Aidan Coleman

‘The first forty years of life furnish the text, while the remaining thirty supply the commentary,’ Arthur Schopenhauer remarked in The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims. While the timespan is different, the proportions are similar. Brendan Ryan’s Walk Like a Cow, which focuses predominantly on the poet’s first twenty-five years, has been written over roughly two decades. The memoir features twenty-seven largely self-contained chapters and nine previously published poems, in a roughly chronological narrative.

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Mount Parnassus remains a proscribed destination for the moment, but Aidan Coleman’s Mount Sumptuous (Wakefield Press, $22.95 pb, 56 pp) provides an attractive local alternative. Following on from the poems of love and recovery in Asymmetry (2012), this collection marks the poet’s reawakened appetite for the sublimities and subterfuges of suburban Australia, from cricket pitches ‘lit like billiard tables’ and Blue Light Discos to the flammable wares of Best & Less and the implacable red brick of ‘all-meat / towns’. As these poems and their pseudo-pedagogical endnotes show, Coleman is a keen philologist of the language of commerce. The title’s ‘sumptuous’ (from the Latin sumptus for ‘expense’) keys us in to the vital ambivalence of a poetry, which on the one hand honours the rituals of everyday consumption (‘lounging / book in hand, Tim Tams / … tea a given’), and on the other speaks to the exploitative logic of consumer capitalism (‘Take the juiceless fruits / of day labour and a white / goods salesman’s leaden chicanery’).

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In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Aidan Coleman reads 'Secondary' which features in the 2016 SA anthology.

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Octopus

Quick across the twilight road,
the eight legs of the cat.

 

Flood

Water corrects the earth
to flatness, patching fields with sky.

 

Alarm

Little boat of red figures, adrift between two days.

 

Window

The creek slides through the rain's eyelashes.

 

Fitness: fact, fiction
or fantasy? – among things
meant. Parachutes

open like fuchsias,
picnic hampers
of kittens float quietly

down, as peaks
push through
resplendent mists.

Your sense
falls upward
like helium or blinds,

now it's precisely
subtitled, you realise –
as the first tentative

...

The do-it-yourself piano isn't
kicked to matchwood, and you take
this for affirmation. When we
work out how to switch off
Bob Dylan, your plangent homemades
will go unaccompanied, no longer
sought like an injury lost in the mists
of Hansard. People suggest topics

they won't be using, and this is
more like an archive sneeze
than what yesteryea ...

1.

Angling over star-fields,
the pitches lit like billiard tables.
Those lengths you were shouted up and back,
lungs scoured by brillo air.
The lazier concord of close mown grass
and low hanging fruit
of the short boundary. A tang of primitive
electronics: the circuit board's braille labyrinth,
the slab type of Amstrad.
This callow path, you< ...

Aidan Coleman

Aidan Coleman is a poet, critic and speechwriter. He has published two collections of poetry: Avenues & Runways and Asymmetry, shortlisted for awards including the NSW Premier's Kenneth Slessor Prize, the ...

Weather in which I might be
elsewhere, lounging
book in hand, Tim Tams
(dark, perhaps), tea a given,

instead of the uphill pram push of swaying kids,
singing drunkenly –
what a coachman circa 1840
or his horse felt, probably,

...

Asymmetry by Aidan Coleman

by
September 2012, no. 344

In July 2007, at the age of thirty-one, Aidan Coleman suffered a stroke as a result of a brain tumour. Asymmetry is a book in two parts. The first details the poet’s survival after this near-death experience, his struggle to regain full use of his body and to speak and write again. The second part is a group of love poems for his wife, Leana ...

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