Judith Bishop reviews 'Crow College: New and selected poems' by Emma Lew

Judith Bishop reviews 'Crow College: New and selected poems' by Emma Lew

Crow College: New and selected poems

by Emma Lew

Giramondo, $26.95 pb, 144 pp, 9781925818055

Original voices are always slippery to describe. The familiar weighing mechanisms don’t work very well when the body of work floats a little above the weighing pan, or darts around in it. As in dreams, a disturbing familiarity may envelop the work with an elusive scent. It is no different for poetry than for any other art: the mercurial alloy, or unforeseen offspring, astonish and perturb. They divide opinion. The reception to date of Emma Lew’s poetry, gathered for the first time in her New and Selected Poems, demonstrates this effect.

Crow College takes an uneven number of poems from Lew’s two full-sized collections, The Wild Reply (1997) and Anything the Landlord Touches (2002). A number of the new poems previously appeared in a Vagabond Press Rare Objects chapbook, Luminous Alias (2013). While these new poems are as strong as the earlier ones, they contain a larger proportion of pantoums. Unlike other critics, I regard most of these as less successful than the more organically organised poems. The constraint is often too apparent, and the content made to fit.

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Published in May 2019, no. 411
Judith Bishop

Judith Bishop

Judith Bishop lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has studied in the United States and Britain. She is Director of Linguistic Services at a multinational language technology company. Her poems have won many awards, including the Peter Porter Poetry Prize (2006, 2011), an American Academy of Poets University prize (2004) and the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship (2002-2004). Her translations from French poets (Philippe Jaccottet, Gérard Macé) have appeared in Australian and international journals. Her first book, Event (Salt, 2007), won the FAW Anne Elder award and was shortlisted for the CJ Dennis Prize, the Judith Wright Calanthe Award, and the ASAL Mary Gilmore Prize. She has recently published a second collection, Interval (UQP, 2018).