Vesna Goldsworthy (1961, Belgrade) lives in London and writes poetry in English, her third language, as well as her native Serbian, in which her poetry is much-anthologized. Aged twenty-three, she read her poems at a football stadium to an audience of thirty thousand people. She moved to Britain soon afterwards and did not write a line of poetry for over twenty years. Her Crashaw Prize winning debut poetry collection in English, The Angel of Salonika (Salt, 2011) was one of the Times Best Poetry Books of the Year.
Everything in the world is really beautiful, everything but our thoughts and actions…
A.P. Chekhov, “The Lady with the Dog” (1899)
After they made love that first time
She still felt distant enough to use the formal you
In the first question she posed.
He contemplated the heavy Japanese scent
He helped her choose the day before.
Something less overwhelming, with more zest,
Would have suited Yalta better, now he knew,
Than the red spider lily.
That flower grows, so legend says,
Along the path on which you meet
Someone you will never see again.
He was still naked when he got out of bed
And sat down at the table to cut a slice of watermelon.
His testicles rested on the chair.
The lacquered wood felt pleasantly cool.
They stayed like that for thirty minutes at least.
Her little Pomeranian dog was there too
Watching his mistress, then him,
As he chewed the red flesh in silence.
The two pairs of eyes
Seemed similarly moist in candlelight.
If she were not naked – or not shy –
If she could only fling the window open,
Would they still hear the crashing
Of the waves
In the darkness below,
Like earlier that evening,
A century ago?
I am old enough to remember
The appearance of Akhmatova’s Requiem,
The ambiguities of Brecht, Brodsky in his prime,
The Wall before it fell, the sound of planes
Taking off and landing. Nearby, another country.
On our long ride to Potsdam
We carved a crescent, a Cyrillic S,
In the first snow of the season,
As we wound our way across
The white spaces on the map,
Along the streets which echoed in Russian
And smelled of coal, cabbage, and wool.
It took years to reassemble
The memory of winter love-making
Undone on the parturition table,
In the encounter of metal and flesh.
The nurse returned with a pack of wadding.
It will cease in a day or two, she said
As though you were, already, absent. Do rest,
Drink some Georgian red, forget.
She straightened the shawl on my shoulders.
Under her uniform, the smell of sweat
Was just like mother’s, the night she was taken.
Our bicycles remained padlocked at the gate.
The brushstrokes of white powder
Emphasised the elegance of bars and chains,
A trail of lines in virgin snow,
To but not from, never returning;
So much blood and nothing
Conceived from so much love.
Of all that betrays us, the gentlest is memory.
Leaving the Party
We walk in silence bearing westwards
Along the towpath, against the current.
The Thames slithers and shimmers
On its slow way to surrender
Exhausted and spread-eagled on the sands of Essex.
Bicycle lights approach and frame us
In milky stills of gelatine silver.
Runners pound by in sweat and lycra,
Their footfall like strange amphibians’ heartbeat,
Mosquito buzz of music rises from their ears.
They give a wide berth to the couple of elderly clowns
In dinner jacket and sequins, carefully treading
With patent leather shoes unsuited to water’s edge.
At one point this evening we seemed unbearably close.
I raised my right hand to touch your temple.
Your hair, your fine hair, your fine white hair
Moved towards my fingers in static electricity.
There again was that question I was about to pose.
Then something behind your unquestionable goodness
Suddenly scared me, like ormolu and woodworm.
The cup of my palm still carries that faint fragrance,
The smoothness of black silk where the hand fell in defeat,
The soft woollen cloth, the white cotton underneath,
All those conspiracies of loom and thread
Expensively constructed to shield and to protect
Your skin, your warm skin, in all its unfamiliar creases.
Mine always feels porous, a layer to be shed,
Though I forever shiver — needing a cover, a shawl, a shelter —
Like some short-lived species of insect, a devil’s darning needle.
The darkness grows. The heat’s abating. I’ll hold myself together.
Gabriel Don received her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School, where she worked as the chapbook and reading series coordinator. Her work has appeared in Westerly 58:2, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Brooklyn Rail, The Saudade Review, The Understanding Between Foxes and Light, Yes Poetry, A Minor and Statorec.com. She has appeared in visual poems such as Woman Without Umbrella (vimeo.com/55691171) and Unbound (vimeo.com/54545554). She started several reading-soiree series including Pies and Scribes and Dias Y Flores in New York City and is editorial staff at LIT. She is a #bookdress and can be found on Amazon @ tinyurl.com/aq9ll8c.
The Chicken Coop
The chicken coop was outside, to the left of the house, down the side stairs, tucked away in the corner, opposite to the downstairs sliding glass door, that opened into a big room with grotty carpets and piles of oil cans, old tools, across on the other wall a topless poster of Pam and a door to where I slept on a water bed with my dog Scar. Dad liked to keep chickens. He installed the large wired cage as soon as we moved in. We got our eggs daily and chopped and roasted a chook for special occasions. We didn’t live on a farm or nothing. Sure, it’s not the biggest town in Austra’ia―it wasn’t something people did, keep chickens. If they wanted chicken meat or eggs, they’d go to Coles. Dad was just like that.
His dream was to own a prawn trawler. When he eventually saved up enough to buy one, days laying brick, digging holes, slabbing walls, he took it out on the river and got sick as a dog. Ah nooooooo. Mate, it was gross. He turned green and spewed for days. He chucked a sickie from work and spent the rest of the week at the pub drinking ginger ale and beer. I was working with him at the time and since I wasn’t old enough to drive the truck myself, I sat next to him, bony legs dangling over bar stool, sipping on a fire engine. I was eleven when I dropped out of school to work with Dad. We woke up at the crack of dawn and climbed up and sat down in the only seat: one long bench with three seat belts, up the front of the ute. Dad and I would argue over the tape deck. He wanted to listen to Kenny Rogers. I wanted to play ACDC. Best way to wake up mate, on a long drive to the work site. We’d go back and forth, until we’d stubbornly, cutting off our noses to spite our faces, listened to AM radio. The truck didn’t have FM.
The floor was filled with rolling stubbies, beer cans, soft drinks, bottles of old and hot Lift, greased wrenches and parking tickets. After Dad picked up the boys, I’d be squashed into the middle with the gear stick shifting between my legs. Boz, Dad’s dog, a beautiful black Doberman, was on the back, wagging her tail and slobbering her tongue into the wind. Dad didn’t want me to be a bludger. Had to earn my keep. I was always waggin’ school anyways, so Dad reckoned it was best I just tag along with him. Once, not even four years old yet, when my parents were out at a dance, all dressed up, I dismantled the living room cupboard with a screwdriver, all by myself. Mum threw a hissy fit. Dad looked proud.
When I was a youngin Dad would disappear for days, not come home. Mum would say he’d gone walkabout. Shrug it off, like it was normal. No biggie. She’d tell me to put my togs on and we’d go to Maccas for breakkie. The one that was right on the beach, yeah mate, it’s gone now. It was always full of surfies in boardies and no shoes, not even a pair of thongs. Mum looked like a movie star. She was in her early twenties, her black hair permed and her eyes hidden behind her big purple sunglasses. We’d eat pancakes, bacon and egg McMuffins and hash browns and spend the rest of the day at the beach. Slip slap slop. Mum would lie on her purple towel, sunbathing, reading a book and I’d body surf and climb rocks. Chase the bush turkeys. Sometimes she’d walk around the cliff hills with me. She’d show me the hidden waterfall and sing me a song to remember the colours of a rainbow. She had a song for everything.
Eventually Dad would find his way home, with a gutful of piss, stumbling and swerving, telling Mum he’d been working on a house in Brizzie, the words barely making any sense slurred and Mum would spit the dummy. She hadn’t even wanted to marry him, she’d cry. He chased her and chased her. He pursued her till he caught her, like a fish he’d throw back after he’d hooked it. I would sneak out the front door, run away from the smashing plates and loud screams, down the stairs on the side of the house and sit with Boz, his head in my lap, my legs curled and bent, my back leaning against the wall, looking at the chooks. They were funny little buggers. I’d watch them squabble, bobbing their heads up and down, pecking each other, fighting for a feed. Their cage, covered in shit, hay and rust, was always in need of a clean. Sometimes Dad would send me down there as a punishment with a slopping bucket of soap and water.
I remember the first time my Dad caught me and my friend Ben smoking. We had a nice big bowl of mull on my bedside table. We were lying in bed, vegging out, in our trackie dacks, playing video games, punching cone after cone. I thought Dad was away living on a building site while he did their renovations. Mum never told us off for getting high. She didn’t like confrontation or maybe she didn’t notice. Dad liked his grog and all but he down right hated pot. He came home early and smelt some smoke sneaking up the stairs. Mate, he was spewin’. I heard him punch a hole in the wall upstairs and tip over the television. Bloody oath. We could hear his heavy steps down the stairs and mate, we took off as fast as our legs would carry us. Luckily my room has a door into the back garden so we escaped outdoors and up the stairs and hid under the truck. He looked for us for ages, screaming he was going to kill me when he found me. We held our breath and nearly passed out from fright. I’m not a wuss and Beno is the biggest guy on our rugby team, a giant Polynesian who can tackle anyone on the field but Dad’s mental. We just hoped and prayed Dad wouldn’t get into the truck and drive to the pub for a schooner. We were under that truck till sunset when we finally, slowly and scared, popped our heads out and checked to see the coast was clear and legged it to Beno’s, where his old man didn’t care if we smoked.
