Tracy Ryan

This time around / they say, we won’t / be at loggerheads, // we’ve understood / you can’t measure up, / we’ll do maths & spelling

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The need for this book is self-evident in a way that a similarly historical anthology for New South Wales or Victorian poetry would not be. From many perspectives, Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world and there is no doubt that the state’s uniqueness is captured in this extensive, though tightly edited, selection. Despite its comparable treatment of ...

Just knowing those colours makes it safer
already and how they'll change anyway by the time
you, thirteen now, are old enough for elsewhere: ...

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Lesbia Harford would have been interesting to meet, because of her unconventionality and political views, in addition to the poetry. Earlier, Percy Shelley, for similar reasons.

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I am building my roof of turf   my peaty sheath
a coveted blanket   roll me up in it and I go out
like a light   like the wisp rising at night
that country people swear they see and steer clear of

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The prolific Tracy Ryan’s new novel, Claustrophobia, is a smart and fast-paced hurtle through lust, obsession, and stultifying patterns of dependency and self-delusion. Written in a low-key, ironic style, Ryan borrows from tropes of crime fiction, in particular the novels of Patricia Highsmith, as well as the double-crossing figure of the femme fatale, to tell the story of Pen, a seemingly ordinary and slightly bored woman from the Perth hills. Pen is married to Derrick, whom she has encouraged to succeed in the world, albeit in modest ways, since the emotional breakdown which preceded their meeting. Ten years on, working part-time at Derrick’s school and unable to have children, Pen’s motivation is running low. Incapable of mustering the energy to clear the house or to complete the renovation which has dragged on for years, Pen’s life is suddenly and explosively changed when she finds a returned letter Derrick had sent to his previous lover – the lover whose rejection had sent him into despair.

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Because in a foreign city even at eight
he needs the familiar nearby, to hitch
the gaze like the reins of that lacquered
horse to a fixed spot, in order to let loose,

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To be alone in the wide room
in the house’s crooked elbow, turning point
for extensions as the family grew
and grew – and grew – to be alone in the one room
nobody needed now, though it might be resumed
like land, for guests or blow-ins, at any moment,
without notice (and that was part of
the appeal, the very tenuous feel of the place) to play the ...

In Tracy Ryan’s poems there are no safe houses, the walls of domesticity keep falling in and she is the clear-eyed tightrope walker negotiating a perilous foothold. Her lines zigzag across the page:

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