Kate Llewellyn

Judy Armstrong reviews 'Playing with Water' by Kate Llewellyn

Judy Armstrong
Monday, 14 October 2019

Kate Llewellyn has written sixteen books, which is quite an achievement. They include poetry, fiction and autobiography. One book, The Waterlily (1987), has sold 30,000 copies, a notable accomplishment for any author. The Waterlily was the first book in Llewellyn’s Blue Mountains trilogy; the second was called Dear You (1988). I read it years ago, having borrowed it from a library because I suspected the title might be an indication of the tone. It was not the epistolary format that gave me pause: I have relished many correspondences, ranging from the passionate exchanges of Julie and St Preux in Rousseau’s Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (1761) to Robert Dessaix’s grapplings with life-threatening illness in his acclaimed Night Letters (1996). But for my taste, the series of missives beginning ‘Dear You’ betrayed an irritating archness. The author seemed to be caught between the heady excitement of Revealing All and a coy fear of saying Too Much.

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On this bright morning
a cruel wind is up.
I don't care –
last night I strode among the stars.
Black swan shelter in the sandhills' lee,
while pelicans stand preening
on the lagoon's edge.
We each must share our little pill
of poison – a tattooed drummer,
a drunk, a married man –
while we sit at kitchen tables
drinking tea with other ...

How's Possibly doing today?
She's okay, she's possibly
recovering from a possible asthma attack.
What's Possibly doing? The impossible,
That's what. Attending to twenty students
some of whom will possibly fail
tasks Possibly set which they feel
are impossibly high.
Possibly is cooking dinner for ten
and being polite in impossibly demanding
situa ...

1.

To enter the bed we kneel
And fall into the white abyss.
Sleep is a form of fainting
The altar of the pillows swirls with wisps
Of fading consciousness – a priest
Comes down the aisle flicking dreams out
From an ancient ewer.

2.

Watch a sleeping man
Even then they still seem awesome
To me with an air of tragedy
Like a fal ...

You ought to ring up
The farm may have disappeared
Into the river – as it does from time to time –
Or the trees in the orchard bloomed with stars
Or the geese may have rowed
in the blue dinghy adorned with hundreds
of marigolds to the island
with six of them sitting straight up
on the bench, the other two heaving an oar
while the rooster watches ...

I was the dressmaker's daughter
our dialogue was fabric, colour,
embroidery, pins and scissors.
The almost silent sound
of snipped cloth falling
on the table round my feet.

A bodice of pins drew down
over my head like a scaffold.
I spent my childhood in the sea
or standing on a table – 'A sway back!'
she said proudly.
Once I wore a tab ...

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Francesca Sasnaitis introduces Kate Llewellyn who reads her poem 'Oxytocin' which features in the 2016 South Australian anthology.

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States of Poetry - South Australia | About Kate Llewellyn

Australian Book Review
Monday, 22 February 2016

Kate Llewellyn - Poet Page

Kate Llewellyn is the author of twenty-four books comprising eight of poetry, five of travel, journals, memoirs, letters and essays. She is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets and ...