I inherited my temper from my Dad. Poor Mum. She’s the sweetest, gentlest woman you’d ever meet and she had to deal with us drongos. I reckon in another life, without us, she could have been a prime minister or done something special, you know? She didn’t get a fair go. Mum loved to go to our club’s member’s draw every Thursday night. She was always hopeful, this was the week, she would win the large cash prize. Better than staying in, cooped up in the house. I loved driving in the car with Mum when I was little. She’d just take us for a trip, in any direction, no particular destination. She’d have Dolly Parton turned up to the top volume, singing, “I will always love you.” Or Tammy Wynette spelling out, “Our d-i-v-o-r-c-e becomes final today.”
We’d drive alongside the concaves and curves of the rivers, along the coast, past mangroves, through eucalypt forests; the thick smell of the gum trees entering the car. We’d venture into the middle of nowhere and in Austra’ia that’s not far from anywhere. If the car broke down, we’d be fucked. Not a light in sight. I’ve been taught since kindy what to do if I ever ended up stranded. How to gather condensation on cling wrap for water. Never drink from the ocean unless you want to go mad. The call that echoed: Cooee, Cooee, Cooee. It’s heaps dangerous on the roads. Wild life made their way across the highway, unaware the car had been invented. Kangaroos, especially, at night they become hypnotised by headlights and a big beaut of a thing, built like a boxer, not able to move, in the car’s path. It’s not that people care about killing a kangaroo, they’re hunted like pests here, cheapest meat you can pick up at the supermarket: a kangaroo can total a car and hop away. I’ve never hit a kangaroo, mind you. Worst accident I’ve ever had was when me and the boys were bored shitless on a Saturday so we decided to drive to the Bottle-O, fill up the esky with long necks and throwbacks and head upstate for a barbie. We got heaps smashed. My truck at the time didn’t have a door on the left hand side, next to the passenger’s seat, where I was sitting wasted on the way back and I rolled right out onto the road. When they got me home, I had to sit in a bath of Dettol, my whole body grazed.
My oldies kept at it―the screaming, the violence, the tears, the door slamming―my whole childhood. By the time I was bringing girls home, Dad had moved out. Mum and Dad weren’t divorced but Dad lived in an apartment on the main street of Coolie, above the pie shop, with a bogan, who had flabby arms and several chins, named Sharon and her daughter, Liana. He’d met Sharon at the pub. She sat with him, red nose with red nose, every day till closing. Mum was on the road a lot for work so I lived by myself most of the time. Only saw Dad at work. He’d invite me to join him and Sharon for dinner at the pub but I felt sick every time I’d see her. Once that bitch saw Mum sitting up at the bar with her friends at the Clubhouse and―so lucky I wasn’t there, Dad wasn’t there either―she went up and started talking shit and then pushed Mum off her seat. Poor Mum. Sprawled out on the blue carpet, in her finest clothes and jewellery.
I reckon people in our town are jealous of Mum. They like to cut down tall poppies. Flock together. Mum is smart and a looker too and she always behaves like a lady. She was just raised that way. She doesn’t think she’s too good for you or anything. She never got angry with me, not once. She’s not the type to speak her mind. I think after Dad, she got scared to. She’d rather walk around things, tell white lies. Hide up a supermarket aisle from workmates because she hadn’t answered their calls. Tell everyone what they wanted to hear. She never told me off for being a wally or bringing a different woman home every night. Even after she walked in on us having a pash. She was polite to them. Made them cups of tea. Invited them to go shopping at the mall. Even remained friends with them long after we’d broken up, when I wasn’t on speaking terms with them. The girls in town were nuts for me. I had to fight them off with a stick. Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen.
At work, among the Bobcats, trucks and dozers, Dad and I got along just fine. Installing swimming pools, fixing floors, mending roofs. Drilling holes, swinging shovels, holding levels, watching the bubble move. On our smoko we’d sit together by the water and puff on a rollie, eat our meat pies with tomato sauce and drink a nice cold one. No need to talk about nothing. If it was a slow day and we had lots of boys on the job, I’d take off my big brown scuffed up CATs and have a snooze. Piece of piss. Dad would still come home with me sometimes. Have dinner with me and my sheila, Mum too if she wasn’t travelling. I’d go downstairs afterwards and watch recordings of RAGE with my girlfriend. Mum and Dad would chat upstairs: I could hear their voices murmuring down through the floorboards. When I went up to the kitchen to get another bottle of cordial and some snacks, I’d see them curled up together on the day bed, sleeping with the news on the telly. Dad wrapped around Mum, his arms around her waist, together, curved like a backwards c.
Sharon broke up with Dad and Dad came back to Mum. She was so happy to have him home but then we found out he was sick. One day Dad couldn’t walk straight, sober. He lost his balance. He was falling all over the place for ages before Mum and me convinced him to see a doctor. We thought it might be an inner ear infection or something. Turned out a lot more serious. Dad wouldn’t even tell me himself: he made me ring the doctor to find out. Sharon found out Dad was sick and wanted him back. Only when she knew he was dying. When Dad got sick, he deteriorated fast. One moment he was a capable man, working, driving, drinking; the next he was overweight, dribbling, swollen, in a wheel chair. Incapable of eating. Incapable of anything. That’s the worst mate. My hero. My dad. Not capable. Couldn’t do his hair, no more James Dean coif. Dad was vain. He wouldn’t have liked to go like this. Just wasn’t right. Lost the cheeky twinkle in his crystal blue eyes. When they started chemo his hair fell out. He’d been so proud of his hair. He used to tell me and Mum how his hair had been straight until he’d gone through puberty and then it went curly. I never believed him till I had children of my own and it happened to them.
It was hard for me and Mum to visit Dad in the hospital or talk to the doctors. Sharon was always there, the bulldog, pulling strings. That’d be right. When I did get the chance to see him, sit next to him, lying there barely conscience, it was hard. No one wants to see their dad like that. I hate hospitals. The whiteness. The smell of Dr Pepper. Adults turning back into babies, being rocked around in cots, being fed through sippy cups. Strangers forced to share rooms during intimate moments, birth, sickness and death. Doctors talking down to you. Pretending to care, scheduling you in so they can rush off to their golf game. Angry overworked nurses. Paying for parking. I got so many fines visiting Dad. I don’t think he even noticed me. He wasn’t there most of the time. Still I felt like it was my duty, to be there till the end. The hospital couldn’t do anything for him anymore. So we took turns taking him home, depending on his mood. Sharon insisted on keeping Dad’s new dog, Boomer, at her house. Wouldn’t let us keep Boomer at our house and Dad loved that dog. Sometimes more than me I reckon. So he’d go home to her apartment to see the dog.
Now Dad couldn’t come to work I was at the top of the pecking order. I’d oversee the boys on a job. Dad would have me fill out his cheques, forge his signature. Still trying to run the business from his sick bed. Pay for building materials. Sharon was the one collecting his social security cheques, taking all the money. I had to sneak him packs of cigarettes and a bit of money every time I visited him. Sharon’s sister was over during one of my visits and she said, in front of Dad, “Youz don’t worry. He’s not going to last much longer.” When Sharon found out about the cheques she tried to have me thrown in jail. Mum went and visited a solicitor and they said even though Dad told me to do it, it was still illegal. Sharon tried to convince Dad I was stealing from him. I never took one dollar off Dad. I only ever paid suppliers or contractors like he had told me to. Sharon was the thief. Mum had bought Dad a new wardrobe to replace his tattered shirts and pants. All brand new. Still had the labels on. Sharon returned them for the money. I confronted Sharon in the pub and told her she better not press charges against me. If she did she’d better watch out. She’d regret it. Sharon got all up tight and started whining to Dad, “You’re gonna let your son talk to me like that?” Dad said, “My son can talk to you however he wants.”
I didn’t know then but that day she’d taken him to the solicitors. He’d signed over everything to her. The land he bought with Mum’s money. He’d convinced her early on in their marriage to sell her shares in the family farm. With the money they’d bought a large plot together. Every year Dad had a new scheme of what he was going to do with it. Hadn’t done nothing with it yet. In his condition, Sharon had convinced him to change his will. A man who couldn’t even go to the bathroom by himself or remember our names. That was the worst part of hospital for Dad, he had told me they took a woman to the bathroom with him, in a group, the nurses took them all into the toilet. A lady had to go to the bathroom in front of him. He kept telling me how terrible it was. He would call me sometimes from Sharon’s and say it’s the milkman or a pizza delivery. Sharon was always there hovering and wouldn’t let him talk to me too long. She gave away the dog as soon as he died. To someone else. I don’t know who. I tried to look for Boomer but never found him.
Mum was away when Dad passed. I’m sure she would have been there every day by his side, taken time off work: if Sharon wasn’t there, growling and biting. After Dad died, everything was a blur. I’ve blocked most of it out to tell you the truth. He was only fifty-five. I was twenty-four. The funeral took place not too long after. I went with Mum and she was hysterical. All her incubating pain, at last hatched. I didn’t cry. Didn’t want to be a sook. Mum was still his wife when he died: they had never divorced. He was being cremated and Mum ranted on and on about her aunt’s cremation when she was a little girl that she still had nightmares about: a dead body on a conveyor belt, being rolled towards a curtain, dropped into an incinerator. Mum, who is a devout Anglican, summoned images of fire and brimstone. I wasn’t very useful to Mum at the ceremony. I got wasted and high and ended up at a brothel or strip club. Can’t remember.
