In Marion May Campbell’s poem ‘in the storeroom,’ which appears in Roland Leach’s anthology Cuttlefish, she writes that ‘poems are letters that go astray’ – a whimsical yet fitting definition of the kind of poetry that appears in this collection. In these digital times, there is something ceremonial about a letter: a personal communication which must be opened and held; possibly shared, intentionally or otherwise. The poems in this collection have a tight focus; each is confined to a single page. They are often personal, poems of memory and family, beginning with reminiscence and hinged with sharp insight. They may be poems about the natural world, thoughtful and observant like missives from a traveller.
In the first part of his new collection, Graeme Hetherington returns to the cultural territory he presented, differently registered, in In the Shadow of Van Diemen’s Land (1999). This is the west coast of Tasmania, reconstructed this time, in ‘West Coast Garden of Eden’, as the provocative place of his childhood, an Eden after the Fall in which innocence has long before succumbed to temptation. The twenty-seven parts of ‘For Boyd’ present Boyd as the narrator’s schoolmate, a son of working-class parents who has Paul Newman looks, a careless disregard for all forms of authority, an impressive and precocious sexual appetite, and a rebel’s capacity for mischief.