The Silent Piano
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, $4 pb, 94 pp
Thirty-year-old Western Australian poet Philip Salom’s ﬁrst collection takes its title from Camus: ‘... a prisoner in a camp where cold and hunger were almost unbearable – who constructed himself a silent piano.’
Salom writes mainly about himself. The middle sections of the book (‘Figures in Clay’, ‘The Dam’, ‘Intersection’) deal with memories of childhood and adolescence on a dairy farm at Brunswick Junction. There are beautiful and often terrifying evocations of landscape and characters here, but the emphasis is on the tensed relationship between the remembered world of the child and the rather bruised sensibility of the adult poet. In the other, less successful sections Salom attempts a more objective self-dramatisation, adopting the persona of an apostate priest (‘Hawes’) or various religious ﬁgures from history (‘The Silent Piano’). In almost all of the forty-nine poems, Salom’s major preoccupation is a search for personal integration and belief.