When Mum found out about the changed will, she did nothing. She could have easily had it overturned. Easily have had the new will annulled but she wouldn’t. When I went to pick up Dad’s things from Sharon, the things she hadn’t wanted, the things that weren’t worth anything, she’d already thrown them all out. At least I had his truck. I went and picked up Dad’s ashes. Sharon didn’t want them either. It had always been Dad’s wishes to be sprinkled into the Tweed River, at its mouth, where it meets the Pacific Ocean. I walked out, along the rocky peninsula, alone with Dad’s ashes and began to release them into the wind. The second my fistful of ashes was released into the wind, the wind changed and I got a mouthful. I was pretty upset for a moment but then I saw the funny side. I reckon Dad would have laughed.
When I bought a house of my own and moved in with my wife and baby girl― finally out of Mum’s hair, she’d let us live with her, after I got married, after I had my first child―I built a chicken coop underneath my house, in the backyard, next to the pool. I finished building it real good; a bloody ripper, then I had a coldie next to their cage and watched the chooks. Funny little buggers. They’re fond of company, have their own little community in the chicken coop but they get real aggro every time I put a new hen in, have to be real careful, otherwise they beat the poor chook up. They’re real stubborn too. They like to sleep in the same space and if another chook took it, they just lay right on top of it. Once a hawk swooped down and picked up one of the roosters having a stroll around the yard. No joke mate. Picked him up and flew away. That rooster was the leader of the pack. The rest of the chooks got all confused after that. Took them a while to return to normal.
New and Selected Poems
by Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Reviewed by CASSANDRA ATHERTON
On the eve of his eightieth birthday, it seems appropriate that Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s New and Selected Poems offers readers an insight into his rich oeuvre and the opportunity to remedy, at least on a small scale, what Michael Sharkey (2007) has argued is the ‘few [who have] systematically read his works….from the first publications through to the most recent’. Wallace-Crabbe has published twenty-five books of poetry, from The Music of Division (1959) to the recent publication New and Selected Poems (2013). He has another book, My Feet Are Hungry, forthcoming from Pitt Street Poetry, as well a New York collection, Afternoon in the Central Nervous System, currently in press. Wallace-Crabbe’s first Selected Poems was published in 1975 and a second, entitled Selected Poems 1956-1994, appeared in 1995. With Wallace-Crabbe’s prodigious oeuvre ever expanding, it seems that his selected poetry collections never quite capture his most recent work. However, the inclusion of new poetry in this selection makes it more up-to-the-minute’ even if, with Wallace-Crabbe and poetry, it is a New York minute.
While many critics and reviewers have prioritised Wallace-Crabbe’s larrikinism and playful use of strine in his poems, this praise is often at the expense of any analysis of the poetry’s gravitas. In this way, Wallace-Crabbe’s appeal to the Kunderanian light/heavy dichotomy of ‘being’ is often overlooked in the trickster moments where comedy displaces gravity:
You flip out of anyone’s grip
like a wet watermelon seed…
there you are…
In this way, in comic guises, such as ‘The Joker’, ‘wet watermelon seeds’ are used as a diversionary metaphor for the slippery self and Wallace-Crabbe’s nod to Pessoan heteronymic writing.
Indeed, reading Wallace-Crabbe’s poems chronologically lays bare his many ‘performances’ over time. In an interview with Barbara Williams, he stated:
One of my main areas of concern has been what I want to call psychomachia – finding different ways of dramatizing how the part of self…of one’s identity, sit down together, war with one another, interact…I invent topoi. (1987)
The internal dramatic movement of his poems leads to some sophisticated game playing and the biggest game, at the heart of his oeuvre, is the enticing way Wallace-Crabbe invites readers into the puzzle of his religious beliefs (or lack of them) and then, with a kind of prestidigitation, draws readers away, again. Indeed, tantalising statements are scattered through poems across the years, perhaps culminating in the new poem, ‘An Autumnal’ with lines such as: ‘When I come back to this garden after my death…I wonder just what my airy after-self will find…But I’ll be dead’.
I like to think that Wallace-Crabbe is amused by the critics’ determination to pin down a belief system in his poetry. In his own words, he is ‘not a religious man, but not an atheist either’ (2000). To readers, interviewers and critics he is a transcendentalist, (anti-theologian), agnostic, existentialist. Indeed, perhaps as a response to this obsession, Wallace-Crabbe ends the first section of his new poems in this selection with a juxtaposition of ‘The Poem of One Line’: ‘Whatever Christ meant, it was not this’, with his more wondrous and lonely ‘That Which Is’. One of Wallace-Crabbe’s personal favourites and a poem which he stated, at his symposium last year, defines his new poems, ‘That Which Is’ foregrounds ‘a brave form of ontological inquiry’ (Koshland, 2014):
Admit it, then:
We are surrounded by the prodigious being,
By the isness that may be everything
Here and there,
Such universe of proffered being
Into which we are all of course plunged,
And it’s no bad thing,
Given our wayward, hungrily wafting minds,
To have been granted extensive something
To take a firm grip on. To smell.
The way in which the narrator is ‘plunged’ into ‘isness that may be everything’ is a sublime moment. The poet experiences divisions between parts of himself, resulting in a Kantian focus on the way the senses produce the world: ‘To smell’. It is a weighty moment that complements the lightness of the ‘hungrily wafting minds’.
Thirty-six new poems provide the opening text of New and Selected Poems (2013). I would have liked these poems to appear at the end of the book, rather than at the beginning, largely because it would have created the feeling that the poet is still writing and that there is no end to his new poems. However, it is interesting to read the rest of the book through the frame of the new poems; it offers a true retrospective on his previous collections of poetry. It is a shame that every poem doesn’t begin on a new page. While I understand this is costly and may have prevented as many poems being included in the book, it does compromise poems such as ‘The Secular’ which is a 17 line poem beginning at the bottom of page 63 after ‘In Light and Darkness’ and ending at the top of the following page before ‘Wind and Change’. It appears squashed into the leftover space, rather than celebrated as a compelling poem on the ‘abundant secular’.
New and Selected Poems contains the best poems from fourteen of Wallace-Crabbe’s books of poetry. From the Nabokovian ‘The Amorous Cannibal’ with its focus on lust, language and the cheeky play on oral sex:
Suppose I were to eat you
I should probably begin
with the fingers, the cheeks and the breasts
yet all of you would tempt me,
so powerfully spicy
as to discompose my choice
to, ‘The Domestic Sublime’ with its opening image of the deodorant ‘rolling into an oxter’ juxtaposed with ‘clubbable and promiscuous coat hangers’ and the ‘ripe sex’ of the garlic clove. ‘The Domestic Sublime’ is one of Wallace-Crabbe’s poems that has been set to music by Katy Abbott as a song cycle for a soprano (I believe Greta Bradman, Donald’s granddaughter, was the soprano who first performed it). Linda Kouvaras has also composed ‘Three Settings of Poetry’ by Wallace-Crabbe.
However, it is the poems about Wallace-Crabbe’s oldest son, written across the years, that I always find most devastating for their torturedness. In a kind of quaternion he includes ‘An Elegy’, ‘Erstwhile’, ‘Years On’ and ‘Oh Yes, Then’ in this selection. In ‘Oh Yes, Then’, which ends New and Selected, Wallace-Crabbe muses on what will become of his family when he is ‘rotting patiently where/my eldest, Ben, now lies’. In the final stanza, he states:
Where will you be, the flamingly
joyous hearth of my heart?
I can’t get the answer, no matter how
I tune up the shawms of art.
The moment Wallace-Crabbe’s longing for his son ends, the torture of being without his lover/soul mate begins. It is the eternal riddle that Wallace-Crabbe cannot solve; the double bind that love and death presents.
Wallace-Crabbe will, no doubt, have another Selected Poems published in the next decade. However, this New and Selected is ‘unbearably light’ and, in the end, a wonderfully weighty volume of poetry.
CASSANDRA ATHERTON is the editor of Travelling Without Gods: A Chris Wallace-Crabbe Companion (MUP, 2014).
by Geoff Page
Reviewed by LINDA WESTE
‘Innovative’: the characteristic imputed to a recent prize-winning verse novel  that left prose novel competitors on the short list, prompts one to ask: what determines innovation in a form whose conventions are not widely understood?
Geoff Page’s 1953 is a notable exemplar of temporal innovation in the contemporary verse novel. In its unique arrangement, this collection of poems about life in a small town called Eurandangee rejects the conventional linear unfolding of narrative events in a chronological and causal sequence. Each poem presents a different character in a different location within the storyworld, and each of these characters is participating in events that are taking place at the same time, half past two on Tuesday 17th February 1953.
Page is circumspect as to whether 1953 actually is a verse novel because it breaks with temporal conventions of the verse novel form: “In anything that’s got the word ‘novel’ attached to it, you’d expect forward narrative momentum,” he contends, “but with 1953 you get this diverging off in different directions, all these separate stories that are connected” (Interview). To assist understanding of narrative arrangement in 1953, Page uses a metaphor of yam roots to convey “a whole lot of horizontal stories that are interconnected” (Interview). This spatial metaphor may over-simplify the temporal dynamics of the narrative, and in particular, understanding of its continuity. The poems’ typography and consecutive page layout means that the narrative sequence comprises “parallel phases” (Ireland 107) of co-occurrent events. That is, each new poem is “placed after a given sequence, though on the level of events, the reader is meant to assume [that the present phase of events] occurs parallel with that sequence” (107).
