Rose Lucas reviews 'Snake Like Charms' by Amanda Joy and 'The Herring Lass' by Michelle Cahill

Michelle Cahill and Amanda Joy have produced two engaging and proficient collections of poetry. In their different ways, each revels in worlds of perception, imagination, and poetic craft.

Amanda Joy’s first full-length collection, Snake Like Charms comes out of UWAP’s new poetry series and marks the emergence of an important voice in Australian poetry. In her work, Joy, who won the 2016 Peter Porter Poetry Prize for her poem ‘Tailings’, highlights an intensity of almost ecstatic perception. We see this perception ranging across the specificity of place, in particular West Australia, notions of myth, the intimacy of relationships with lovers, children, and, at the core, the relationship between the individual human and the natural world. These ideas are woven together through the trope of the snake – both as a recognition of the power of the external world and as part of an imaginative engagement with that world. The snake – creature and metaphor – can be part of an Australian ecosystem, beautiful, dangerous, even a mythic go-between the worlds of the spirit and the body. In the poem ‘Synecdoche’, Joy writes: ‘Can’t say – / poor snake / Your strangeness is maybe / what we can’t imagine / living without.’

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