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MTC Cronin

The Flower, The Thing by M.T.C. Cronin & The Last Tourist by Jane Williams

August 2006, no. 283

What shapes might poets use to house and craft their various perceptions? Given the absence of a narrative framework, particularly within lyric poetry, what are the possible images and contents through which poetry might weave its insights, and thereby build a tangible structure able to communicate the ephemera of experience and idea? In her most recent collection of poems, M.T.C. Cronin, surely one of the most significant poets writing in Australia today, works explicitly within the artifice of a given structure – a series of poems, titled for alphabetically organised flowers, each with its own specific dedication.

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Like M.T.C. Cronin’s earlier collections, beautiful, unfinished is characterised by a mixture of mystical awe and formal restraint. The collection is subtitled PARABLE/SONG/CANTO/POEM’. As this suggests, it consists of a parable of sorts in verse, a sequence of songs, a set of cantos ‘minus melody’, and some poems. But in Cronin’s hands, these various forms seem based upon haiku. She writes sparely in short-lined stanzas, and she undercuts her own rhythms until it seems as if almost every poem might end in an ellipsis.

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Bestseller by M.T.C. Cronin

October 2001, no. 235

In the August 2001 issue of Meanjin, M.T.C. Cronin writes of poetry: ‘The poems are not as useful as ribs but like them do protect life and when removed from the body grow certain murmurings of the mind.’ No matter how chaotic or runic her prose pronouncements, Cronin’s poems are quirky and original at best, diffuse and repetitive at worst.

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These six poetry titles represent the third series of New Poets to be published by Five Islands Press. Each title runs to exactly thirty two pages – no more, no less. It is, in a sense, a mini-collection, or a semi-collection, midway between a reading and a book. The series as a whole is therefore like a showcase of new talent – you applaud some of the poems, and get impatient with others, much as you do with the poets themselves. This is a good thing – it presents poetry as the provisional affair it really is, most of the time, for poet and reader alike.

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