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Kevin Gillam

'Coppers', a poem by Kevin Gillam ... (read more)

Apples with Human Skin is a collection of taut but detached poems. Well crafted, with superb use of diction coupled with tight and inventive forms, the poems remain, however, unrelated to anything in modern-day usage or consciousness. There is a coolness to the writing which can become relentless. Imagery and line structure are evocative and precise, and Shepherdson successfully invents a minimalist syntax in each of the longer chaptered poems. There are also shards of social comment hidden amongst the granite-like structures.

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By Judith Bishop

This is not a place for candles, or the scent of red cedar
gathered on a hill to burn, or native plum, lit at night
to hold the urgent dead at bay: you won’t wake to hear
the click of brumbies’ hooves on a road that flows
to where the humans are, or blink to see the mob
jittering in the dawn air:
                                this is not a house
of language, in the first sense of the word, the one
in which it made the world, this is not a place of origin,
ground, or single source: this is not a road for drinking
in the middle of the night: you won’t see
the ink of fire moving night and day across

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Kevin Gillam is director of music at Christ Church Grammar School, in Western Australia. The musician’s lexicon and mindset permeate Permitted to Fall, revealing a life lived through music, as in ‘Not Clockless’: ‘as a kid, from the back / seat, power lines were staves, sky unplayed.’ The acts of playing and performing music also feature thematically, as in the narrative poem ‘The Possibility of Silence’, in which the protagonist finds consolation and catharsis in the act of playing an instrument: ‘she wanted to be a musician, / took up the cello for its tactility, / warmth, its lacquered song.’ If music is often audible behind the poetry, then silence also features prominently. The book’s opening poem, ‘Veldt’, begins, ‘there are times when silence / is very very loud’. It is a weak start to a poem that builds to its own crescendo of sorts. In ‘Harbour’, music is the antidote to silence: ‘music answering the / silence of the stars.’

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A Tasmanian Paradise Lost by Graeme Hetherington & Other Gravities by Kevin Gillam

December 2003–January 2004, no. 257

In the first part of his new collection, Graeme Hetherington returns to the cultural territory he presented, differently registered, in In the Shadow of Van Diemen’s Land (1999). This is the west coast of Tasmania, reconstructed this time, in ‘West Coast Garden of Eden’, as the provocative place of his childhood, an Eden after the Fall in which innocence has long before succumbed to temptation. The twenty-seven parts of ‘For Boyd’ present Boyd as the narrator’s schoolmate, a son of working-class parents who has Paul Newman looks, a careless disregard for all forms of authority, an impressive and precocious sexual appetite, and a rebel’s capacity for mischief.

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