‘Scroll down, you deserve it’

Stretching and renewing language
by
October 2021, no. 436

‘Scroll down, you deserve it’

Stretching and renewing language
by
October 2021, no. 436

Obligations of Voice by Anneth VeyObligations of Voice by Anne Elvey

Recent Work Press, $19.95 pb, 89 pp

I was surprised by the title of Melbourne-based Anne Elvey’s recent collection, Obligations of Voice. Though quite a mouthful, it’s bravely deliberate; Elvey wants you to slowly voice and feel the syllables. Several poems centre on the mouth or lips for political, theological, even surrealist ends. The poem ‘Afternoon Tea, Seaford Beach Café’ begins with the line ‘A woman stands’. Floating in the right margin is the phrase ‘at the back of a throat’. These fragments coalesce to describe the woman’s mouth or the mouth she’s lodged in. Breathing and ‘charcoal’ gums are collaged with the ‘Dark // corrugations’ and the landscape of the sea. The last line surprises by changing tack: ‘A skiff // bounces on a swell.’ This clipped linguistic dexterity, with a flash of painterly movement, characterises Elvey’s nuance and facility.

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