While writing 1953 Page had a number of templates in mind, including Our Town, Dubliners, The Spoon River Anthology and even Under Milkwood, “a number of different sorts of works whose pre-existence enabled (him) to think of doing a local contemporary version of life in a small town”, even though, he maintains, “my idea is a bit different” (Interview).
Indeed, temporal parallels contribute an important difference in 1953: since the destinies of most characters diverge rather than converge, the narrative arrangement serves to thematise small town isolation. The pejorative use of “small town” to convey a place and people limited in outlook and in opportunities, however disparaging, conveys a kernel of reality for each of the forty or so characters. Their particular circumstances may vary, yet each character has a sense of being constrained.
Page brings attention to this limitation, to show his characters in a difficult situation, experiencing a “sense of stasis or flight.” He explains: “A lot of the characters would like to flee. Some characters are locked in a stasis and don’t know how to flee, and others don’t realise they need to flee. A few are completely happy in their life … but a lot don’t realise the extent of their unhappiness” (Interview). Thus among the characters are Stan, the town clerk, who “wants his life to be / one long re-reading of the files” (8), Pete, who “did not get out although he did the Leaving [Certificate]” (71), and Peggy who is “stuck here sadly married to / this half-arsed wizened little town / just big enough for real estate, / the wrong end of the line” (11).
The onus is on the reader to adduce not only the chronological sequence of story [“and then?”] but also the causal relations that link events, the plot causality [“why?”]. The events themselves are not bound together with a trajectory that culminates in a resolution. Readers may attempt (or not) to reconstruct a plot in the absence of an obvious narrative sequence.
Other distinctive temporal features of 1953 are its anachronies. Many poems contain one or more retrospective evocations of an event, or events, that took place prior to those happening in the “narrative now”. These analepses are apparent to the reader as s/he reconstructs or reconstitutes the chronological sequence in which events supposedly occurred, especially as these vary in order of presentation from the main narrative. By providing background, analepses suggest causal links between characters already introduced, rather than advancing events. Analepsis in 1953 varies in duration; in how long it departs from the narrative now. It can last to almost the end of a poem before a return to the narrative now occurs. For instance, in “XIX Sheena”, reference to the narrative now begins at line seventy-two, just seven lines before the poem ends: “Right now, today, at half past two, / he’s back there in the office” (53). In other poems such as “VI Sandra” there are regular shifts between analeptic references to past events and the present narrative now.
The temporality of 1953 utilises prolepsis, in allusions to future events, such as “There’ll be a convent and two schools, / a café that we don’t see yet” (2); and “I see a day not too far off / when it and I’ll be stretched and tested” (53). Prolepsis can also suggest “how one incident led to another, or underline the future relevance of specific events” (Ireland 104). It can entail “anticipatory hints” (106), “deliberate artifice” (106), or hypothetical, “fantasy projections” (106) which the verse novel need not actualise. In poem “VIII”, for instance, Pete Smith speculates about his prospects of marrying Sandra, the doctor’s receptionist:
He thinks to take her to the flicks,
A four-square hall with simple seats
its owner calls the Palace.
But that’s a move that’s still too far.
He’s seen the way her parents watch her,
protectively, with expectations,
though no great show of force.
They know the market for her looks,
Their daughter, they have made it plain,
will marry into business or
a homestead with five thousand acres.
Sheep or wheat, it doesn’t matter.
A minor clerk, for all his pension,
would need to argue hard,
assuming he could ever get
(as he has, so far, failed to do
her serious attention. (20)
Since it is through our knowledge of temporal conventions and their violations in fiction that we recognise temporal innovation, it follows that innovative verse novels depend on their conventions being widely understood, separate from novelistic conventions, and not too narrowly upheld.
This is not to suggest determining innovation in verse novels is uncomplicated, as 1953 illustrates: its non-linear temporal ordering of events, arguably uncommon in verse novels, is by contrast, so well-recognised as a strategy for representing time in the prose novel, that many theorists consider it conventionalised, particularly in postmodernist fiction.Such theorists already acknowledge a range of temporal variations in fiction: “retrogressive temporalities (in which time moves backwards); eternal temporal loops; conflated time lines or chronomontages (which yoke different temporal zones together); reversed causalities (in which, say, the present is caused by the future); contradictory temporalities (which consist of mutually exclusive events or event sequences); and differential time lines (in which inhabitants of the same storyworld age at a different rate than others)” (Jahn 3).
Page is modest about 1953’s innovation: “I don’t think of myself as a very experimental poet. In some ways I’m very retrograde,” he maintains. Rather, he considers 1953 a “genuine experiment” (Interview).
Entirely suited to the experiment is the use of iambic rhythm: this alternates unstressed syllables and stressed syllables, and in 1953 lends a pulsing rhythm to the narrative. Page has a facility for iambs, and believes his poetry in the last 20 years or so, has “definitely become more iambic.” Now he prefers “to hear everything in a clear iambic tetrameter or trimeter” (Interview). The threes and fours — the metrical length of lines, the number of feet contained in each line, “give a sense of formality that I like”, he admits.
Page views the interplay between poetic and narrative strategies as fundamental: “If you make it too compressed, too lyrical, then you can’t get the forward momentum, and if you make it not sufficiently lyrical, then it’s not very different from prose, and then you have to ask, well, what’s been gained by writing the novel in poetry? You have to strike this balance and that’s the hardest thing about writing any verse novel” (Interview).
Five other verse novels, two novels, two score of poetry books, and several non fiction titles, translations, and a biography currently comprise Page’s prolific and significant literary contribution. In 2013 alone, Page published three titles: 1953, Improving the News (Pitt Street Poetry) and New Selected Poems (Puncher & Wattmann). For his efforts Page has won several awards including the Grace Leven Prize, The Christopher Brennan Award, the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Poetry, and the Patrick White Literary Award.
It would be fitting if future accolades were to recognise 1953 as a verse novel of innovative means.
1 The Marlowe Papers: A Novel in Verse by Ros Barber, winner of The Desmond Elliott Prize 2013, Great Britain.
2 E. M. Forster’s ( 1993) distinction between story and plot.
3 I acknowledge the considerable differences of opinion among theorists regarding reader-response theories.
4 Chatman’s term in Story and Discourse.
Alber, Jan. “Unnatural Narrative”. In: Hühn, Peter et al. (eds.): the living handbook of narratology. Hamburg: Hamburg University. URL = http://www.lhn.uni- hamburg.de/article/unnatural-narrative
[view date:2 Feb 2014]
Ireland, Ken. The Sequential Dynamics of Narrative: Energies at the Margins of Fiction. London: Associated University Presses, 2001.
Page, Geoff. Interview by Linda Weste, 6 December 2013.
—. 1953. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2013.
LINDA WESTE is a poet, editor and teacher of Creative Writing. Her PhD, completed at The University of Melbourne, researched late-20th and early-21st-century verse novels. She is currently writing her second verse novel.
The Pillow Book
by Jee Leong Koh
Math Paper Press, 2012
Reviewed by TIFFANY TSAO
In taking its title and opening epigraph from one of the first masterpieces of the zuihitsu tradition—the pillow book written by Sei Shōnagon in the tenth century—Koh’s own pillow book seems to invite close comparison. However, as the pieces that follow the epigraph unfold, one after the other, it becomes apparent that to yoke The Pillow Book too closely to its namesake would be to miss the point entirely. The book is a playful meditation on the liberating, not binding, aspects of similitude—the ability of many objects, people, places, moods, and moments to share and even multiply and nuance sameness without being reduced to being the same. The lists that make up a good portion of the chapbook are exercises in drawing together the disparate. Under ‘Well Organized Things’ we find:
‘A dictionary. A rainforest. A supermarket.’
And categorized as ‘Sharp Things’ are:
A clever child.
Magnetite in a homing pigeon’s beak.
Like all zuihitsu, the book is the same exercise carried out on a slightly larger scale: miscellaneous lists, thoughts, observations, and memories gathered in a series of pieces that could itself be a list titled ‘Things to do with Jee Leong Koh’. ‘In the year I turned thirtythree,’ Koh tells us fairly early in the collection, ‘I moved to New York City to find out if I was gay and a poet.’ And though this is the stuff that Bildungsromane are made of, the pieces roam back and forth through Koh’s life in a non-linear, desultory fashion. Thus told, experiences one might think wholly dissimilar instead yield resemblances. The two years’ of mandatory army service as an adolescent in Singapore are contiguous with his sexual encounters in New York:
‘Once, the guys carried up a popular mate, spreadeagled him in the air, and split his crotch against a pillar. It was done in jest but, oh, how excited everyone was, now I see!’
Moving overseas has also meant not moving overseas:
‘working in a rented room in Queens I write by the light of Singapore, a tall yellow streetlamp with its cloud of flying insects.’
Embracing Christianity in youth mingles with his sexual awakening:
‘A tree shot up from the broken ground. It raised a crown of leaves. It rode as rigid as a sceptre. Its name was Good and Evil. Its name was I Am Alive. Its name was Frangipani.’
‘In the New American Standard Bible, which I owned then, Jonathan loved David as himself. That was how I loved Darren when I turned twentyone.’
Past and present, here and there, comradeship and sexual intimacy, spiritual and emotional and physical enlightenment—all are folded in on each other, variations in different keys in different passages on something that is ineffably one thing that can never (should never) be reduced to being just one thing.
