Five Islands Press

Beautiful Veins by Mal Morgan & Fighting in the Shade by Peter Kocan

by
April 2000, no. 219

In a note to the reader, Mal Morgan tells us that this last, posthumous collection Beautiful Veins – it comes with a CD selected from this and other work – was written during the five months after his being diagnosed with lung cancer. They’re note-taking, note-jotting poems. A sense of someone hurriedly trying to account for and describe his response both to the diagnosis and to the radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments which ensue is uppermost. Strong, disturbing, they’re often ‘I do this, I do that’ (Frank O’Hara’s phrase) confessional poems.

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Broken Land is a collection of twelve poetic sequences which record five days spent in the small outback New South Wales town of Brewarrina (the Bre of the title). It’s a drama, almost operatic in complexity and intensity, in which the central players are Dad, a Bre man who lives in solitary retirement and ‘doesn’t own much, but he likes it that way, he likes to make do, doesn’t want a new heater or a mattress, just wants to listen to the radio, roll a smoke and check on lotto …’, and Coral, the stranger in town:

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The introduction to this collection(Horns of Dilemma, Papyrus Publishing, $14.95 pb, 108 pp), and the poems themselves, make it clear that Helene Brophy is a woman of much compassion and experience in the humane realms of feminism, teaching and social work, as well as in the more personal spheres of serious injury, illness and death.

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Every so often you come across a book of poetry which is just plain friendly, a book without tensions or terrors or angst to seize you – but which is consistently good poetry throughout. Seeing Things is such a book. It is so accessible in its straightforward diction and low-key tone that reading it is to feel very much spoken to, acknowledged. This is not a poetry foregrounding language or form so much as a series of poems which almost coalesce during reading into an intimate reportage of the quotidian. Intimate in the sense of almost being there, sharing the observations. It is language as transparency. From ‘Painting Session’ referring to the poet’s two-year-old daughter:

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