Rose Lucas

Over nearly thirty years and ten books, Diane Fahey has made a significant contribution to Australian poetry. The Wing Collection, from Puncher & Wattmann, showcases a wonderful array of her work. This generous collection offers a rich journey through Fahey’s key images and the recurring preoccupations that ...

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amphora by Joanne Burns

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September 2011, no. 334

joanne burns has long been a force in Australian poetry. amphora, her thirteenth collection, builds on that legacy with the energy and vital idiosyncrasy with which readers have come to associate her work. The collection’s title – one of the sections of poetry – gives us a clue as to what we will find here. burns offers her reader an amphora, and thereby casts her book as a beautiful jar brimming with words and insights, stories from the past, sustenance for the present. William Carlos Williams wrote, ‘… men die miserably every day / for lack of what is found [in poems].’ Drink deeply, amphora urges us, because poetry contains the very stuff of life.

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The subtle beauty of the title of Sarah Day’s new collection of poetry, Grass Notes, epitomises the lightness of touch and intensity that characterises the poems. This is a collection of observing what might otherwise be seen as slight or glancing, yet that offers powerful prisms of insight. In a Whitmanesque mode, Day’s perspective not only looks up from the grass into the vastness of the world, but also looks at the grass itself, the unexceptional yet foundational ground of all perception and experience. Perhaps as the poet scribbles ‘notes’ in that grass, there is also an echo of Wordsworth and post-romantics such as Judith Wright or Mary Oliver. The title also chimes homophonically with the idea of the musical ‘grace note’, that small, quick, note that runs into the next and, in its delicacy, makes that central sound, or image, both more appealing and more complex. In Day’s work, it is the delicacy of such lateral images, often derived from close consideration of the natural world, that complicates and enriches the ideas at work within the poems.

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Event by Judith Bishop

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November 2007, no. 296

In her other life, Judith Bishop works as a linguist. A passionate concern with the intricacies of language, with the visceral effect of words on the tongue, aurally, and as they are knitted and unravelled on the page is manifest in her first collection of poems, Event. These poems are deeply immersed both in a complex observation of, and engagement with, the natural world, in particular with the ways in which poetic language can intervene in the world of perception, experience and desire. ‘You have to lean and listen for the heart / behind the shining paint’, Bishop writes in ‘Still Life with Cockles and Shells’, which won the 2006 ABR Poetry Prize and which Dorothy Porter included in The Best Australian Poems 2006. Like the beautiful illusions of the still-life painting, Bishop’s poetry creates an aesthetic surface which mimics the stasis of death and also harbours the ‘flutter in its flank’, the pulse of possibility visible to the attentive reader–observer. Look closely, her poetry exhorts, yield to the currents of language and image, become witness to death and life in intimate and endlessly renewing ‘events’ of struggle and embrace.

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