Hale & Iremonger

Beautiful Veins by Mal Morgan & Fighting in the Shade by Peter Kocan

by
April 2000, no. 219

In a note to the reader, Mal Morgan tells us that this last, posthumous collection Beautiful Veins – it comes with a CD selected from this and other work – was written during the five months after his being diagnosed with lung cancer. They’re note-taking, note-jotting poems. A sense of someone hurriedly trying to account for and describe his response both to the diagnosis and to the radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments which ensue is uppermost. Strong, disturbing, they’re often ‘I do this, I do that’ (Frank O’Hara’s phrase) confessional poems.

... (read more)

On getting hold of Grace Karskens’s new book, I went straight to the colour plates of artefacts resurrected from the neighbourhood of the title, part of the historic Rocks area of inner Sydney. I love to look at salvage: pieced-together dinner plates, dolls’ heads, and brass buckles and buttons whose verdigris defies any amount of elbow grease. But the photo that really grabbed me was of a dug-up gold wedding ring, modelled on one finger of a hand neatly manicured but for a crescent of black dirt embedded deep under the thumbnail. To me, that minute trace of the Rocks neighbourhood spoke vividly – more so, somehow, than any of the scrubbed-up artefacts – of the peculiar joys of dabbling in other people’s cesspits and of the adventure into history that underlies Inside the Rocks.

... (read more)

For its double epigraph, Rock’n’Roll Heroes combines a couple of lines of Midnight Oil’s Hercules – ‘my life is a valuable thing / I want to keep it that way’ – with six wonderfully numinous sentences from Thomas Traherne:

... (read more)

Critically reviewing a populist genre novel requires a particular cribbing, a playing off against deep-seated transcendental notions of literature that tend to motivate pronouncements upon the relatively good and bad points.

... (read more)

One of the challenges confronting the writer of poetry is the balancing of public and private modes in an engaging and satisfactory whole. In these three collections the precarious possibilities of balance, of confiding and confronting, are attempted in very different ways.

... (read more)

Pushed from the Wings: An entertainment by Ross Fitzgerald (illustrated by Alan Moir)

by
February–March 1987, no. 88

By the time I was 35, I’d spent fifteen years as a student and teacher in universities. I was scornful of those who sneered at ‘Sheltered Workshops’ – a fashionable putdown in the early 70s; at the same time, I mocked Zelman Cowan’s observation – when playing stag at bay and asserting that he really was au fait with academia – that ‘I have spent all my adult life in universities’. But they are real places.

... (read more)

Illustrations are almost mandatory for certain types of books, technical manuals, travel books. Illustrated poetry is not unheard of, but neither is it a common phenomenon in Australia, the normal perception being that poetry is a discrete and competent medium. Nevertheless, there are times when pictorial complementation has been thought desirable. Such a book is O’Connor and Coleman’s Poetry in Pictures: The Great Barrier Reef, which collects some of O’Connor’s reef poems and matches them up with some superb photographs of the birds and marine forms described. The result is a handsome book of the sort you might buy at a reef resort for a Thinking Friend back home.

... (read more)

The Typewriter Considered As Bee-trap by Martin Johnston & Fast Forward by Peter Porter

by
December 1985–January 1986, no. 77

I have sat on these books longer than is reasonable for a review, yet have to confess that I am not satisfied with the readiness of what follows. I got the Porter first, but receiving the Johnston thought that they in some ways offered similar difficulties, perhaps similar rewards, to the reader, and that it might be neat to review them together.

... (read more)

Sometimes I’ve written reviews ‘because I was invited’, or felt I should. But this is a book I really want to review. And I wasn’t invited: I applied for the job. For close on thirty years I’ve been grateful to Rosemary Dobson, especially for her third book, Child with a Cockatoo (1955), the one through which I came to know her work. Her latest, despite obvious continuities, gives a rather different kind of pleasure, and new reasons for gratitude.

... (read more)

Eddie Leonski was a private in the United States Army who was tried and executed for strangling three women in wartime Melbourne. Barely three weeks elapsed between the first murder and Leonski’s arrest. He was executed six months later, in November 1942. There seems no doubt that Leonski committed the crimes; whether he had a fair trial is another matter.

... (read more)
Page 1 of 2