White on White
Cordite Books, $20 pb, 89 pp, 9780975249291
The Sky Runs Right Through Us
by Reneé Pettitt-Schipp
UWA Publishing, $22.99 pb, 122 pp, 9781742589596
Anne Elvey’s White on White and Reneé Pettitt-Schipp’s The Sky Runs Right Through Us both offer ideas of unsettlement in contemporary Australia; Elvey’s is the unsettlement brought by the arrival of colonists, whereas Pettitt-Schipp explores the unsettlement associated with denying arrival. In White on White, Elvey explores the limitations and downfalls of colonialism, and the paradoxical act of ‘building a falling’ that settlement represents. Despite its title, the collection is about the co-existence of whiteness and colour, as in the line, ‘On my desk the whiteout / is shelved beside the pens’. This line is also telling as it is about imprints and markings existing beside modes of erasure. In the prose poem ‘School days’, readers are introduced to the speaker’s skin that is ‘peach and cream with a blue undernote […] the colour of my soul’, which a ‘drop of ink’ would mortally stain. Here, Elvey invokes a thread running through the collection: the potential for ink, the medium for writing and textuality, to be fraught with sin and moral complications. At these moments, readers may reflect on the fact that it was white settlers who brought written language to Australia, with all of its blessings and burdens.