Overall I was perhaps necessarily disappointed by Australian Love Poems 2013, which has a more-or-less middlebrow tenor. There are a few too many mawkish poems, many humble and capable poems that focus on small quotidian moments, but not enough that are ‘polymorphous perverse’ in either subject or syntax. Rather than whole poems, it was more often lines or stanzas that contained exquisite poetic punctums, most memorably in Claire Gaskin’s ‘Twenty-Eight Aphrorisms and Ten-Second Love Stories’:
27. You have kept a maidenhair alive for thirty years.
If the experience of reading this anthology wasn’t about catapulting me back into the throes of emotional catharsis, like a good alt. country song – and to some extent the onus is on poetry to prove that it can still compete with other poetic mediums, such as film and song – it was instead poems written about enduring love that touched me the most, those with a more mature sense of eros and thanatos. These included Russell Erwin’s ‘Of a Marriage’:
He shifts, waken, morphine-bleary, tries his old bluster, then immediately drops away, as if suddenly called to answer a knock at the front door at the far end of the house…
as well as Denis Haskell’s ‘Oranges’:
You died yesterday Or ages ago, to me; sometimes Both, bizarrely, simultaneously.
Martin Harrison’s ‘Hundreds of Ks of It’ towards the end of the anthology also speaks of loss:
for you will never be found again no matter where and how this warm wind blows no matter how
This takes me back to Michael Dransfield’s ‘Pas de Deux for Lovers’, which, like Harrison’s poem, speaks simply about complexity.
Australian Love Poems 2013 should appeal broadly, including to readers out there who love (love) poetry and who might not be familiar with contemporary Australian poets. Though for those looking for a recognisable figure amongst the fray, there’s even a poem by Les Murray with the feisty title, ‘OK Primavera Lips’.