Permitted to Fall
Sunline Press $xx hb, 148 pp
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.’
Scattered throughout this collection are gloomy love poems. Often these poems feel intimate, sometimes too intimate, giving an impression of sincerity at which Oscar Wilde might cringe. For example, in ‘Earliest Birds’: ‘i was / flamed by you. you were excitement and fury’ and ‘you / fucked and made basil pesto with elegant ur/ gency’. There are self-conscious references to poetics, and even the local politics of poetry in ‘Melbourne Poets’: ‘the Melbourne Poets come in hats – / a swanky fisherman’s number, / trilby with feather, / black beret’ … ‘make rollies for next readings, / clap with fat palms, / read them anyway and / sit at one table’.