Even the central object of the book’s charming opening piece—the eponymous character, the pillow—is not just one thing. It is the bolster of his first thirty-three years (‘the long pillow held between my legs and hugged to my chest’), which by association is also the other long thing between his legs. It is a substitute for a woman, asserts his handsome English friend Darren, who does not suspect that he, not woman, is the object of the Koh’s affections. The pillow returns at intervals throughout the book. It surfaces surreptitiously in ‘When I Go Home with Someone’ as Koh sleeping in the arms of a lover (‘He presses me against his chest’). It reappears by a stretch of the imagination in the similar-sounding ‘pillar’ that splits the crotch of the armymate. It announces itself in ‘Japanese Things’: ‘Hugging pillow, also called a Dutch wife.’ Dutch wife, Japanese hugging pillows, pillar, Jee Leong, Darren, woman, penis, bolster, book by Singaporean man in the twenty-first century, book by Japanese woman in the tenth century—a series of things like but not equivalent.
One is faintly reminded of Michel Foucault’s account of similitude in The Order of Things, where he describes the mode by which Western knowledge operated prior to the sixteenth century: ‘the face of the world is covered with blazons, with characters, with ciphers and obscure words—with “hieroglyphics”, as Turner called them. And the space inhabited by immediate resemblances becomes like a vast open book; it bristles with written signs; every page is seen to be filled with strange figures that intertwine and in some places repeat themselves. All that remains is to decipher them….’ The Pillow Book is a poetic account of a similar mode of knowing, experiencing, and living in the world. Yet the truth of its testimony does not rely on grand overviews of human history, but on the bits and pieces that comprise one individual—the trivial, the subjective, and even the petty: his list of ‘Hateful Things’ includes ‘Small talk when I have not had a drink. Squeaky voices. They are especially unbearable when they read poems.’
These occasional moments of ungraciousness punctuate The Pillow Book, and though they never overwhelm, they counterbalance the vulnerability and self-aware wit that characterizes the collection overall. At one point, Koh weighs in on the morning-after etiquette of lovers: ‘sometimes it is charming if he will not leave me but walks me to the train station. It is definitely not charming when he leaves with me in order to do laundry.’ There is also an sly haughtiness in the observation, ‘When one could show up the ignorance of a loudmouthed enemy, but refrains, that is delicate too.’ But then again, The Pillow Book never pretends to be anything but an unapologetic baring of all of the poet’s self. To quote Koh’s quotation of Sei Shōnagon’s pillow book: ‘I was sure that when people saw my book they would say, “It’s even worse than I expected. Now one can really tell what she is like.”’
TIFFANY TSAO is a poet, academic and critic whose work appears in Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher and Wattmann)
by Kate Middleton
Reviewed by JO LANGDON
‘Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find obsessive’, begins Joan Didion in ‘Holy Water’, an essay from the author’s 1979 collection The White Album. It was this essay and its attentiveness to water and human responses to it that came to mind recurrently in reading Sydney poet and essayist Kate Middleton’s second poetry collection, Ephemeral Waters, a book-length poem that follows the Colorado River across five states in a poetic exploration of landscape and the human imagination. It is a stunning sequence, and a book that continues to pursue the intersections between poetry and other written forms, blending and blurring generic conventions in its focus on the ‘real’ world.
Poetry is often the language we turn to in order to express love, loss and other experiences of extremity. Poems appear frequently at weddings and funerals, and are often written or recited in response to violent and traumatic events. The mode is similarly associated with the extreme by way of the sublime: the ineffable or overwhelming extremities of immense environments and landscapes. At the end of the book, Middleton notes that the project offered an opportunity to ‘chase the sublime’. ‘Inevitably,’ she writes in a two-page epilogue (‘Reflection, After’), ‘the river kept expanding around me, and flooding over me. Even as my understanding of how much I would never know grew and grew, my own ardent naiveté kept me from sinking’ (124). Collaging archival materials, conversations, ‘found’ language, and moments of subjective experience and observation, Ephemeral Waters skilfully, seamlessly apprehends both the tangible and intangible force of the Colorado in all its immensity.
It’s important to stress that quoting from this bookcan do no justice to the poetry as it appears on the page. Along with the margin notes—ephemera that supplement, double, and at times diverge from the primary text—Middleton’s use of space and the shape of the poetry is itself a feature of this work. The enjambments are always accomplished and, importantly, the lines never slip into prose or the prosaic. When a story, fragment of history, or lines of conversation arrive, it is never at the expense of the poetry—or more specifically, the poet’s use of language.
Most remarkable is how much Middleton has included in what are sweeping and yet often spare lines: the landscapes arrive with a great sense of tactility, and dialogues rush forward, frequently in humorous, surprising ways. ‘No, you can’t see the river / from here – the sign says so’ (83), we read in Arizona (or overhear, rather, as the note ‘2nd Speaker’ in the margin suggests). Wry observations such as this appear elsewhere, such as at a scenic lookout pages earlier, where a young boy sits next to the poet and, ‘as if he has practised his sigh tells me in the voice of / a seasoned traveller Well, it sure is Grand’ (77).
Ephemeral Waters opens with ‘Instruction (Prologue)’, and immediately introduces both the river and poet’s proportions: ‘none of it / is yours It does not / acknowledge you’; ‘You will learn / something You will learn / nothing but absence, but rock’s / wonderful indifference’ (1). In the subsequent section, Part I, ‘Colorado’, the poem pans in on a ‘thread of water / you can easily straddle, if only …’ (5). The details, so keenly observed, offer glimmers of intimacy, accessibility: ‘Water just covers my feet / the rocks of the streambed bloom / in orange and lilac’ (6); ‘Listen This too is where waters are born’ (11).
By the Kauffman House Museum, Grand Lake, place is further inhabited, this time by its human history as the reader is introduced to the ambiguous figure of Mary, on whose story ‘[t]he women at the Historical Society / can’t quite agree’. We read: ‘They agree that she needed sunshine / They speak as if she lived / in the almost-snow’ (12). Mary’s biography plummets, then, into violent tragedy:
Gun in hand she killed them
The children on the floor
she then turned despair upon herself
An imperfect shot
Four days till death (13)
Surfacing, the reader is gradually returned to picturesque sites and panoramas, the kind of which are seen elsewhere in the book, such as in Arizona, where ‘The Colorado River’ is ‘Now clay-coloured / now brilliant jade // now glassy, now dirty milk’ (81). Likewise in Nevada, the poet writes: ‘Now in postcards / all we see is blue-green / and terracotta, water’s glass // laid over more redrock’ (92). These glimpses of landscape are never simply pleasing pictorials, however, and the reader’s gaze is continually redirected as the poem zooms in and out, shifting in often unexpected directions.
In Part V, ‘California/Arizona, Border Water’, Middleton writes: ‘Somewhere here world unworlds / itself, weirds into desert planet’ (105). ‘Weirds’ might be a verb that drives moments of this collection, documenting as it does the sublime and the extreme. Yetthere are recognisable experiences glimpsed here also: the small talk of tourists, the gingham of restaurant tablecloths, drinking water carried in bottles and cooled in streambeds.
At ‘Adventure Park’ (according to the marginalia), we are offered an evocative, eerily beautiful portrait, beginning: ‘I swam in the famous pool at twilight // As steam / rose off / the weird aqua / bodies soaked into dusk’ (21). The poem’s speaker observes a couple seated on the pool’s steps, reading ‘his and hers pulp novels, never speaking / to each other’, both tuning out ‘the chatter of bikini-clad teens who discussed beauty / under the darkening sky’ (21).
The pairing of corporality and beauty, and of beauty and violence, is prevalent throughout the book. In the subsequent section, Middleton hears of a boy—presumably another teenager, or perhaps a younger child—who disappeared at ‘No Name creek’.Contemplating the time it took for his body to travel the river’s course (twelve days), the poet invites us to ‘Picture what remains—the washed up // dead arrive abraded; skinless; / smashed beyond reconstruction’ (22). On the following page—marked ‘erratum’ in the margin—Middleton notes: ‘Only later I learn that the body floated / four more days than I had heard / before the current offered up the leavings // thirty-five miles downstream’ (23).
In Utah, horses appear via film footage from John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950), and the presence of those wonderfully uncanny animals heightens the intensity of the familiar and unfamiliar: ‘The opening reel shows us horses / easing their black and white bodies / into the waters, muddy and green’ (35). Bodies are continually entering and emerging (although not always) from the vast and often unfathomable body of water.
Elsewhere, human figures step in and out of the poem with ease. Children appear frequently, as do family groups and various couples. ‘Park Service volunteers’are dressed in ‘matching ranger-green’ (14). In Kremmling, a couple are ‘Two at odds’:
thin and tells me she can clack needles
with the fluency of puppet strings
He’s sturdy, votes right They disagree
but enlighten me on fire, on water
rights, on local names and on how
loneliness grows more elastic How
unchanged debates give comfort
In Part III we meet Joe, an asbestos worker on his way to Utah to see his daughter De Challey, ‘Like the canyon’ (73). ‘Holding apricots’, ‘He laces the story with water / and we drop / into my rental, drive miles away’ (73). Here, as elsewhere, the language doubles the water’s movements and shifts, its inherent fluidity.
