‘It’s me talking’

Poetry’s vexed first person
by
June 2022, no. 443

Running time by Emily Stewart

Vagabond, $25 pb, 75 pp

Book Cover 2 Small

Inheritance

by Nellie Le Beau

Puncher & Wattmann, $25 pb, 74 pp

‘It’s me talking’

Poetry’s vexed first person
by
June 2022, no. 443

The lyric subject, literature’s most intimate ‘I’, has vexed critics for centuries. Is it the poet? Is it a fiction, a device? Or is the relation between author and speaker, as Jonathan Culler suggests, ‘indeterminate’, such that ‘any model … that attempts to fix or prescribe that relationship will be inadequate’? Two new award-winning Australian poetry collections offer fine-grained considerations of personhood and the poem’s capacity to represent it.

Emily Stewart’s Running Time blurs, and at times erases, the line between artificial and human intelligence. The book’s four sections comprise sequences of untitled poems, line endings unpunctuated, free-floating. In the opener, the speaker’s self-consciousness boots up: ‘every summer I doomscroll’; ‘I dive into my cerebral offcuts’; ‘I was hiding my seriousness / and glitched.’ Are we not, wired into phones and computers, already cyborgs? Yet the poem also asserts that ‘the brain filled with shame cannot learn’, a statement that betrays a search for personal growth – and love.

Anders Villani reviews 'Running time' by Emily Stewart and 'Inheritance' by Nellie Le Beau

Running time

by Emily Stewart

Vagabond, $25 pb, 75 pp

Book Cover 2 Small

Inheritance

by Nellie Le Beau

Puncher & Wattmann, $25 pb, 74 pp

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