Broken Land is a collection of twelve poetic sequences which record five days spent in the small outback New South Wales town of Brewarrina (the Bre of the title). It’s a drama, almost operatic in complexity and intensity, in which the central players are Dad, a Bre man who lives in solitary retirement and ‘doesn’t own much, but he likes it that way, he likes to make do, doesn’t want a new heater or a mattress, just wants to listen to the radio, roll a smoke and check on lotto …’, and Coral, the stranger in town:
One afternoon at the recent Melbourne Writers’ Festival I noticed that, while adulatory throngs surrounded Elizabeth Jolley and Thea Astley, another notable member of our literary matriarchy, Gwen Harwood, sat quietly outside in the sun, deep in philosophical discussion with a younger poet. This is a comment on the differential status accorded to fiction writers and poets, but also on the relatively self-effacing Gwen and her presence or place in the literary world.
The prospect of reviewing a ‘Survival Manual for Live Poets’ was daunting enough, but became positively intimidating when I came across its author’s views on critics. Critics, he says, are like leeches and there’s only one way to deal with leeches: ‘take a small stick and insert it into the ... anus of the leech, pulling the leech back over the stick like a condom, impaling it, inside-out, like a shiskabab, ready to heat’.