Walleah Press

‘The first forty years of life furnish the text, while the remaining thirty supply the commentary,’ Arthur Schopenhauer remarked in The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims. While the timespan is different, the proportions are similar. Brendan Ryan’s Walk Like a Cow, which focuses predominantly on the poet’s first twenty-five years, has been written over roughly two decades. The memoir features twenty-seven largely self-contained chapters and nine previously published poems, in a roughly chronological narrative.

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Peter Boyle’s Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness (Vagabond Press, $25 pb, 82 pp) is a book-length elegiac poem dedicated to his partner, the anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose (1946–2018). Unlike other works lamenting the illness and loss of a spouse, Boyle’s collection largely avoids representing the day-to-day demands of suffering from (or caring for someone suffering from) an incurable disease. Instead, Boyle’s poetry sequence offers a more metaphysical approach to the uncertainty and grief that he and his partner faced.

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The Unspeak Poems, Tim Thorne’s fourteenth collection, is characteristically politically engaged and international in its scope. The best of these poems make use of Thorne’s acute ear for everyday speech. ‘Gettin’ there’, for instance, sad and memorable, creates through jumpy fragments of wry observations and narrative a picture of misguided hope against loaded odds: ‘The saddest place I’ve ever seen / is the bus shelter outside Risdon prison. / You lose about one teddy bear per eviction / on average.’ The same talent is used to different effect in recording the incoherence of racism in ‘7/11’.

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Judy Johnson’s sixth collection of poetry brings us a strong range of closely observed, powerful poems. As the title suggests, they are all linked together by elemental themes: the apparent solidity of stone, the persistence of scar tissue, the promises of air, and the complex gifts of water. In their often very ...

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