FACP

In my student days in Europe, I often heard the name Eileen Joyce bandied about as a figure of respect, eccentricity and past pianistic accomplishment. Geoffrey Parsons, one of my enduring musical mentors, regularly spoke of her; it came as no surprise to read in Richard Davis’s recent biography that Parsons collaborated in Joyce’s last major public appearance, at a fund-raising concert at Covent Garden, late in 1981. I rather doubt, however, that many familiar with Parsons’s pianistic stature would readily agree with Davis’s judgment that the ‘power and dexterity’ of the seventy-three-year-old Joyce, who had not performed in public for over a decade, ‘easily’ matched Parsons’s own.

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The Last Race by Celeste Walters & Juice by Katy Watson

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October 2000, no. 225

It had to happen – a rush of books about the Olympics. But that doesn’t mean they’re all bad or that they won’t last now that the fuss is over. Celeste Walters’ The Last Race, her second book for young adults, should certainly be around for a while. The cover alone could sell the book and word of mouth should do the rest.

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Into the Wadi by Michèle Drouart

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April 2000, no. 219

‘I remember only peripheries, not centres,’ Michèle Drouan says in her memoir of marriage to a Jordanian and life with his family in a village near Jordan’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. Her perspective is deliberately oblique. Elegantly shaped, and or the most part gracefully written, her story bypasses the obvious cultural divisions. Political, religious, and sexual tensions are given minimal treatment. No dates are given: you would hardly know that the Gulf War comes within the book’s timespan, and when the sound of bombs is heard from across the border, someone quietly says ‘Lebanon’, and leaves it at that.

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Melbourne Elegies by K.F. Pearson & Body-Flame by Michael Heald

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June 1999, no. 211

The problem with K.F. Pearson’s Melbourne Elegies is that Goethe – on whose classic of sex­tourism, Roman Elegies 1788–1790, these rhetorical, literary poems are loosely based – is Goethe: difficult to translate, still little read in English. It gives him problems. Pearson, to my mind, is not attempting a Poundian ‘replacement’ of an ancient text within the frame­work of a contemporary poetics. That would require a reckoning with the original poem’s logistics and context similar to the way that Pound’s Propertius speaks electrifyingly in the context of an Empire much later than the Roman one he wrote for; or in the manner that Christopher Logue has recently converted excerpts of Homer into a form of late 20th century literary cinema. Such replacement requires that the contemporary poem convince us that the original work’s ‘loss’ – a ‘loss’ produced equally by its inaccessible aesthetic no less than by our contemporary lack of language-skill and culture – should matter to us.

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Pomegranate Season by Carolyn Polizzotto & Till Apples Grow on an Orange Tree by Cassandra Pybus

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June 1998, no. 201

Two autobiographical works, both by women historians, are presented in the elegant small format which often says ‘gift book’ and may suggest more surface charm than substance. In fact, there are at least as many contrasts as resemblances between the two, and although the mood is quietly reflective, there is no easy nostalgia.

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The introduction to this collection(Horns of Dilemma, Papyrus Publishing, $14.95 pb, 108 pp), and the poems themselves, make it clear that Helene Brophy is a woman of much compassion and experience in the humane realms of feminism, teaching and social work, as well as in the more personal spheres of serious injury, illness and death.

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In Tracy Ryan’s poems there are no safe houses, the walls of domesticity keep falling in and she is the clear-eyed tightrope walker negotiating a perilous foothold. Her lines zigzag across the page:

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Salt: Volume 10 edited by John Kinsella

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September 1997, no. 194

When a poet reviews a poetry magazine, it can be like walking out over a virtual minefield. I have a few more books to write before they take me out, so let me say straight away, I come in peace. These are cynical times, so maybe nobody will be taken in by this tone. After all, Salt is published and edited by John Kinsella, a highly successful poet who has established himself in record time. Let’s face it, this is poetry as strategy. As Hilary McPhee pointed out, the literary community in this country can be particularly vicious, and if anyone tries to hose that down they are having themselves on – the response McPhee got in relation to what she actually said proves the point really. It doesn’t have to be bland and polite though. There has been a lot of talk about the careerist approach to poetry lately. Ramona Koval noted at the first National Poetry Festival in Melbourne recently that some American poets have taken on this ‘professionalisation’ of poetry even down to their ‘Brooks Brothers suits and leather satchels’. Fay Zwicky replied, ‘I think careerism in poetry is contrary to how a poem comes into existence in the first place.’

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