be depicting the specific relationship between a performance poet and their listener. The subject matter is dealt with delicately and this intimate relationship is emulated in the connection that one forms with the poem as a reader. `Water and electricity' is equally delicate yet quirky and thought provoking:

isn't it weird how we blow on soup
to cool it down and we blow on hands
to warm them up. Does breath adjust?

Jackson touches on common experiences, but reveals something deeper, in ways that make such instances poetic. The everyday is his inspiration and that is what makes his poetry accessible, yet he tackles this common ground by making it uncommon and fresh.

Ela Fornalska is a poet as well as a university student majoring in German studies and behavioural studies.

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