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Janet Upcher

Blubberland by Elizabeth Farrelly & Two Kinds of Silence by Kathryn Lomer

February 2008, no. 298

In this fascinating and irritating book, Elizabeth Farrelly hits out at almost everything about the modern world. She is an architect, and urban sprawl and ugly buildings are her bêtes noires, though obesity, kitsch and fakery also attract her coruscating attention.

Blubberland is a curious mixture of diatribe and philosophical treatise on cultural theory. Farrelly makes many good points: tight-knit cities, for example, are more energy-efficient than sprawling suburbs, and the ‘sea-change’ fad destroys beauty spots with little increase in happiness. She wonders ‘[w]hy we demand a built lifestyle whose habitual over-indulgence is, by even the standards of our parents’ generation, extraordinary? … Why these houses, and the suburbs full of them, are so ugly? Is it an aesthetic or a moral repugnance?

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The eponymous poem in Caroline Caddy’s latest collection Esperance captures a breathtaking glimpse of a bay on the Western Australian coast. Immediacy epitomises Caddy’s poetic gift. In deft strokes, she provides a vivid land/seascape, compressing an astute reflection on history, geography, and humanity’s irrepressible need to explore beyond known boundaries. The language is physical and sensuous: ‘the snowy beaches / lapped by the cold clear bracelet / that’s there then not there / around our ankles.’ There is also a metaphysical dimension, ‘with everything falling away behind / with everything falling away ahead’ mirroring ‘esperance’: a quality of hope and faith in the future.

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Ecopoetics is tricky terrain which, in these poems of ‘forest and water’, Louise Crisp encounters sometimes with agility, sometimes faltering. Perhaps that’s intended.

The cumulative effect of this collection is one of an overland trek, gradually ascending from ‘poisonous lowlands’ to the harsher, restorative air of ‘uplands’.

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