Lisa Gorton

In Lisa Gorton’s first collection of poetry, somewhat ambiguously entitled Press Release, light, absence and doubt are major preoccupations. The poems speak of ‘a weight of light’, ‘neon expectation’, ‘ruined cities overrun with light’ and ‘all that falling light’ – in just the first of this volume’s four sections. Light, for Gorton, is a sometimes mesmerising and often overwhelming force. Among other things, it is the illumination of nostalgia, the halo of memory and the shining-out of presence. Interestingly, it is also about culmination, often standing for various forms of – usually problematic – realisation and achievement. For example, in ‘Scald’, the poem’s persona speaks of ‘light drawn in to the idea of light, all-eye and all / forgetting, more entire than perfection’; and in ‘Guns I / Major Mitchell, 1836:’ wild birds ‘are tearing the blueblack / shadows out of the river’, as if light and life are joined in defying the ruination of death and the depredations of time. But in Gorton’s poetry light never fully escapes the dark, and in ‘Scald’ the ‘sheer of light’ is also a ‘shining blank’, while the poem’s speaker represents herself as a ‘bright / dark torso’, images in which absence, darkness and light are inextricably connected.

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With Love and Fury edited by Patricia Clarke and Meredith McKinney & Portrait of a Friendship edited by Bryony Cosgrove

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July–August 2007, no. 293

Judith Wright and Barbara Patterson met at a gathering of the Barjai group, a Brisbane salon for young poets and artists, when Judith was almost twice Barbara’s age. Judith had not yet published her first collection, The Moving Image (1946). She read some poems and Barbara was magnetised.

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Picnic is probably Fay Zwicky’s most confident collection. In it she renounces certain kinds of brilliance for a freer and more open style of poetry – what she calls in one poem ‘the grace of candour’. It is a style that approximates moral qualities: honesty, direct ness, kindness to strangers. And it is in fact such moral qualities that give force to this collection

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Biplane Houses by Les Murray & Collected Poems by Les Murray

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June-July 2006, no. 282

Perhaps only John Shaw Neilson and Judith Wright have brought an equal sense of place to Australian poetry: the sense of place as a fact of consciousness with geographic truth. But in his latest collection, Biplane Houses, Les Murray considers more airy habitations – flights, cliff roads and weather – and the collection has a matching airiness that is only sometimes lightness ...

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When John Tranter reviewed Jennifer Maiden’s first collection, Tactics (1974), he noted its ‘brilliant yet difficult imagery’ and a style ‘so idiosyncratic and forceful in a sense it becomes the subject of her work’... 

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At first, you find the claim that you resemble your parents implausible. Later, you find it unflattering. But there are moments when you glimpse someone in a mirror and only belatedly recognise yourself. These are the moments when you realise – it is in equal parts chastening and reassuring – that if you are moving through time as an image of your parents’ past, their image is waiting for you in mirrors: they are the ghosts that haunt your future, as it were.

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Imagining Australia collects nineteen essays from a 2002 conference on Australian literature and culture at Harvard University. Of course, as the proceedings of a conference, it is on occasion hard work. There is something about conferences – the dedication of their audiences, perhaps, or the vulnerability of their speakers – that encourages a somewhat defensive formality. That said, almost every essay in this collection repays a reader’s investment with interest: in describing the history of Australian literary journals; offering a new direction for Australian pastoral poetry; providing surprising perspectives on popular Australian myths; or looking at how contemporary poets use form.

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Surrender by Sonya Hartnett

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March 2005, no. 269

If you are regretting the passage of another summer and feeling nostalgic about the lost freedoms of youth, Sonya Hartnett’s latest novel, Surrender, may serve as a useful tonic. In Hartnett’s world, children possess little and control less, dependent as they are on adults and on their own capacity to manipulate, or charm ...

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