Middleton’s presence as the poetry’s speaker, as an observer and collector of moments, is always light. Although the first-person ‘I’ appears frequently, the speaker’s subjectivity never encroaches upon the poetry, and the focus of the work is always elsewhere: ‘ – gathering, gathering –’ (8), to quote the poet. The poem is continually sieving through the water’s history, populated as it is by shattered bodies and ghosts, speculation, historical documentation, and the imaginations of others: filmmakers, explorers, locals and those visiting.
‘I have lived with the river much more in imagination than in actuality’, notes the poet at the end of the book. For readers of Ephemeral Waters too, the Colorado and its political and personal histories will live on as haunting, shifting presences. Middleton reintroduces the reader to the world, to the strange and familiar, in ways that stay on, dwelling in the imagination with a sense of something akin to the obsessive reverence described by Didion, decades ago.
Didion, Joan 2009 (1979), ‘Holy Water’, The White Album, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, pp. 59–66.
JO LANGDON is the author of a chapbook of poems, Snowline (Whitmore Press, 2012). She is currently a literary studies PhD candidate at Deakin University, Geelong, where she teaches in literature and professional & creative writing.
Indigo Morning: Selected Poems
By Rachael Munro
Grand Parade Poets, 2013
Reviewed by GEOFF PAGE
Rachael Munro’s second book, Indigo Morning: Selected Poems, is intriguing on at least two levels, the autobiographical and the aesthetic. Her first book, Dragonshadow, was published in 1989. Although this new collection is highly personal in many ways it offers no definitive clues as to what’s happened to the poet in the intervening 24 years. In poems such as “Proof of a Day” and “Profiteroles” there is a hint that alcohol may have had a role but it would seem to have been a more complex and elusive story than that word alone might suggest.
The collection is divided into five parts of which the first two graphically evoke a classically happy Australian rural childhood, near the Hawkesbury River and on the Monaro. Munro’s empathy with animals is evident throughout and she clearly understands that horses (and cats) vary as much in their personalities as humans do.
This talent is felt particularly in poems such as “Wanting” and “The Old Bay Mare” where, in the latter, the poet remembers:
She wouldn’t be caught.
She’d defy, elude me.
In the hundred-acre paddock
we’d have to herd her
from the four-wheel-drive
and even in the yard,
bribe with lumps of sugar. (p.44)
The language here is simple, perhaps overly so, but true also to the experiences described. One sees comparable risks taken at the end of “The Last Summer” where Munro recalls “Climbing out of my own window / after midnight / just to watch the stars.” (p.29) There are times when simple, honest statements like this can seem naive but there are also times when they are the most powerful strategy available. This is one of those occasions i.e. when elemental language does justice to the comparably elemental experience of “watch(ing) the stars”.
The same emphasis on literal description is seen throughout the section, “Cat, My Child” — which, as a whole, with its scrupulously close visual attention and thoughtful speculation, is almost an up-date of Christopher Smart’s famous poem, “For I will consider my Cat Jeffrey”. A nice sense of the section’s mood as a whole, along with some extra metaphoric energy in the middle, can be felt in the second stanza of “The Faint Fragrance of Clean Damp Cat”:
The grey kitten is upstairs
performing his toilette
in the hills and hollows of my unmade bed.
Soon the crumpled sheets will wear
the faint fragrance of clean damp cat.” (p.59)
In the book’s last two sections, Munro moves away from animals and childhood into more problematic areas. They include passing references to alcoholism already mentioned — and a sense, at times, of intense loneliness. The latter is evinced strongly in “From a Suburban Window” (“I sit in my niche by the open window / and listen to the aura of silence — / heater whirring, occasional bird calls, / palms fronds restless in the slight air”) (p.77). The poet’s (or the speaker’s) rather desperate efforts to counter such loneliness with a Christmas party are convincingly evoked in the prose poem, “Profiteroles”, — which concludes:
I’m feeling mild pangs of enthusiasm and it’s so disconcerting and slightly painful to change a mind set. I wonder if two Panadol would help?” (p.73)
Even more forceful, in a different way, are two “set piece” poems at the end of the book, “The Newborn of Ashkelon” and “Love and Despair”. The first is a complex meditation on the recently-discovered bones of baby skeletons (95 % of them male) found in a third century AD Roman sewer under a bath-house/brothel in what is now Israel.
Like “Love and Despair”, a sinister poem about AIDS transmission which follows it, “The Newborn of Ashkelon” is a graphic consideration of issues such as prostitution and infanticide which persist through time and across cultures.
Girls could grow up
in the bath-house and become the next
generations of prostitutes, an investment
by the mother, an insurance against aging. (p.86)
These two pieces make a strong climax to the book — and some readers, including this one, may well wish there had been more of them along the way. They tend to make the poems about cats, horses and childhood, evocative though they are, seem a lead-up to something more powerful and less personal. Perhaps Munro’s third collection will feature more poems which confront such inherently dramatic material — though it’s hardly the reader’s (or reviewer’s) role to be so prescriptive.
GEOFF PAGE is a Canberra-based poet and critic. He has published twenty-one collections of poetry as well as two novels and five verse novels. His awards include the Grace Leven Prize and the Patrick White Literary Award, among others.
By Margaret Bradstock
Puncher and Wattmann, 2013
ISBN (paperback) 9781922186126 (e-book) 9781922186133
Reviewed by JOHN UPTON
‘You will go back through the quiet bush’, says the eponymous poem in this collection, ‘past Aboriginal middens / rainbow lorikeets nesting / in tree knolls / to the uninhabited beach’ (Barnacle Rock). And during this journey through time and space, the reader encounters a full-length portrait of Australia – geographic, social and moral. The examination is close and critical. The title’s metaphor imagines white settlement and society as a layer of barnacles fastened to this continental rock, and the book explores ecosystems of beach, basalt and brutality. There’s elegance in the writing, freshness in the imagery and pace in the telling, but there’s also heart – Margaret Bradstock cares about Australia, and the direction in which it is headed.
The collection is in five sections, each focused on an aspect of the story: early white contact, settlement and exploration; landform and landscape; a personal suburban life; a closer focus on Sydney’s landscape of water, beach and cliffs, with a lighter tone and a sprinkling of humour; and an enraged protest about the direction of the country and the world with issues such as global warming and the nuclear industry. Bradstock’s favoured free verse trimeter gives past and present a unifying heartbeat. The collection offers a generous 120 pages of poetry and gathers in a busy lifetime’s work and thought.
In the early exploration poems, short lines, vaulting detail and quick dips into historical fact give a pace like a stiff wind behind a clipper ship. Some might argue that these poems are irrelevant to the theme, but they provide a context. An introductory piece ties Marco Polo to Captain Cook, Donald Horne and today’s Bra Boys: ‘Life’s a beach, all right … waves rolling in forever / and the slide of sand. / The “sacred geometry” of ocean’ (Country of Beach). Then we’re back to a Portuguese shipwreck in 1520, and a 1522 map showing a sunfish like ‘a dinner plate with staring eyes / bird’s beak of a mouth / fins like trencher handles’ (Sunfish). There are Dutch traders, British buccaneers, French scientists, and a mad thrust by Captain Cook into Antarctic waters that grimly prefigures a heroic expedition led by Douglas Mawson a century and a half later.
We also encounter convicts in chilling penal conditions: ‘Six months in irons, 100 lashes / for rebelliousness, insolence, refusal to work / the flogger dipping the Cat’s tails in sand’ (Convict Davis, 1824). The rhythm is edging now into five-beats, free verse but based on English poetry’s comfortable pentameter, which emerges fully-fledged in the early Sydney colony of Leichhardt As Headland: ‘Rum, horseracing, cock fights and prize fights – / Sydney’s a city now, known smugglers / and thieves accepted as city councillors’. As the nation matures, Douglas Mawson is in Antarctica, with vivid imagery as ‘Adele penguins confer like tribal elders’, and a line of people is ‘a papercut of small black figurines / in a vast expanse of white-out’ (Mawson: The Heroic Era).The salient detail of big, heroic deeds is rendered in memorable but economical language, understatement reflecting the character of the men involved. Colour and movement were not the issue then, nor are they here.
The second section introduces the Australia of landforms – Glasshouse Mountains, Recherche Bay, Uluru, Katherine township, the mental landscape of Sidney Nolan and Ern Malley – and, interestingly, the language is back in that three-beat free verse pattern that comes, I think, most naturally to Bradstock. The section opens with The Promised Land (p.44), a group of four short poems in which landforms become religious symbols. The second poem, Asylum In Eden, sees the light after thunderheads and wonders: ‘does it pre-empt the covenant / perhaps, or yellowcake? // Asylums offer sanctuary / but quickly become prisons. / Was it like that in Eden / fall upon fall of cages / in a stairway of descent, simulating / the free fall of angels?’
We’re also in Sydney’s geography, with high-rise plate glass windows occupying air once owned by pterodactyls, with black rats jumping ship ‘like absconding sailors’ to introduce bubonic plague, and Barnacle Rock, a 31-line summary of this sweep of history and landform, where ‘A man and his shadow / stride across the skyline / in the footprints of worn sandstone’.
These first two sections account for half of the book. The third section pulls the focus tighter, into ‘the detritus of domesticity’, life in the suburbs where ‘rust never sleeps’ (Patrolling The Balustrade For Rust). The focus upon ‘then’ and ‘now’ moves from broad history to personal memory – journeys to Marseilles, Bali, Vietnam: ‘If you could choose your past / where would it be? / back in the seventies, fifties[?] / … / I climbed the Bridge once … poised on the brink of something / burr of a wingbeat / the city gridlocked beneath us. // We feed coins into the automated / pay station / locate the car’ (Wheel and Turn).
