Ann Vickery

Good poetry uncovers the secret in the manifest, and the manifest in the secret. Three new collections throw this paradox into vibrant, unsettling relief. Each book deserves a broad readership. Each beats back the lethargic thinking that has invaded society under the cover of the pandemic.

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Before you could say Jack Robinson, I was posting / a letter in the box that looks like a lean-to / at the crepuscular end of the mind. The fire-fangled glow / from the South kept sending small birds into the air ...

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As the size of Jennifer Strauss’s two-volume scholarly edition of Mary Gilmore’s verse attests, Gilmore (1864–1962) is one of the most prolific poets in Australian literature. At around 800 pages, Volume 2 complements the first volume (which Vivian Smith reviewed in ABR, February 2006). Together, these two volumes represent the most detailed editing of an Australian poet to date. Rayner Hoff’s bronze statue of Gilmore’s head on the cover signals the consolidation of Gilmore’s reputation in the last thirty years of her life. (In 1933 Gilmore became a life member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers; five years later, she was made Dame of the British Empire.)

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With a title like Metre, you know that this magazine is not attracting readers by its chic and sexy appeal. Our own home-grown mags, such as Otis Rush, Salt, and HEAT, at least offer their poetry with a bit more adventure and promise. Furthermore, by combining poetry with a range of fiction, cultural criticism, essays or reviews, such local efforts release poetry from solitary confinement and bring new energies into it. In contrast, Metre seems nostalgic for older times, for days when poetry demanded respectful homage. As the staid European cousin, its conservative title is buoyed only by the overarching gaze of ambition.

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