Alex Kostas Reviews Peter Goldsworthy, Jill Jones and Heather Taylor Johnson

18 April 2018

Anatomy of a Metaphor by Peter Goldsworthy
Garron Press, 2017
The Quality of Light by Jill Jones
Garron Press, 2017
Thump by Heather Taylor Johnson
Garron Press, 2017


Garron Publishing was started in 2010 by Gary MacRae and Sharon Kernott as a means of self-publishing work, but has since expanded into a successful run of poetry chapbooks by established and emerging South Australian poets. This Southern-Land Poets series is a return to the original pamphlets traditionally sold in fifteenth century England by ‘chapmen’, and as such, their unassuming bindings do not necessarily connote the quality of their contents.

Anatomy of a Metaphor (and other poems) by Peter Goldsworthy is split into in three sections. The first, the ‘Anatomy of a Metaphor’ sequence, is a searing, seven-part poem focused on the human heart. It not only stretches the limits of a poet’s metaphorical ability, but also creates an intra-poetic dialogue between the ‘diastole’ and ‘systole’ beats. There is a hypnotic rhythm on a macro level, alternating between the relentless images of the systole and the distanced observations of the diastole. ‘2. Systole’ is a good example of Goldsworthy’s seemingly bottomless well of metaphors:

Red centre of a growing iron-red continent,
epicentre of small-magnitude non-stop body-quakes,
plum-coloured boab bulb with thick upspreading roots,
multi-tentacled squid-head squirting jets of red ink

Goldsworthy’s relentless litany is evocative but also thought provoking. Under Aristotelian thought, the Ancient Greeks gave the heart the prime place in human biology; it was the source of life but also the centre of all thoughts and feelings. Goldsworthy’s sequence provokes a realisation of the beauty of the heart and all that it does, and also how often we do not think about it. It beats along without us needing to.

But Goldsworthy is not only writing about the heart, he is also writing about metaphors themselves, so that the human anatomy that forms the subject matter of his metaphors is also, when viewed from the ‘diastole’, a commentary on the nature of metaphors themselves. ‘3. Diastole’ is a particularly arresting example:

The metaphor
keeps order
in a society
that is only an arrest

or two
away from anarchy

Goldsworthy employs the same general style of writing in the second section of the chapbook, but applied to other body parts. His eight-part poem titled ‘Hand’ is another example of his astounding ability to provoke self-reflection through imagery:

Hand  is our far-flung frontier   reaching across
the limits of words   the border of our matter
[…]
our mariner   our voyager   our miniaturized self
crossing the outer silence   the empty space
between the worlds
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