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Rose Lucas

Event by Judith Bishop

November 2007, no. 296

In her other life, Judith Bishop works as a linguist. A passionate concern with the intricacies of language, with the visceral effect of words on the tongue, aurally, and as they are knitted and unravelled on the page is manifest in her first collection of poems, Event. These poems are deeply immersed both in a complex observation of, and engagement with, the natural world, in particular with the ways in which poetic language can intervene in the world of perception, experience and desire. ‘You have to lean and listen for the heart / behind the shining paint’, Bishop writes in ‘Still Life with Cockles and Shells’, which won the 2006 ABR Poetry Prize and which Dorothy Porter included in The Best Australian Poems 2006. Like the beautiful illusions of the still-life painting, Bishop’s poetry creates an aesthetic surface which mimics the stasis of death and also harbours the ‘flutter in its flank’, the pulse of possibility visible to the attentive reader–observer. Look closely, her poetry exhorts, yield to the currents of language and image, become witness to death and life in intimate and endlessly renewing ‘events’ of struggle and embrace.

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The Flower, The Thing by M.T.C. Cronin & The Last Tourist by Jane Williams

August 2006, no. 283

What shapes might poets use to house and craft their various perceptions? Given the absence of a narrative framework, particularly within lyric poetry, what are the possible images and contents through which poetry might weave its insights, and thereby build a tangible structure able to communicate the ephemera of experience and idea? In her most recent collection of poems, M.T.C. Cronin, surely one of the most significant poets writing in Australia today, works explicitly within the artifice of a given structure – a series of poems, titled for alphabetically organised flowers, each with its own specific dedication.

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What is a monster? Why are we so recurringly fascinated by graphic representations of the monstrous? And, in particular, what do cinematic images of male monstrosity tell us about the ways in which Western culture produces and views the categories of masculine and feminine?  Barbara Creed’s new book is a direct extension of much of the lively work she did in The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis (1993). In Phallic Panic, she moves from her earlier consideration of how we might interpret visions of female monstrosity as evidence of profound anxiety about the role of the woman in phallocentric society, particularly in her vagina dentata manifestations, to an examination of the cultural and psychological implications of male monsters.

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