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Showing posts from March 3, 2013

Paul Kane's Drowned Lands

Paul Kane Drowned Lands University of South Carolina Press 1 57003 341 2 Reviewed by Philip Harvey in The Australian Book Review, late 2005 This is a poet who believes in a book that ‘lies open, taking the measure/of the world, of what in dreams is sought or/found in the fissure that separates and/joins two translucent worlds of fire and ice.’ (‘Frost, at Midnight’) Paul Kane’s technique for filling such a book is not by universalizing or massive cataloguing, but through crystalizations of favoured themes into poems that can read deceptively like plain English.   In this book ‘sky and land were sold for a song, which became an anthem/and then a dirge,’ school was where ‘daydreams stopped and humiliating knowledge began,’ and you, the individual,’have come this far/and still you think/your life will endure.’ Kane has a skill at revealing how experiences transpose prior awareness into other meanings, deeper, darker. His first premise is that the world is whole. After

Michael Thwaites: “singing light, the beckoning Brindabellas”

Michael Thwaites UNFINISHED JOURNEY : COLLECTED POEMS 1932-2004 Ginninderra 1 74027 249 8 Reviewed by Philip Harvey in the Australian Book Review, early 2005 Gentlemen also write poems. Michael Thwaites is resolutely old school: set subjects, square metrics, good manners. He is a quiet achiever. Even his voice is quiet, though not so quiet that you can’t hear it. Solid statements, with a minimum of flourish or divertimenti, are his rule. The book is divided into five chronological sections, so you can follow the story of a life lived. ‘Milton Blind’, an earnest construction, wins the Newdigate Prize for 1938. There is his wartime classic, ‘The Jervis Bay’, the narration of a 1940 sea battle in the North Atlantic that borrows from British imperial action verse while interleaving Murrayesque graphics:            From the smoke floats are flowing Streams of velvet solid smoke drifting over the ocean swell, But the enemy gunners know their job. After the war, th

Jennifer Compton and Cathy Young

Jennifer Compton PARKER & QUINK Indigo 1 74027 248 X Cathy Young THE YUGOSLAV WOMEN AND THEIR PICKLED HERRINGS Cornford 0 646 43101 3 Reviewed by Philip Harvey in the Australian Book Review, 2004 Jennifer Compton creates uneasy feelings. Her monologues come from desperate people, frantic, locked out, locked in. They all have some secret and are going to tell us, if it takes subtlety or no subtlety. What saves their querulous, impossible concerns from turning into rants or whinges, is Compton’s actorly control of voice. These are poems of original intent and purposive control. The shocking ideas at the centre of her poems are tempered by a voice trying to master the extreme reality they relate. Her dramatic proclivities inform her work at every turn: a character is usually in a place they don’t want to be, new circumstances have to be negotiated with an old map of the mind. On occasion she even writes directions straight into the verse (“I’ll shift from my mother’s voi