The Old English Beowulf, the most important poem in English before Chaucer, was probably composed in the eighth century. The poem traces Beowulf’s three fights against the monster Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. The dragon is defeated, but Beowulf also dies in the battle. The poem ends with an elegiac lament ...... (read more)
The poetic epigraphs that introduce all three sections in Brink, Jill Jones’s tenth full-length poetry collection, are collaged fragments from the poems proper. Moodily, they skirt the edges of what’s to come: ‘I am to proliferate.’ The poems then, in all their multiplicity, evoke and explore being on the brink – of knowing, feeling ...... (read more)
Plenty of novelists begin life as poets. Few, though, have managed to maintain their status as poet–novelists quite so impressively as David Malouf. But even Malouf, in his ‘middle period’, more or less dropped poetry for his ‘big’ novels ...... (read more)
Alan Wearne’s work over the past thirty years or so – dense, demanding, unique, rewarding – is like the oeuvre of a cinematic auteur: one that never quite got onto the syllabus, or brought out the crowds at Cinémathèque. Technique above all, most of the time, but allied with real if unfamiliar emotion, even if the narrative needed the reader to have the right ...... (read more)
When W.H. Auden took the cue for his poem ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ from Brueghel’s Fall of Icarus, he did not presume the reader’s knowledge of the iconography of the painting but rather sprang open its central and universal theme, which touches all our lives: how ‘dreadful martyrdom must run its course’. It is easy to think our lurid times are perhaps ...... (read more)
Thea Astley had a way with words. Her novels are studded with arresting metaphors, atrocious puns, hilarious one-liners, arcane words, technical terms from music, geometry and logic, religious and literary allusions. Her verbal pyrotechnics can be dazzling and infuriating, in equal measure: as Helen Garner once wrote, it is ...... (read more)
Bold shades of autumn leaf – or blazing embers’ light,
bright to extinguished, as if fires set
in hearths huddled closely in the dirt were offset
by pallid oceans with their artificial light.
Are the colours fire-signals to a planetary eye
that, like Atlas, feels the weight of earth,
Having comprehensively disposed of that chestnut,
shoved it on a skip,
I have more questions to put to you than the Socratic
in our grocer.
First, I want you to step out of those non sequiturs, comely
though they are.
Two recent collections by two very different voices have both been ‘blurbed’ as works of fragmentation. In her début collection, Cassie Lewis is described as speaking for ‘a generation whose ambitions and emotions have become very fractured and fragmented’. Eddie Paterson’s new book is full of redacted texts of digital trash and treasure; it is a blacked- ...
Paul Muldoon’s friend and mentor, the late Seamus Heaney, once remarked that reading Muldoon was like being in a room with two informants: one a compulsive liar and one who always tells the truth. The trick, Heaney suggested, is ‘trying to formulate a question that will elicit an answer from either one that can be reliably decoded’.
Muldoon’s poems a ...