Pandanus, $19.80 pb, 108 pp
Stephen Kelen’s new book is an ambitious, wide and free-ranging journey through past and present, war and peace, family life, travel and technology. It has all the hallmarks of Kelen’s previous books: a marvellous ear and restless eye, a gift for narrative that challenges as much as it reaffirms, and a willingness to tackle anything that takes his attention. These (mostly) narrative poems have a relaxed, conversational style, even when Kelen’s subject matter is bleak and charged with menace: ‘The gun going off / made us laugh till even our / humanity couldn’t give a shit // The police came and went / and we thought about that’ (‘Deadheads’). This relaxed, colloquial style is at the heart of much of the book, and the opening poem, ‘A City’, works as a short, lyrical template for what is to come: rural, urban, celestial, domestic, political, technological. Kelen works a spell and places them all into fourteen lines. It is a tight, promising beginning.