Cassandra Atherton and Benjamin Laird (editors), Australian Poetry Journal, Volume 7, Issue 2: Work (2017)
I mainly read this issue of The Australian Poetry Journal on my computer screen. It sat on my desktop to be dipped every now and then, a bit like Twitter only more than 280 characters, more nuanced, less infested with outrage and snark, and more nourishing. Here are some of the bits I enjoyed a comment on the front cover and then some snippets from poems that struck me (though not the only ones that did).
The cover illustration, a photo taken by artist Albert Tucker of artist Joy Hester watching art patron John Reed milking a cow at the artist’s colony Heide in 1942, is rich with metaphorical implications in reference to the journal’s theme of work. It reminds me of Jerome K Jerome’s famous quip about liking work: ‘It fascinates me. I could sit and look at it for hours.’
From Jill Jones, ‘This Could Take a While’:
How do you get through days
that have already curved too far?
From Andy Kissane, ‘The Study Before the Major Work’:
I finish one sketch and start another, in love
with the repetition that is the texture of my life,
waking each morning to currawong calls,
raising the blinds to the shifting architecture
of light, dressing in loose clothes, keen to dwell
in the lilting halls of wonder.
From Geoff Page, ‘In medias res’:
I should perhaps have warned you all
my death will be in medias res:
a carload of musicians
driving up from Sydney
and being switched to voicemail
From Judith Beveridge, ‘The Pest Inspector’:
He gave good advice: ‘Always listen at night,
and if you hear a sound as though you’ve left
a record on after all the songs have played,
the ticking of a needle as it tracks in a groove;
if you hear what you take to be the scratching
of a mouse, the contractions of a cooling
tin roof, or click beetles snapping their thoraxes
and abdomens to flip themselves right way up –
take note, they could turn out to be the mandible-crafted
ticks of termites eating along the grain
of your floorboards.’
The whole of Cameron Lowe’s ‘Botanic / Beginning with four words from a poem by Joseph Massey’, which maybe I love because there was a giant fig behind my childhood home in North Queensland:
to say. The fig –
giant – leans
from the love
scored in its
Cameron Lowe’s poem is part of ‘New Shoots: Garden of Poems’, a special feature that takes up nearly half of the journal’s pages. In 2017, under the auspices of Red Room Poetry, Australian Poetry Inc and the Melbourne Writers Festival, Tamryn Bennett commissioned ten poets to create a new suite of poems each, inspired by plants and histories they encountered in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. The poems they produced have had other outings – at the Festival, as a poetry trail at the Gardens, and in an online recording accompanied by interviews (here). They make a brilliant feature here: first the poems, then nine pages of ‘Reflections’ by the poets, which mostly allow for a much deeper reading experience. Just for one example, Bruce Pascoe’s powerful poem, ‘Kuller Kullup’, about the 19th century Wurundjeri elder of that name, becomes even richer when read in the light of his reflection, which begins:
It is very hard for Aboriginal people to get through a day without being reminded of loss, sometimes accompanied by a profound sadness, sometimes by mere elevated irony. When I was walking around the gardens with the other poets dread was dragging at my heels, feeling for my throat. The talk of last and natural and heritage was clutching at me with scrabbling fingers.
There’s much more, in the ‘New Shoots’ section and in the journal as a whole. Copies are available for sale from Australian Poetry Inc.