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Adrian Caesar

Nicolette Stasko’s poetry is as far from the postmodern baroque as it is possible to be. This is not to say that her work lacks awareness of contemporary theories of art, but rather that her style eschews self-consciously clotted imagery, radical syntactical dislocation, and the production of high-sounding obscurities. There is nothing rebarbative here. At their best, the limpid surfaces of these poems invite the reader into aesthetic experiences where the pictorial is rendered with such clarity that the images resonate deeply. As we might expect from a poet who writes one of her best sequences in response to Cezanne and another following Van Gogh, the most satisfying of these poems recreate that moving stillness characteristic of figurative painting.

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In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Adrian Caesar reads two poems, 'Charlotte's Grace' and 'Spring Fall' which both feature in the 2016 ACT anthology.

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I see you stand with your back to me
at the French window as you did last March
looking at early flowers
yellow and crimson, pansy and primrose
peeping from their crust of snow and
above them the steel-sculpted angel
rearing from a wooden plinth: guardian
of the courtyard. In those bleak days I knew
you were reading the cemetery metaphor
of your blig ...

Your kind friend sent a condolence card
and in the envelope a small white feather
which, she said, seemed to come from nowhere.
Angel's wings obviously, I wrote in my reply.
And for days after everywhere I went
I found small replicas, as if some tiny
feathered thing had scattered its moulting
on urban pavements, in shops and unlikely
bathrooms, a ...

Without bucket or spade we build
the sandcastle, dragging and gathering
piling and patting our little Camelot.
I excavate a moat, shape a drawbridge,
a sloping road leading to the keep,
while you look for shells to decorate
the edifice, or so I thought, the way we'd
done last holiday some months ago.
But this time you have another purpose:
instead of ...

Some months after the funeral,
checking emails from the other hemisphere,
there's one from Pauline; subject: Hell.
It's not promising. My mind traverses
the last five years, their litany of loss –
a son, two friends and mentors,
then you, lovely sister, and like some grim
comedic postscript even Frankie
the cat succumbed. Suffice to say
I ...

(For my grand-daughter)

Coming in with stones from the garden
your first impulse is to make them shine.
Washing rocks, you call it, and give them
full treatment, soap and flannel and rinse,
your three year old hands and eyes intent,
absorbed, and this not a one-off game;
it becomes a favourite as if
to establish your own ritual
y ...

Adrian Caesar was born and educated in England, but has lived and worked in Australia for more than thirty years. ... (read more)

In his poem ‘Reunion’, Mike Ladd takes us back to his old school in Adelaide. Three stanzas recapitulate the journey before another four talk us through the fate of the poet’s former schoolmates. Some of these outcomes are predictably neat: ‘How the wild girl became a matron, / and the prim one, a single mum, at seventeen.’ The ‘cop’s son’ ‘was shot dead in Afghanistan, / a mercenary, picked off by sniper fire’, while ‘the thin and gormless one / made a fortune dealing stocks’.

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Last year I was invited to a literary festival celebrating writing about Antarctica. At the opening drinks session, I fell into conversation with a woman who, when she learned I was a participant, asked me if I had been ‘down south’. I said I hadn’t. She replied somewhat ungraciously, I thought, that she felt few would take me seriously in this forum because I hadn’t made the trip. I was taken aback, but still managed to mutter something in reply about Antarctica’s fascination as an imaginative space.

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