The section ends with two strong pieces on the poet’s father: ‘You hear your dead brothers / calling from a different lifetime / their blackbird voices’ (Ask Not), and‘You drift in and out of memory / in and out of sleep / a receding tide of the river’s delta / … / A foghorn sounds on the river. / Wanting to be gone, you are still here’ (The River).
In the fourth section, the focus is again upon ‘place’, but the lens is set even more tightly – we’re now on Sydney’s beaches and headlands, in and on the water of ‘the glittering city’ (Morning, Bondi Beach). There’s sly wit: ‘Your board stands idle / behind the washing machine / … / another bottom of the harbour scheme’. That wit is on show again in Harbour Tolls Are Changing With the Times as it mourns Slessor in affectionate parody: ‘no ships’ bells or ventricles of light // the harbour flicking over / echoes a machine’s voice / North and South Head // a border crossing now. / You are upside down in the water / words written on the ocean floor’. This poem later suggests the reader ‘google underwater.com.au’. The tone in this section is playful, the happiest in the book. But it’s setting us up for something very different.
The fifth section is a howl of rage, just seven poems, but the lines are longer and the rhythms pound. In the first poem, The Catechism of Loss, nuclear radiation has been loosed upon the world: ‘Lost cities hammer out makeshift plans / the flattened landscape stripped / of its clockwork trappings’. In The Ranger Mine we’re told that for 30 years about 100,000 litres of contaminated water a day has been leaking from the tailings dam into fissures beneath Kakadu. In The Sure Extinction we’re warned that ‘The North Pacific garbage patch / is the graveyard where marine plastics gather / like nylon shirts in the wardrobes of old men’. In Walking in the Wetlands there’s more wonderful rage as she invokes Eliot, flaying the sad, self-centred anguish of Prufrock:
There will be time / before rain lashes against the skin of sea / melding into horizon / time to take in the Picasso exhibition / another journey, a Doris Lessing novel. / Rivers of ice that run forever / tectonic plates that shift and shift again / their earthquakes gathering force / won’t interfere with our idea of Christmas: the chant of carols, / feel-good donations’ (p.112).
The mood softens a little in the final three poems, but the threat is still there. Bees and polar bears struggle in changing environments. ‘Autumn arrives early, while we’re still not done with summer / or summer with us, sending me back to the bay’ (How Large Each Death Will Be). The collection ends with the cycle bending towards another winter: ‘Everything is waiting and still / this tenuous, fragile feeling / like a hand-held soapstone sculpture’ (Mississauga: Spring and Fall).
Because it’s a portrait, this collection limits its scope, forms and style. There aren’t villanelles and technical virtuosity. Thematically, it identifies important and topical issues – climate change, degradation of the land, the value society places on what it has inherited, and what all this means for Australia’s future. It’s a sober balance sheet, and one that isn’t optimistic, but it’s a grown up perspective – gloomy while still relishing life. Margaret Bradstock fulfils the mission of the evangelising poet – to seize and hold the attention of her reader, to fascinate and enlighten, and to address spiritual hunger in a satisfying way.
JOHN UPTON is a theatre critic. His poetry has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times, Quadrant, Famous Reporter, Eureka Street and other literary magazines.
An Elegant Young Man
by Luke Carman
Reviewed by ELIZABETH BRYER
Luke Carman’s An Elegant Young Man, a formally innovative bildungsroman, is composed of eight story cycles set in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs. The shortest of the cycles are the most experimental; these alternate with longer, more structurally conventional ones. The idea of the narrator as a version of the author is foregrounded from the first sentence, when the narrator tells us that his name is Luke.
In the opening story cycle ‘Whitman and the Whitlam Centre’ the sentences are short but, given the way they reel from one topic to the next, the effect isn’t to slow the reading down; instead, the sentences come like rapid-fire bursts that pepper the reader from every direction. The collection’s novel-of-education intentions soon become clear: the narrator recounts, in quick succession, different sources of wisdom—certain poets, children’s authors, musicians and films—alongside the often contradictory pearly words themselves, without ever making clear to which of these, if any, he subscribes. Thus there is the sense of the narrator throwing himself into the world, absorbing what comes into his orbit and seeking out whatever catches his interest, but not necessarily settling on anything concrete just yet. There is a breakneck energy, here, the impatience of youth, the feeling of needing to know now, of pushing boundaries and of a constant, insatiable thirst for knowledge. The confusion that is the world—its immensity and its perplexing incongruities—is also highlighted through this structure.
The reader’s narrative expectations are interrupted at every turn. The narrator’s associations are often unpredictable; the story appears to be going in one direction but then heads in another, often in the space between one sentence and the next. It’s worth taking a detailed look at the first five sentences of the second story of ‘Whitman and the Whitlam Centre’ to see the considerable degree to which this occurs.
The passage begins: ‘My name’s Luke and sometimes at parties when people ask me what it is that I do I say, “I’m a professional fraud, how ’bout you?” Nobody ever laughs.’ (6) On my first encounter with this opening, I expected it to lead to an exploration of identity, and it does, in a sense, but by way of an unexpected route of association: ‘To be honest I don’t go to a lot of parties.’ The admission comes from left of field and feels somehow dejected, a subdued confession after the previous story’s hyperactive energy, and after the more recent recollection of the narrator’s failed attempt at a party joke. In this way, the change in narrative direction is often accompanied by a change in key in terms of tone and emotive register.
The pattern of unexpected association continues when the next sentence similarly barrels off in a related, but surprising, direction: ‘Y’know I read in the newspaper yesterday that cocaine use has skyrocketed in Sydney despite police efforts.’ The association the reader makes between this sentence and the previous three might be expressed as: OK, so those parties that Luke just admitted to missing out on—this is what must happen at them. The perspective is detached; it reads as a serious consideration from a narrator abreast of current issues. But just in case any of those conclusions start to seem stable or definitive, then comes the next sentence, a humorous, contradictory take on the situation that might also evoke in the reader sympathy towards the narrator and his apparent aloneness: ‘I guess that it’s good to know that somewhere out there people are having fun’.
Throughout this and other stories, the effect of the narrative technique on the reader is as an almost schizophrenic vacillation between chuckling with the narrator, feeling sympathy for him and simply trying to keep up with the associative leaps of his mind, which seems to take in everything at once and to draw unexpected connections. That Carman manages to achieve this tumult of feeling in the space of just a few short sentences is a remarkable feat.
Place is an important feature in all the stories. Geography is, for the protagonist, not separable from its inhabitants. Granville is not Granville unless viewed through his father’s interactions with the world, just as Liverpool is nothing without Niki and Hadie, and Newtown nought without the university-educated creative denizens he meets.
In these and other places, Luke is a keen observer of the several milieus with which he comes into contact, not least because he often struggles to interpret cues and to act in accordance with them, especially when he isn’t comfortable with their implications. On the train from ‘Livo’ to Cronulla, his friends direct lewd comments at girls. He recounts, ‘I tried to join in. I yelled out, “Show us your milk duds.’ Mazzen said, “Bro, that was a mum. Don’t disrespect.” And everyone was disappointed in me’ (43). Later, he mentions how no-one shakes hands in Livo, but slaps palms together or does fist bumps. ‘I didn’t like it. For one thing, I never knew where their hands were gonna go and if you missed it was bad for both of you’ (53).
This awkwardness makes the narrator an ideal, sensitive observer of the kinds of social interactions that might go unremarked in another work of fiction. One of the shorter story cycles begins with musings on irony, on how Luke believes that people shouldn’t be ironic all the time; the droll title of this cycle is, of course, ironic: ‘The Easy Interactions of an Elegant Young Man’. One of these interactions is between Luke and a woman in a cafe: she comments on the book he is clutching, The Odyssey, and he is so startled he starts sweating and decides to hide the book under his arm in future. Indeed, the only easy interactions here are the ones Luke shares with his imaginary friend.
The narrator’s navigation of the social landscape often involves a navigation of violence. His aversion to it is at times apparent, such as when Niki throws stones at a streetlight, which sail into the night beyond the fence: ‘Every shot she took made me twitch and I worried about them hitting the cows that were mouthing and moving through the grass.’ (52)
The stories explore the notion of violence as a way of life and as a social ritual tied to class through the lens of Luke’s perplexity. The coming-of-age rituals to which Luke’s father subjects him sometimes involve violence, or the threat of such. The first time Luke meets Niki’s boyfriend he, on opening the door, throws a furious, poorly aimed punch at Luke. When a denim-clad, mohawk-wearing ‘scumbag Aussie’ punches Luke in Cronulla, Luke perceives ‘a strange ceremony going on that I needed to do something about. A ritual was taking place, and I was a major player, but I didn’t know my role. I felt afraid that I wouldn’t make the right moves and the crowd would be disappointed in me.’ (49) Luke is even more perplexed when, after he wins the fight, his attacker puts his arm around him and tells him that, as ‘Aussies’—Anglos—they need to stick together.
The end of the collection sees the narrator fulfil the bildungsroman’s coming of age, which takes the form of a melancholic story cycle that connects Luke, his mother and his brother in a triangle of trying to make do, of attempting to find various ways to invest in life enough to keep on with it despite their keen awareness of ‘the murmur of something gone’ (184) and how easy it would be to ‘go to sleep’ (182). It is an affective ending and has, at its centre, a great poise and calm, in contrast to the frantic beginning of the collection.
