The staff and board of Australian Book Review extend their thanks to healthcare workers around the world. We all know what risks confront doctors, nurses, aides, orderlies, and administrative staff in our hospitals and medical clinics, especially here in Victoria. Countless healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19, and many have died. We’re immensely grateful to the sector for its commitment and self-sacrifice.... (read more)
The ritual begins by filling a plastic basin with warm water. It is carried from the bathroom to the bedroom. It is placed firstly on a stool, then on to the floor. Soap and a flannel cloud the water. My hands bathe the woman who has removed her nightie. She sits with a sense of calm and pained skin’s need for pleasure. It is like bathing a tired child. I lift her arms, we speak quietly of shared things. This true intimacy is purifying. We have forgotten the things that have strained and estranged us. These mornings our bond is primitive. These days are bordered by routine. I am preparing her for death. I am pleasing her prickling skin. I dry her. I treat her skin with lotions and oils. Liver cancer has swollen her body into a state of pregnancy, distension, emaciation ...... (read more)
The world presses in,
a towering river of debris glittering
with specks of one ongoing explosion.
All of us are morphing,
our faces layered with many faces, two eyes
gazing upward from the ending of time.
Our skin is travelling from country to country
even as we sit still
and the second hand stays
frozen on the wall clock.
Four in the morning. Stumbling back
to bed, the softness
of my pillow in the spread
of my fingers assumes
again, after so long, the still longed for
round of your head.
Gwen Harwood, who died in 1995, was born on 8 June 1920, in Brisbane, of course, which she went loved dearly. Harwood seems increasingly to have been one of the finest poets Australia has ever produced. She was much loved; anyone who knew her relished her wit, her directness, her inextinguishable spirit. To mark the centenary of her birth, ABR asked a number of her colleagues and admirers to record some of her poems. Happily, there are hundreds of them to explore.... (read more)
Lexicographers, not just newspapers and television, respond to disasters. Language is never fixed, never finished, never done. In recent months, language has been shaped by the coronavirus. In this episode, Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at ANU and editor of The Australian National Dictionary, discusses coronaspeak, the language of lockdown.... (read more)
In thrall to thresholds, drawn to every brink,
at three weeks old
an infant’s eye adores the frames of things,
the joinery that holds
each smudge in place, and individuates.
Roll back, you fabulous animal
be human, sleep. I’ll call you up
from water’s dazzle, wheat-blond hills,
clear light and open-hearted roses,
this day’s extravagance of blue
stored like a pulsebeat in the skull.