Peter Kenneally reviews 'Crankhandle' by Alan Loney, 'Stone Grown Cold' by Ross Gibson, 'Aurelia' by John Hawke, and 'Dirty Words' by Natalie Harkin

Poetry books as artefacts in their own right, regardless of commercial viability or relevance to the click-bait Zeitgeist, are currently showing sturdy signs of life, so it is a welcome development to have the online Cordite Review sensibility fixed in print, in a palpable way and on a graspable scale. These are fine-looking books: Zoë Sadokierski’s cover design template allows for each book to have a distinctive colour scheme and for the images within the design to reflect the verse within, in its particulars and its atmosphere.

Crankhandle - four of four Cordite titles colour

Crankhandle ($20 pb, 56 pp, 9780994259608), continues Alan Loney’s long-standing interest in capturing fragmented or passing thoughts and utterances. It reasserts his belief that these are not fragmented in the sense of being unfinished or worn away, but because, as he says, ‘fragments are all we have, and will ever have. If some are very long and some very short, then that is simply how things are.’ This book is a succession, or assemblage, of these fragments, but not in such a way that they are in order, or stuck together at any point. There are Oulipo-esque chunks of dictionary-mining, reflections on the body, and on language, and the death and decay of each: ‘hands unable / the skill leaving him / his dream of beginning / dissolved / prospect of becoming a poet / broken / the printing press / cranking out / the crack’d word.’ It is, as Michael Farrell aptly says in his introduction, a book of ‘thinks’. Loney, with the calm concentration acquired from years as a letterpress printer, rolls them out without trying to disguise the constant whisper of the type, rearranging and redisposing itself beneath the paper at every turn of the crankhandle. The book has a kind of coda, a concentration of thought coming after the expanse of thinks, that extracts the world-weariness one senses beneath the carpet of thoughts, and asks ‘do I / merely copy words down, another / Bartleby, who’d prefer to do / nothing else with his time / with his body’. That is an unanswerable question – there is not even a question mark – but it will be interesting to see what Loney cranks out next.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in August 2015, no. 373
Peter Kenneally

Peter Kenneally

Peter Kenneally is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and poet. In 2005 his suite of poems Memento Mori was selected for the anthology of the Newcastle Poetry Prize, and in 2007 his piece ‘a streetlamp goes out when I walk under it’ was commended in the New Media section of the same prize. He has appeared in The Australian, Southerly, and Island, among other publications.

 

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.