Martin Duwell reviews 'Colombine: New & Selected Poems' by Jennifer Harrison

Colombine: New & Selected Poems

by Jennifer Harrison

Black Pepper, $28.95 pb, 247 pp, 9781876044657

Colombine selects from Jennifer Harrison’s four previous collections and adds a book-length group of new poems. In keeping with current practice, the new poems precede the selections, so that anyone wanting to consider Harrison’s twenty-year poetic career in terms of development has to begin some seventy pages in with the poems from her first book, Michelangelo’s Prisoners (1995). You met a lot of her distinctive interests in that book, and it still stands up well. She looks at what we would call embodiment from a distinctly scientific perspective, invoking the position of Humberto Maturana to write poems in which the sea, a major and polyvalent symbol in her work, can stand for the medium in which our embodiment occurs: ‘If each observation is a system / each thought an adaptation, then we drift / upon a spacious sea.’

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Martin Duwell

Martin Duwell

Martin Duwell was born in England in 1948. He taught for thirty-five years in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, where he received his doctorate in 1988. He is the author of A Possible Contemporary Poetry (1982) and an edition of the selected poems of John Blight. He was one of the editors of the Penguin New Literary History of Australia (1988) and has edited, with R.M.W. Dixon, two anthologies of Aboriginal Song Poetry. He has written extensively on postwar Australian poetry and publishes monthly reviews of new books of Australian poetry on his website.

Published in February 2011 no. 328

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