Bella Li

Capacity by LK Holt & Theory of Colours by Bella Li

November 2021, no. 437

These days, poetry is primarily a visual experience. So claims the American poet and theorist Cole Swensen, whose essay ‘To Writewithize’ argues for a new definition of ekphrasis. Traditionally understood to be writing about visual art, ekphrasis typically has a poet stand across from a painting or sculpture, in a kind of face-off, and write about it. To ‘writewithize’, however, is to take a different approach: this is not writing made about art but made with it. This is writing that, in Swensen’s words, ‘lives with the work and its disturbances’. Two new Vagabond releases by Bella Li and LK Holt are doing ekphrastic and intertextual work that is exquisitely disturbing. These are moody books of allusion and visual play by two of Melbourne’s most brilliant poets.

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Tuesdays Paul comes by. He jogs up the driveway in his striped green shorts
and I’m there at the door with Ella on my hip. She’s crying, she’s teething
and drooling and crying from the pain, and some days I can’t stand it, I have ...

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That I have written, of places I have not been. To Carthage I came, where there sang around me in my ears a cauldron of unholy loves. And in the vast courts of memory, the caverns  of the mind. I have heard great waves upon the shore, I have remembered what it is. In other ears: the scaling of heights. These circuits of stars, compass and pass by. ...

Bella Li is the author of Argosy (Vagabond Press, 2017), which was commended in the 2017 Wesley Michel Wright Prize, highly commended in the 2017 Anne Elder Award, and won the 2018 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry and the 2018 Kenneth Slessor Prize. Her work has been published in a range of journals and anthologies, including Best Australia ...