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David Mason

David Mason

David Mason is the former poet laureate of Colorado and now a permanent resident of Tasmania. His most recent books are Pacific Light, a collection of poems, and a book of essays, Incarnation and Metamorphosis: Can Literature Change Us?

David Mason reviews ‘Prickly Moses: Poems’ by Simon West

January-February 2024, no. 461 19 December 2023
Too often poetry is valued as if it were prose, exclusively by virtue of its subject matter. Such discussions miss the poetry itself, which my wife calls ‘the speech that brings us to silence’, a kind of accuracy beggaring what we say about it. Simon West is a poet who understands this distinction. His essays collected in Dear Muses? (2019) explore ‘the uneasy way my allegiances lie with my ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'Memoirs' by Robert Lowell, edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Grzegorz Kosc

August 2023, no. 456 24 July 2023
At his death in 1977, Robert Lowell was considered one of the greatest and most influential American poets of the century. He had absorbed the academic formalism of the Fugitives and New Critics, but had gone beyond it with a humanising anger, the suffering visions of a manic-depressive. Among the Confessional Poets – as W.D. Snodgrass, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and others had come to be called ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'The Language in My Tongue: An anthology of Australian and New Zealand poetry' edited by Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington

August 2022, no. 445 28 July 2022
There’s an old Irish saying: ‘If you want praise, die. If you want blame, marry.’ I could add from personal experience, ‘If you really want blame, edit a poetry anthology.’ While poetry is relatively popular, it often seems that more people write it than read it. As a result, poets can be desperate for affirmation and recognition, managing their careers more jealously than investment ban ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'The Jaguar' by Sarah Holland-Batt

June 2022, no. 443 25 May 2022
I first encountered Sarah Holland-Batt’s poem ‘The Gift’ in The New Yorker. It begins, ‘In the garden my father sits in his wheelchair / garlanded by summer hibiscus / like a saint in a seventeenth-century cartouche’ – an unremarkable opening, I thought, to a poem of personal anecdote, a genre too ubiquitous among our contemporaries. Rereading the poem in the context of her third colle ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'Into the Rip: How the Australian way of risk made my family stronger, happier … and less American' by Damien Cave

November 2021, no. 437 25 October 2021
In 2016, New York Times correspondent Damien Cave moved his young family to Sydney to establish a foreign bureau for the newspaper. As he writes in his new book, Into the Rip, the experience has been transformational, teaching him among other things that ‘None of us is trapped within the nation we come from or the values we picked up along the way’. Despite political and economic alliances, Au ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'How to Read a Poem: Seven steps' by Thomas H. Ford

January–February 2022, no. 439 28 September 2021
In my thirty years as an academic, the greatest joy and puzzlement I had was in teaching poetry. I agree with T.S. Eliot that ‘genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’. Our best teaching often involves what we do not fully understand. The scholar D.S. Carne-Ross once argued that, upon hearing poetry spoken in an unfamiliar language, you can tell it is poetry, the language of poe ... (read more)

'Quantum of Light', a poem by David Mason

July 2021, no. 433 23 June 2021
Dusk when the people in the treesstand out against the dark – but it isn’t dark, only a deep gradationof the light – the people in the trees,crone-like olives, have been gathering all day,ravelling, unravelling their hair, their knotted fingers,tableaux of maenads, harvesting. Even on the other side,the over-underside of the globe, even here it is not dark but onlya deep gradation of t ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'African American Poetry: 250 years of struggle and song' edited by Kevin Young

May 2021, no. 431 27 April 2021
The Library of America has published massive anthologies of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry that include work from multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds, so why now another large book devoted exclusively to African Americans? Because it needs to be said and said again just how profoundly American this poetry is, how it enriches culture and should not be ignored among the more co ... (read more)

David Mason reviews 'Dearly' by Margaret Atwood

March 2021, no. 429 03 February 2021
Margaret Atwood began as a poet and transformed herself into a factory, producing work of great energy and range. Since her first collection, Double Persephone, appeared in 1961, she has published more than sixty books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. She is a librettist, a maker of eBooks, graphic novels, and television scripts, and, with the serialisations of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias ... (read more)