Philip Salom

In Western culture’s calendar year, is there some hidden fifth season, and if there is, what is it? The main character of Philip Salom’s fifth novel, a writer called Jack, asks himself near the end of the book whether the fifth season might be ‘Time, which holds the seasons together’, or perhaps the fifth season is simply ‘the Unknown’. Jack is preoccupied with the lost: with those people whose bodies are found but never identified, or those who, suffering amnesia, can’t be identified, but who need ‘to find their proper location in the story. In the seasons. A lost person must be allowed other dimensions.’

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A bookseller, Trevor, sits in his shop in Melbourne making conversation with his customers: an exasperating mixture of confessional, hesitant, deranged, and disruptive members of the public. One man stalks him, armed with an outrageous personal demand; another tries to apologise for assaulting him. The apology is almost as unnerving as the attack ...

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Waiting by Philip Salom

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April 2016, no. 380

I first encountered the work of Philip Salom in the pages of The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991). Anthologies, of course, have their limitations, but they can be a great place to meet people. Salom's first poem in that book, 'Walking at Night', includes an image of the urban sky: 'Streetlights glow overhead / Like the teeth of a huge zipper; ...

The Keeper of Fish by Alan Fish (edited by Philip Salom) & Keeping Carter by M.A. Carter (edited by Philip Salom)

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May 2012, no. 341

In his Keepers trilogy, Philip Salom is an Eliotian Fisher King, exploring the fissuring of identity in a triple play of plurality. The first book, Keepers (2010), was written by Salom, but authorship of The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter is attributed to Alan Fish and M.A. Carter,respectively. In his role as editor for these two poets, Salom becomes their gatekeeper or, as he states, their ‘amanuensis, editor, mentor and promoter’.

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The two narrators in this intense novel are the same person at different ages: the child of eight years who struggles against sibling displacement; and his twenty-eight-year-old self, scarred by his early years and obsessively revisiting them. The narrative documents these two periods of emotional turmoil in the unnamed protagonist’s alternating monologues. This anonymity may signify a lack of a more integrated self, and will not be a problem for the reader. As reviewer, I will simply use personal pronouns when referring to him.

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Taken as Required

by Ynes Sanz

An age ago, ill-matched,
ignorant but willing,
we set the rules.
‘Step by Step’, we said. ‘No Bullshit.’
Today, thinking of something else
I stumbled across the grey metal bracelet
you looped over that stick of a wrist
where your thin blood stained the skin
to resemble an antique map or a bad tattoo
(like the one they inked on for that photo shoot in the ’50s).

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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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The publisher’s promotional material which was included with the review copy of Philip Salom’s new poetry collection, The Rome Air Naked, indicated the book would be launched ‘with an innovative exhibition which will use computer technology to extend the written work into an aural, visual and multimedia presentation’. After reading the author’s introduction and then dipping into the poems for the first time, I only wished I could be there, to listen to, and participate in, the promised performance which will combine visual image and sound, animating the poetry, allowing it to breathe off the printed page, to dance freely in space.

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Award-winning Western Australian poet Philip Salem is both surprised and delighted by the response to his first novel, Playback. Simon Patton spoke to him recently during a brief visit to Melbourne.

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Children’s Games by Geoffrey Lehmann & The House of Vitriol by Peter Rose

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November 1990, no. 126

How different can two books be? Peter Rose’s first book, The House of Vitriol, is one of the first off the rank for the new Picador poetry series – and a sign of things to come. It is mercurial where Lehmann is mild. Rose’s style is very distinct: gaudy and revved up from the start.

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