Five Islands Press

Brink by Jill Jones & Passage by Kate Middleton

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January–February 2018, no. 398

The poetic epigraphs that introduce all three sections in Brink, Jill Jones’s tenth full-length poetry collection, are collaged fragments from the poems proper. Moodily, they skirt the edges of what’s to come: ‘I am to proliferate.’ The poems then, in all their multiplicity, evoke and explore being on the brink – of knowing, feeling ...

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John Kinsella, who lives mostly in Australia, is a transnational literary powerhouse. Poet, fiction writer, playwright, librettist, critic, academic, collaborator, editor, publisher, activist; his activities and accomplishments are manifold. He is best known as a poet, and the publication of Graphology Poems 1995–2015 – a mammoth (and ongoing) discontin ...

Poetry as the solidifying of memory, poetry as a survivor's sanguine amusement, takes a lifetime. Louise Nicholas relates autobiography through strongly considered moments ...

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In their very different ways, these three collections attest that contemporary Australian poetry is alive, robust, and engaging.

Puncher and Wattmann have delivered a generous collection of Martin Langford's most recent poems, Ground ($25 pb, 158 pp, 9781922186751). As we have come to expect from Langford, the voice we find here is strong – passio ...

Kin by Anne Elvey

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September 2014, no. 364

Kin, Anne Elvey’s first full collection of poetry, brings together a wide range of poems full of light and the acuity of close attention. These poems focus on a world of inter-relationships where tree and water, creature and human, air and breathing, coexist – suggestive of an underlying philo-sophy of humility and acceptance. This is a world which envisi ...

Robyn Rowland writes what could be described as a traditionally feminine, aestheticised mode of lyric poetry. Rowland’s poetic landscape is one that shimmers with moonlight, in which one finds cherry blossom and exotic fruit, waterfalls and peacocks, and sensuality (if not sex), and in which the language is always pleasing. Perhaps it is my cultural background – coming from a dour nation of Finns – or the fact that I am a formworker’s daughter, but this world is not familiar to me. Indeed, it seems to belong to a particular tradition of lyric poetry, rather than to any reality. Nevertheless, there is honesty and poignancy in Rowland’s New and Selected Poems, which speak of lost relationships, childbirth, illness, the death of loved ones, and the various individuals and historical events that inspired her interest or hope.

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Vertigo edited by Jordie Albiston & Awake Despite the Hour by Paul Mitchell

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October 2007, no. 295

Reading Paul Mitchell’s second book of poems during a bout of insomnia seemed apposite not only because of its title but also because Mitchell’s poetry occupies a strange middle place, somewhere between dream and reality. Awake Despite the Hour illustrates Mitchell’s interest in occupying both the ‘real’ (politics, family and the quotidian) and the extramundane (imagination, the surreal and the metaphysical).

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There has been something of a fashion in recent years to dismiss what might loosely be called ‘rural’ poetry because the vast majority of Australians live in cities near the coast. Nevertheless, ‘rural’ poetry keeps appearing, and not just in the works of Les Murray. A considerable number of Australian poets are only one generation away from the land (even John Tranter was born in Cooma), and their childhood memories can often be a rich resource. Admittedly, there are not many actually working it; the reasons for this are often at the core of their poetry. A few perhaps are inclined to be nostalgic (even sentimental) but there is also, as Craig Sherborne has observed, an ‘anti-pastoral strain in Australian poetry’. Among the more recent exponents of this tradition are the late Philip Hodgins, John Kinsella (in his wheat belt poems) and, to judge from A Paddock in His Head, the Victorian poet Brendan Ryan.

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Geoff Page’s latest poetry collection is a wide-ranging survey of some of the issues affecting contemporary Australian life. Underpinning Page’s poems of cafés, apartments, classical music, outback murders and domestic violence is a meditation on approaching mortality and the very idea of belief. In Page’s previous collection, Darker and Lighter (2001), the troubling nature of belief was hinted at in ‘Credo’: ‘The dark-night-of-the-soul-agnostic / prefers the right to doubt. / The world’s too much beset by those / who know what they’re about.’ Five years later, Page’s reflections on belief and the loss thereof return like echoes from a bell. In the fine poem ‘At Tosolini’s’, Page contrasts the diners’ penchant for coffee with the sound of bells ringing at a nearby church: ‘The sound of bells in autumn air / has long since been a thing / that we can never quite believe / and yet we don’t despair.’ Page’s use of the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ assumes much, and perhaps speaks for those who no longer believe.

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‘Some meteorites make it to the surface simply because they’re so small that they literally float to the ground. There are thousands of these interplanetary particles in the room you’re in now, stuck to your clothes, in your hair, everywhere.’ This startling piece of information introduces Aileen Kelly’s ‘Notes from the Planet’s Edge’ in her new book, City and Stranger (Five Islands Press, $16.95 pb, 88pp), whose cover features Russell Drysdale’s iconic image of Woman in a Landscape. This bushwoman, then, is stuck with interplanetary particles or, as Kelly puts it, ‘the invisible sift of space’. Drysdale’s woman is transformed from the Australian legend in the dirt-coloured smock, wearing those oddly impractical white shoes, into a figure framed by an immense and moving universe. We look for this in poetry – the breaking of frames, the pleasure of surprise and discovery, and the contest between language and experience.

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