Andy Kissane's new collection

Andy Kissane's new collection

Radiance

by Andy Kissane

Puncher & Wattmann, $25 pb, 78 pp, 9781922186522

Andy Kissane’s fourth collection, Radiance, is a heartening answer to those who, like publisher Stephen Matthews, lament that ‘many modern poets choose to shroud their work in point-scoring obscurity at a time when clarity and accessibility might encourage more people to read poetry’. Kissane doesn’t address this issue directly, but his book is an important negative instance.

The first virtue of Kissane’s poetry here is its empathy, which leads on to an important (though sometimes unfashionable) political dimension; the sonnet ‘Match Girls, 1888’ is a telling example. Two young sisters in a Dickensian match factory begin to notice what is happening to the other girls: the damaged jawbones and bleeding gums. The ending is disturbingly poignant: ‘One / mustn’t complain. Instead, she poked her sister / under the quilt and they laughed at their teeth – / glowing green and ghostly in the warm cave of the bed.’ Similar compassion and outrage can be found in a number of neighbouring poems, particularly ‘The Street Vendor’s Lament’, ‘The Child is Father of the Man’, and ‘The Smell of the Sea’. All deal with dangerous working conditions, and all make their point with technical subtlety and an absence of rhetoric.

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Published in August 2014 no. 363
Geoff Page

Geoff Page

Geoff Page has published twenty-two collections of poetry, as well as two novels and five verse novels. His recent books include 1953 (UQP 2013) (on the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlist for 2014), Improving the News (Pitt Street Poetry, 2013), New Selected Poems (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013), and Gods and Uncles (Pitt Street Poetry, 2015). Aficionado: A Jazz Memoir was published in 2014 by Picaro Press. He also edited The Best Australian Poems 2014 and The Best Australian Poems 2015 (Black Inc.).

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