David McCooey reviews 'Graphology Poems 1995–2015, Vols I-III' by John Kinsella

John Kinsella, who lives mostly in Australia, is a transnational literary powerhouse. Poet, fiction writer, playwright, librettist, critic, academic, collaborator, editor, publisher, activist; his activities and accomplishments are manifold. He is best known as a poet, and the publication of Graphology Poems 1995–2015 – a mammoth (and ongoing) discontinuous series of poems published in three volumes – brings together two decades of work.

The collection has ‘a tentative beginning and no possible closure’, as Kinsella writes in his prefatory note. The poems are numbered sequentially, though there are numerical gaps and leaps. There are thematic sections (such as the ‘Faith’ and ‘Forgery’ poems), and the final volume includes a number of appendices and ‘Mutations’. Like the landscapes Kinsella so often writes about, Graphology Poems is sprawling, sometimes messy, often imposing, and always compelling.

The pseudoscience of graphology is the study of handwriting, especially as a tool to analyse character, attribute authorship, or determine an author’s state of mind. For Kinsella, it is a beautifully ambiguous and generative master trope, putting in train numerous characteristic concerns: identity, authenticity, memory, place, representation, power, and textuality itself.

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Published in March 2017, no. 389

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