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Uncommon thought

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307

Uncommon Light by Brook Emery

Five Islands Press, $21.95 pb, 72 pp

Uncommon thought

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307

Everyone seems to be writing about ‘light’ at the moment. It is currently an all-purpose metaphor, the intangible symbol for all intangibles: mental, physical and emotional. With Brook Emery, it is far more precise. The ‘Uncommon Light’ of Emery’s title poem comes from St Augustine, and ideas of ‘common’ and ‘uncommon’ light recur throughout the poems, but are re-defined, flipped, turned and re-examined throughout this thoughtful and sustained book.

Uncommon Light (Five Islands Press, $21.95 pb, 72 pp) returns to the terrain of Emery’s first two collections, and dug my fingers in the sand (2000) and Misplaced Heart (2003). In this new book, he explores different ways of seeing the natural world, particularly the sea, personal relationships, and the impersonal, political world of strangers’ suffering. The poems are suffused with learning, intelligence and a deep humility which eschews flashy effects or poses. The voice is intimate and interior, with a concentration on the ‘I’ which is in no way self-indulgent. The poems highlight a difference between seeing and ‘conceiving’, but, accurate or not, the act of seeing is active: ‘an instrumental eye and instrumental heart rejoicing.’

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