Alex Skovron

This is a playful, intelligent, unsettling series of stories, fourteen of them, collected from publications going back a few decades from 1987 until 2012 as well as, presumably, unpublished work. Due in part to this long span, the book traces back and forth through time. There is even a Sydney pre-Opera House (just) ...

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Alex Skovron’s impressive volume of new and selected poems, Towards the Equator, drawn from all of his published work to date, shows him to be a writer of recurrent and abiding preoccupations. He cares passionately and sometimes rather fastidiously about culture (particularly European culture), and continually worries about words, books, and their import. H ...

For months Mozart has been so crucial I haven’t played him.
The winds, filibustering the house, have heard
the chimney crackle and the paint strain
while the old obsessions went ignored. What was the point?

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In one of these beautifully crafted prose poems, the speaker, recalling his childhood self, says that ‘I was gradually learning my own name, though there are times when the knowledge escapes me still, and another reveals itself’. This suggests complex trajectories of the self in time: self-knowledge comes ‘gradually’, but at times cedes to another, more profound, self-transcending form of knowing. Alex Skovron’s work, which includes four earlier volumes of verse and a novella, often counterposes two dispositions towards the self: a schematising impulse to ‘chart’ the ‘soul’, and a heuristic delight in the liberating processes of self-transcendence. Some of the ‘autographs’ – the accounts and traces of the self – that comprise this volume are of the first kind, others of the second. The book does not so much adjudicate between these kinds as embed them in a loose, fugue-like structure which is rich in delicate shadings, contrasts and variations. The book’s three sections – ‘Dance’, ‘Labyrinth’, and ‘Shadow’ – indicate axes of imaginative exploration rather than lines of narrative progression. Yet, cumulatively, the fifty-six poems in this collection nurture a passion for transcendence and a fear of excessive schematisation, the latter associated in this Jewish writer’s work with fundamentalism and totalitarianism.

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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 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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Infinite City by Alex Skovron & Aerial Photography by Joanne Burns

by
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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