But perhaps the heart of Luke’s growth comes in the penultimate cycle, which details his encounters with a number of women. Here, he embarks on a journey to warn a friend that everything he told her was wrong, that Kerouac did not have all the answers: the world is not an ecstatic masterpiece but instead ‘moves from order to disorder just like black holes and middle-class families’ (143). In the sites where Kerouac found meaning and epiphanies there is nothing, at least not here, in this context: ‘in Australia there is no beat to keep’ (145); ‘Australia is not the place for ecstatic truth’ (148). He objects to ‘steamrollers flattening the whole culture’ (147), and it is this bland homogenisation, this imitation of idols and ideologies formulated for other times and faraway lands that is key here. It seems Carman has responded to Luke’s agitated realisation: both speaker and author have delivered a work that’s far from derivative or affected, and speaks to and from this country in a way we have rarely seen before.
By Maria Takolander
Reviewed by PRITHVI VARATHARAJAN
We are fascinated, as a culture, with doubles and doppelgängers. This fascination is evident in our collective cultural consciousness: in our art. Think of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which the protagonist stays forever youthful, and able to indulge in sensual decadence, while his locked-up portrait grows hideous and progressively older with each sin he commits. Twentieth- and twenty-first-century science fiction is populated by doubles in the form of clones, in stories and novels by Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin and Kazuo Ishiguro, among many others. And there are several films that present doubles as uncanny or disturbing, such as Andrei Tarkovsky’s excellent Solaris and Duncan Jones’ more recent Moon. From a few of these examples it seems that, at least in art, it’s when we seedoubles together—such as in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, whena young boy turns a corner in a remote and supposedly abandoned hotel, and encounters a pair of identical twin girls, holding hands, in a picture of perfect symmetry—that we’re gripped by a sense of the uncanny, of something not quite right, even vaguely terrifying. This sense of the uncanny, as something not quite right, is notably absent from performative but non-artistic contexts: in Elvis Presley impersonators, for instance, or in the Siamese twins Chang and Eng, who were part of a nineteenth-century travelling circus. While such doubles may strike us as curious, they rarely provoke the sense of dread that accompanies literary and filmic portrayals of the double.
Maria Takolander’s The Double is named after a novella by Dostoevsky, published in Russian as Dvoynik. Dvoynik is the story of a Mr. Goliadkin, a lowly titular councillor who lives alone in St. Petersburg and talks in a roundabout and deferential way that reflects his extreme timidity. Goliadkin consults his doctor, who tells him to be more outgoing, and advocates forcefully, “you need to reorganize your whole life radically and in some sense break your character” (12). Soon afterwards, Goliadkin is standing forlornly in the rain and snow, following an episode in which he—completely out of character—gate crashes an aristocratic ball and is evicted in disgrace. The mortified Mr. Goliadkin now wants “not only to escape from himself, but to annihilate himself completely” (44). What follows is the story of an opposite Mr. Goliadkin—a bold, cruel, and cunning Mr. Goliadkin—who comes into being and slowly insinuates himself into the first Mr. Goliadkin’s life. The story is full of a dreamy uncertainty about what is actually happening at any time (“he, ladies and gentlemen, is also here, that is, not at the ball, but almost at the ball” (34)), and implausible events that nevertheless feel inevitable. Mr. Goliadkin’s reality is unstable—I’m tempted to say “dreamlike,” but the story ought not to be reduced to a dream—and full of multiple doublings and mirrorings; these produce a pervasive sense of uncanniness and dread in the story.
Takolander’s The Double isn’t exclusively about doubles and doppelgängers, but it has the eerie foreboding of Dostoevsky’s tale. This sense of foreboding springs partly from structural doublings, from inexplicable repetitions that occur in both Dostoevsky’s Dvoynik and in the stories that make up Takolander’s The Double (Takolander may have learnt to double in poetry, which revels in repetition: she’s an acclaimed poet and essayist, and this is her début book of fiction). However, some of the stories in The Double—most notably the Roānkin sequence in part two—are also characterised by an extremely playful whimsy that’s opposite in spirit to Dostoevsky’s Dvoynik.
The Double is comprised of one large section, containing eight stories including the title story, “The Double,” and a smaller section, containing four interlinking stories centred on the fantastical character Zed Roānkin. A foreboding mood infuses the stories in the first section, while the second section is characterised by playfulness, bordering on absurdity, but these moods sometimes bleed into each other. The first section features stories that are doubles of other stories, stories which revel in inter-textuality. Their titles are suggestive of this: “The Red Wheelbarrow;” “Three Sisters;” “The Double;” The Obscene Bird of Night;” “Mad Love;” “Paradise Lost;” “The Interpretation of Dreams;” and “The War of the Worlds.” Takolander’s interest in inter-textuality is a distinguishing feature of her work. It also underpins her second collection of poetry, Ghostly Subjects.
Many of the stories in the first part of The Double are about migrants, and feature barren, almost gothic landscapes, tinged with melancholy—though it’s hard to generalise, as the stories are quite different to each other. But, in general, there is a lot of oppressive silence (“the windmill clunked, and then its wheel began to churn. It was more noise than he had ever heard out here” (130-31)); stark corporeal imagery; strained romantic relationships; and occasional violence. Takolander is adept at portraying family scenes that are imbued with a quiet drama, but she can just as adeptly portray the dramatic in a quiet but arresting way, such as in “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Along with structural doublings and mirrors, which turn up in a few stories, men are doubled or paired, in “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “Mad Love.” Both of these stories feature an undesired man that a female character is married to, and another man or boy who represents what her lover could be. In “The Red Wheelbarrow” there is a disinterested, violent father and an interested, loving son, who cares for his mother after an episode of violence. These scenes are charged with an unexplained eroticism:
Kneeling on the linoleum floor in front of her, I started cleaning the protruding thumb with the damp clump of paper. I noticed the breasts and nipples under the threadbare cotton of the nightie, and I saw that her lean thighs were smeared with blood. Her face, curtained by her hair, was streaked with tears. (6)
The most significant doubles in the first section—significant for being actual rather than metaphorical—occur in the title story, “The Double,” where a man encounters another who looks exactly like him. His wife, meanwhile, keeps recalling a doubling that occurred in Finland, before she migrated to Australia; both man and woman are haunted by the memories of these doublings.
The mode of storytelling is varied, and Takolander switches dextrously between male and female points of view, and third, second and first person narration. The intermittent second person address in “Three Sisters” felt like an experiment, but a successful one (“Do you see the derelict cottage out back? Three sisters live there” (31)). “The Obscene Bird of Night” was an unexpected delight: it features an eerie urban landscape, comprised of inanimate objects that speak to the narrator, in the manner of a surreal children’s story:
‘Help me,’ the fire had called, trying to make itself seen through the sooty glass.
The man hesitated in the hall. He should have gone in to feed it another log. The cold, after all, was something they all had to contend with.
‘Why bother?’ said the night, pressing its weight against the kitchen window. (87)
However, the more conventionally realistic stories in this section (“Mad Love,” “The Interpretation of Dreams”) are also the strongest. Put another way, Takolander is masterful when she returns to portraying an everyday reality, having exercised her imagination on the uncanny. The weakest story by far is “Paradise Lost,” a post-apocalyptic scenario featuring a somewhat paranoid narrator, which lacked movement, in the absence of dialogue or any other character interactions.
The book’s second section, on the elusive Zed Roānkin, abandons the forebodingly uncanny and revels in the hilariously absurd. These stories are also where the double is most powerfully present: Roānkin haunts these episodic and interwoven stories as the poet-philosopher that the narrators recoil from, aspire to be, and eventually become. His nonsensical but strangely compelling ideas, expounded in a little pamphlet titled The Roānkin Philosophy of Poetry, are worshipped for their “realness”: but he is a grotesque fabrication, and mirrors the other characters’ own self-fabrications. These stories are about pretension and fakery, particularly in the world of poetry; this is underlined by the other book that keeps turning up in the stories: Workplace Fraud.
This is a fine collection of short stories, both jarring and pleasurable to read, from a wonderfully novel imagination. Takolander wrote her PhD thesis on South American magical realism, and subsequently published a book of literary criticism titled Catching Butterflies: Bringing Magical Realism to Ground. The Double certainly has elements of magical realism in it—most strongly in the Roānkin sequence—and these are grounded, so to speak, in the figure of the double. Doubling here is not only an event but also a structural mechanism for blurring the lines, in fiction, between the real, the unreal, the surreal, and the magical.
Clarke, Arthur C. Imperial Earth. London: Gollancz, 1975. Print.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Double and The Gambler. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. 1846. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. London: Faber & Faber, 1989. Print.
Le Guin, Ursula K. “Nine Lives.” The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. Print.
Moon. Dir. Duncan Jones. Stage 6, 2009. Film.
Solaris. Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. Visual Program Systems, 1972. Film.
Takolander, Maria. Ghostly Subjects. Cambridge: Salt, 2009. Print.
—. Catching Butterflies: Bringing Magical Realism to Ground. Bern: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.
The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick.Peregrine, 1980. Film.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Mighall, Robert. 1890. London: Penguin, 2006.
PRITHVI VARATHARAJAN is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, and a freelance producer of radio programs for ABC Radio National’s Poetica. His reviews have been published in Australian Book Review and Islet, and his poetry and prose have been published in Island, Meanjin and Voiceworks.