Kate Wild Reviews Cathoel Jorss

22 June 2001

going for the eggs in the middle of the night by Cathoel Jorss
Self-published 2000

I received an early Christmas present last year: a book by Queensland poet Cathoel Jorss, sent in the post for me to review – but no one could consider the arrival of such a beautifully executed collection as anything but a gift. The volume of 20 poems is self-published, designed and illustrated. Poetry aside, the quality of paper, printing, and the reproduction of Jorss' artwork stamp her as a curator of great merit.

But these are only the casings for a collection of very fine poems. Jorss writes most (and best) about love and nature. The Hallway, Our Mother and Mother Circles are studies of family love, re-creations of unintentional moments that have become a permanent part of the subjects self-perception. Mother is a particularly large figure in these poems, which are narrated mostly from a child's perspective:

I am wearing the shower curtain
Mother circles, crouching low
wielding her fearsome scissor brow
she says, Don't frown like that, darling
but how can I unfold my face
with all this beauty wearing me
- "Mother Circles"

The youngest child squats hidden under
the house playing with his loyal dog,
Seeing the stars cross the sky
In the glint between the floorboards
as mother crosses over and over the floor
her voice endless and complaining
as she continues each morning and after each meal
the list of what is missing in each child

- 'The Hallway'

In Jorss' romantic love poems the narrator is now a woman and love is given and received differently. Rafting Ground Road, Adrift, I Harbour You, Here is how I Would Handle your Innocent Heart – if it is allowed in this political age – are very feminine. Tender, and acutely aware of the perception of the lover:

I think you thought that I was trivial
just because I think every sunset
would make such a great eyeshadow
but I love all the things your father said
weren't good enough about you
and my love is as big as the hungry fish

- 'I Harbour You'

Nature is the other outstanding theme in going for the eggs. For Jorss, it provides a salve to human failings. While there is nothing as twee as a city/country divide in her imagery, the natural world is certainly where divinity lies, and cities are where relationships are complicated in crowded, nature-less isolation:

We have housed ourselves too separately
or too long
in this lonely lack of privacy

- 'God + the City + Loneliness + Lack of Privacy'

Jorss places great faith in nature”s role as healer of the spiritual wounds sustained in city and in love:

I wanted to escape the city
I wanted to escape my part in it
I have cast off my name, and taken from the trees
a mask of darkness and mossy stuff to hide my shamed
face from the stars
who still rise unswervably perfect from the clasp of the stony hills
that can neither embrace nor rupture them.

- 'Exile'

Wholeness that is damaged amongst people will return in nature. This theme of wholeness becomes even more autobiographical (or teasing?) in the author's portrait at the back of the book. The poet smiles directly into the camera but the other person has been ripped from the photo. Jorss, in jest or some other mood has made the picture incomplete.

It is not a charge that can be laid at the feet of her poetry. This book is a beautiful piece of work.

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