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Philip Salom

'A Vladimir Taxonomy', a new poem by Philip Salom.

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Philip Salom, now in his early seventies, has been a steady presence in Australian literature for more than four decades. Until a few years ago he was mainly known as a poet. He has published fourteen collections and won two awards for lifetime achievement in that field. Having turned to fiction in 2015, he has now published six novels. In Sweeney and the Bicycles, he returns to themes that have woven their way through much of his fiction: identity and selfhood, family and friendship, damage and healing, unlooked-for and unlikely middle-aged love.

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Selected Poems by Andrew Taylor & New and Selected Poems by Philip Martin

July 1988, no. 102

Reading these three collections, I was struck by the recurring feel of travel and the great and traditional themes of love, death, and history. These books would not yield much for a study of regionality! As two of the books are selected poems and include work written over nearly thirty years by poets who have spent a lot of time overseas, the sense of history is perhaps not unusual. All the poets have spent time in Europe and America. But the way they view history shows how they differ as poets. Philip Martin seems constantly to feel the history of Europe and Scandinavia in his blood, both in his references back to origins and customs and in his exploration of love and mortality through these.

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In Western culture’s calendar year, is there some hidden fifth season, and if there is, what is it? The main character of Philip Salom’s fifth novel, a writer called Jack, asks himself near the end of the book whether the fifth season might be ‘Time, which holds the seasons together’, or perhaps the fifth season is simply ‘the Unknown’. Jack is preoccupied with the lost: with those people whose bodies are found but never identified, or those who, suffering amnesia, can’t be identified, but who need ‘to find their proper location in the story. In the seasons. A lost person must be allowed other dimensions.’

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A bookseller, Trevor, sits in his shop in Melbourne making conversation with his customers: an exasperating mixture of confessional, hesitant, deranged, and disruptive members of the public. One man stalks him, armed with an outrageous personal demand; another tries to apologise for assaulting him. The apology is almost as unnerving as the attack ...

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Waiting by Philip Salom

April 2016, no. 380

I first encountered the work of Philip Salom in the pages of The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991). Anthologies, of course, have their limitations, but they can be a great place to meet people. Salom's first poem in that book, 'Walking at Night', includes an image of the urban sky: 'Streetlights glow overhead / Like the teeth of a huge zipper; ...

The Keeper of Fish by Alan Fish (edited by Philip Salom) & Keeping Carter by M.A. Carter (edited by Philip Salom)

May 2012, no. 341

In his Keepers trilogy, Philip Salom is an Eliotian Fisher King, exploring the fissuring of identity in a triple play of plurality. The first book, Keepers (2010), was written by Salom, but authorship of The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter is attributed to Alan Fish and M.A. Carter,respectively. In his role as editor for these two poets, Salom becomes their gatekeeper or, as he states, their ‘amanuensis, editor, mentor and promoter’.

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The two narrators in this intense novel are the same person at different ages: the child of eight years who struggles against sibling displacement; and his twenty-eight-year-old self, scarred by his early years and obsessively revisiting them. The narrative documents these two periods of emotional turmoil in the unnamed protagonist’s alternating monologues. This anonymity may signify a lack of a more integrated self, and will not be a problem for the reader. As reviewer, I will simply use personal pronouns when referring to him.

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Son-biography: which are deft or lived things
which have jumped from him without genes.
Passions, eccentricities, duty? I don’t believe
Lamarck, but I left his Quiet for her Talk,
nagging the life out of things, worsened it
word-wise, garrulous, and then heavied it
because Saloms drink, his side, but genes,
though he didn’t, and she offered her whole
life to the sobriety of wives. He voted sober
but gave me his black-sheep toss-the-world
bushiness, which I took as city, and poetry.
He said I was a fraud, which meant I didn’t

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Taken as Required

by Ynes Sanz

An age ago, ill-matched,
ignorant but willing,
we set the rules.
‘Step by Step’, we said. ‘No Bullshit.’
Today, thinking of something else
I stumbled across the grey metal bracelet
you looped over that stick of a wrist
where your thin blood stained the skin
to resemble an antique map or a bad tattoo
(like the one they inked on for that photo shoot in the ’50s).

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