Vagabond Press, $25 pb, 96 pp
Tamryn Bennett’s Icaros and Willo Drummond’s Moon Wrasse both use the natural as their central motif. Nature has of course always been a font of inspiration for poets. These two poets draw from that font in vastly different ways. Bennett’s title refers to a form of South American song that is chanted during rituals of cleansing and healing that involve plants. Drummond’s refers to a hermaphroditic fish, the moon wrasse, which acts as a symbol of transformation.
These compelling poets approach their form in different ways. In Icaros, Bennett’s second book, the visual quality is emphasised while Moon Wrasse, Drummond’s début, favours the literary. Icaros’s stanzas are draped across the pages, crawling in places across double-page spreads with the white space filled in with art by Jacqueline Cavallaro. Some include purely onomatopoeic couplets such as ‘chhh chhh chh chhh / shhh shhh shhhh shhh’ as in ‘serpent scales the gully’. Drummond, on the other hand, goes to lengths to emphasise the poetry’s literary quality, sometimes setting words in italics to indicate a borrowed line, such as ‘suddenly stops the breath’, a line from that famous naturalist Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook (1994), in ‘Up to our knees in it’. In fact, Drummond’s work is so literary that she has chosen to include nine pages of notes as the book’s appendix. This may be a remnant of the works’ origins in research projects.