The Passion Paintings: Poems 1983–2006
John Leonard Press, $24.95 pb, 207 pp
On a recent plane trip from Wagga to Sydney, I was talking to an engineer who uses X-ray technology to examine the deep structure of aircraft after stress, to assess airworthiness. Complicated, fascinating, with considerable and direct bearing on passenger safety. By way of exchange, I read him parts of Aileen Kelly’s ‘Simple’, an impressive poem that, in three stanzas, X-rays the history of Christianity. One of the latter’s faultlines ‘racked / sweet fanatic poets between lambchrist / and tigerchrist’. Other stress fractures are ‘the dark arcades / where losers piss themselves / off the edge of memory’. My travelling companion had an immediate sense of Kelly’s fine metaphysics, which, as the back-page blurb glosses, finds ‘the numinous in the undeniably secular’.