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Alex Skovron

So there he was in the library, crouched above the floor
      like a mousetrap, squinting into his rickety parallel edition
of the Satires. The paperback was from the late fifties;

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The tough and rumble of the schoolyard
is always welcome relief from a room
papered with whispers, where every night

he must taste the salted honey of his pain
or else listen to the chorus of lies
that they hiss at one another in the dark.

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The Poet is an unusual book. Dispensing with many of the conventions that underpin most extended works of prose fiction, such as significant characterisation, it presents a central protagonist, Manfred, who is ‘honest’ – as the author repeatedly states. Manfred is also a poet. The novella is written in formal and refined prose, as if the narrative style is designed to reflect Manfred’s obsessional nature and estranged condition: he has never been ‘in love’, is ‘something of a loner’ and is highly anxious.

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Alex Skovron has always been a clever poet, sometimes playfully so, more often seriously so. Skovron, who was born in Poland in 1948 and came to Australia, via Israel, in 1958, is steeped in the European intellectual tradition, though he wears his erudition lightly. Like almost everyone else, Skovron is troubled by the twentieth century: it seems to hang over the horizon of this book. He is also concerned about the nineteenth. As he says in ‘The Centuries’: ‘It is necessary to remind oneself / that the nineteenth century has never really left us: / it has been here all along, biding its time.’

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Infinite City by Alex Skovron & Aerial Photography by Joanne Burns

July 1999, no. 212

Despite the differences in style, careful logic seems to me to be the prevalent characteristic of both these accomplished poetry collections. Hard-won logic, too. In each, we are made aware often of the processes of achieving intellectual and emotional assessment and balance. As the titles indicate, poem after poem vividly accumulates details to settle on a succinct but more distanced and distancing overview.

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From the very beginning of The Rearrangement the reader is involved in themes which will play repeatedly through the poems: learning, knowledge and memory, and the way in which these work to satisfy, or frustrate, a metaphysical sense of order, even truth. 

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