On my most recent visit to Warrnambool in December 1994, the newspapers carried a tragic story about some local youths who had been digging in the coastline dunes and sandstone cliffs outside the town. One of them had died when their cave collapsed. It is this wild, unpredictably dangerous but attractive coastline that features in the title sequence to Andrew Taylor’s new book. In Sandstone, the blurb on the back cover tells us, Taylor returns ‘to the sight [sic] of his childhood’.... (read more)
Lasseter, it has been said, was a strange man, admired for his unusual and innovative ideas. He told a story of being caught during a storm in Central Australia: he put all his clothes in a hollow log, stood naked until the storm passed, and was then able to don his dry clothing. Though some claim that Lasseter was at Gallipoli, he did become the source of another great Australian myth of failure.... (read more)
Elizabeth Riddell quipped about Kevin Brophy’s first novel, Getting Away With It (Wildgrass, 1982), that he hadn’t! I do not recall anything else of her review, but must confess that it also replaced my own estimation of the book. With hindsight, it’s clear that the novel has too many attributes to be disqualified, however wittily. Furthermore, Brophy’s new novel, Visions, recovers the best of his earlier novel’s operations, advancing them this time in an entirely coherent and often marvellous manner.... (read more)
Brian Castro’s novel Birds of Passage is a dramatic exploration of the intriguing idea, found in Butler, Jung, and others, that an individual’s life may in some way be in touch with ancestral experience. It imagines the possibility of a previous life, its outlook on reality and rhythms of existence, flowing troublingly into the consciousness of the present. The book shared the valuable Australian Vogel Prize last year. It is of some interest, but is a distinctly uneven work. Romantic in concept in its adoption of the idea of racial memory and psychic disposition, it is sometimes sententious in tone in its reaching for poetic effect, and prone to mix its narrative modes disconcertingly. It is hard to see it as a major literary prize-winner, although some of the historical episodes in its dual narrative are nicely done and the basic idea in itself is an attractive one.... (read more)
Hours on each line, weeks on a stanza, months on the whole poem, but with long breaks between. Most poets spend most of their time not writing poetry, and it has to be this way.... (read more)
Kevin Brophy’s latest book is a record of the year he spent living in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan. The community is home to predominantly Walmajarri people, and is on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, sixteen hours’ drive from Broome. He was given a decomposing house to ...... (read more)
In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, State Editor Kevin Brophy introduces the second series of ABR's Western Australian States of Poetry anthology.
Poetry, in ‘stilling things’, as Martin Heidegger suggested in 1950, is nevertheless always restlessly active. These six voices are six stills from a fast-moving history of poetry in Western Australia. They are evidence that poetry can provide moments we can enter into in suspended silence while experiencing that movement and ...... (read more)
If Peter Boyle’s new and selected, Towns in the Great Desert (which I reviewed in ABR, March 2014), was a tour de force of the imagination, and a book of stunningly strange ...... (read more)
for Wolfgang and Birgit
I failed to sleep last night, I failed to have the dreams
that would take me safe from one day into the next.
I failed to be brave, afraid of the train, its snout of steel
pushing out of the dark into the station at San Pietro,
its sides towering over us blue and white and filthy with night.
It hissed, cracked open, impatie ...