Rose Lucas

Rod Jones’s new novel, The Mothers, works on a number of levels. It provides a social and familial history of life in Melbourne’s working-class suburbs throughout the twentieth century while also telling the often moving stories of individuals connected across generations, usually mothers and children, battling to survive in adverse circumstances.

Reading the poetry of Ania Walwicz is a little like being drawn into a trance: the density of the prose-like lines; the disorientation of the lack of punctuation; the repetition of certain words, phrases, alliterations. It is not a poetry that can be read in short bursts. Each poem is a commitment to a vision, to a mind-space explicitly shaped by the intensity and demand of Walwicz’s language. Having burst into Australian poetry with her ‘Polish accented’ voice more than thirty years ago, troubling the dominant Anglocentric view of Australian culture, Walwicz’s poetic still works to startle a reader from her comfort zone and to disrupt her expectations about what poetry is and can be.

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Kin by Anne Elvey

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September 2014, no. 364

Kin, Anne Elvey’s first full collection of poetry, brings together a wide range of poems full of light and the acuity of close attention. These poems focus on a world of inter-relationships where tree and water, creature and human, air and breathing, coexist – suggestive of an underlying philo-sophy of humility and acceptance. This is a world which envisions at least the potential of balance and a non-hierarchical sharing, where self and other, the natural world, and the devices and desires of the human might recognise each other.

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The prolific Tracy Ryan’s new novel, Claustrophobia, is a smart and fast-paced hurtle through lust, obsession, and stultifying patterns of dependency and self-delusion. Written in a low-key, ironic style, Ryan borrows from tropes of crime fiction, in particular the novels of Patricia Highsmith, as well as the double-crossing figure of the femme fatale, to tell the story of Pen, a seemingly ordinary and slightly bored woman from the Perth hills. Pen is married to Derrick, whom she has encouraged to succeed in the world, albeit in modest ways, since the emotional breakdown which preceded their meeting. Ten years on, working part-time at Derrick’s school and unable to have children, Pen’s motivation is running low. Incapable of mustering the energy to clear the house or to complete the renovation which has dragged on for years, Pen’s life is suddenly and explosively changed when she finds a returned letter Derrick had sent to his previous lover – the lover whose rejection had sent him into despair.

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In Workshopping the Heart, Jeri Kroll brings us a feast of poetry: selections from her seven previous collections, poems from 2005 to 2012, and excerpts from her forthcoming verse novel, Vanishing Point. From 1982 to the present we are able to witness an evolution towards a mature poetic voice as Kroll negotiates her way through life’s various traverses and the poetic explorations that both describe and reflect upon them.

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William Carlos Williams once famously stated, ‘No ideas but in things’, about his poetic method. Rose Lucas, in her first poetry collection, Even in the Dark, takes up the imagist movement’s poetic style but ‘makes it new’ in her examination of the role of the poet in both the local environment and abroad. Her observant and mimetic style shimmers in a collage of confronting still-life portraits. In the opening poem, ‘Heat Wave, Melbourne’, the death of a possum – ‘her young / still alive in the pouch, / squirm and cling / to the dead fur / to each other’ – is juxtaposed with a tragic Darcey-esque West Gate Bridge moment when a father ‘unbuckles his small child / from the back seat / and / then / in the rush / hot / as she falls / through sky and / slick of water –’.

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Judy Johnson’s sixth collection of poetry brings us a strong range of closely observed, powerful poems. As the title suggests, they are all linked together by elemental themes: the apparent solidity of stone, the persistence of scar tissue, the promises of air, and the complex gifts of water. In their often very ...

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Australian Poetry Journal, the biannual publication published by Australian Poetry, offers a national focus for poetry and criticism. It includes contributions from established writers and from new voices. All in all, APJ indicates a cheering and cohering centre of gravity for all things poetic in contemporary Australia.

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Ladylike by Kate Lilley

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June 2012, no. 342

Like all good titles, Kate Lilley’s Ladylike offers the reader a coded and evocative entrée into her new collection. These poems are concerned with exposing and critiquing some of the expectations of femininity, of being ladylike, as found in the past and the present, in contemporary cultures such as the cinema and in the discourses of the academy. The idea of ‘liking ladies’ is also central to these poems, as a current of desires that cuts across more conventional notions of the lady. The title also suggests a motif of mirroring, even doubling, where a self is similar to, perhaps even indistinguishable from an ‘other’, and yet is also simultaneously different, a simulacra or sign that can never be the thing in question. It is within this point of slippage – this petticoat slide between an embodiment of femininity and its repetitions or likenesses – that Lilley’s poetry operates, generating a reading experience which can be both vertiginous and full of the rigour of possibilities.

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Knuckled by Fiona Wright

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February 2012, no. 338

Knuckled, poet and editor Fiona Wright’s highly anticipated first collection, arrives with an assuredness of style and voice that augurs well for Australian poetry. The overarching idea of ‘knuckles’ – of being knuckled, of beating knuckles, of the working joints of bare hands, even the throwing of knuckles in a game of chance – gives us a strong clue to the collection’s main themes. These fluent and highly evocative poems bring a sharply observed, sometimes bruised, sometimes raw and violent sense of the worlds they document. The poet as watcher and as reflector of such images is a robust filter through which to moderate the world of perception, and yet is inevitably precarious in the face of the onslaught from outside; of the intrusion of otherness into the vulnerable sanctuary of the self.

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