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Wearne's world

Doing the suburbs in different voices
Online Exclusives

Near Believing: Selected monologues and narratives 1967–2021 by Alan Wearne

Puncher & Wattmann, $29.95 pb, 252 pp

Wearne's world

Doing the suburbs in different voices
Online Exclusives

The near-religious title of Alan Wearne’s new selection of poems, Near Believing, gives an impression of bathos and deprecation, while nevertheless undermining structures of belief, as represented in the book; at times this belief is explicitly Christian, but can also be seen more generally as belief in others, or in the suburban way of life. It is, then, while modest-seeming, highly ambitious – and, in another irony, further evokes the pathos, and hopelessness, of wanting to believe. In the title poem, which appears in the uncollected section, ‘Metropolitan Poems and other poems’, a ‘near-believer’ is defined by the poem’s priest speaker as ‘that kind of atheist I guess who prays at times’. This formula captures the ambiguity of the book’s many speakers and their addresses.

A highlight of this section of new poems is ‘They Came to Moorabbin’, about Nance Conway, a diplomat’s widow, who repeatedly refers to post-World War II Moorabbin as Mars, and her relationship with married couple Iris and Keith. The play of voice in this poem is as complicated (or rich) as in Pride and Prejudice. For example, ‘That something / also saying Please never lay a hand on me …’ is a paraphrase by the poem’s speaker of ‘something’ that is not exactly spoken, nor thought, by Nance. Later in the poem:

         ‘Possibly,’ Nance muttered back to Keith,

Keith speaking for his Iris.


He lets her say it since, except when Iris contradicts,

Keith rather likes an opinionated woman,

each brings out a similar boorish edginess.

It is not just Wearne’s use of free indirect discourse that is interesting, but (and Jane Austen also does this) the pressures he puts on voicing as an act – with original affects like ‘boorish edginess’ thrown in.

Michael Farrell reviews 'Near Believing: Selected monologues and narratives 1967–2021' by Alan Wearne

Near Believing: Selected monologues and narratives 1967–2021

by Alan Wearne

Puncher & Wattmann, $29.95 pb, 252 pp

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