I have a reticence to read poetry anthologies from cover to cover, but Hetherington’s sincere choices overcame this and allowed me to experience layerings of external and internal landscapes offered by each of the poems and the collection as a whole. Put simply, the sum is greater than the parts, and the anthology has a rounded and complex character of someone worth getting to know.
The first poem by Raymond Allan sets the tone from the first line,
‘Nietzsche said, “be constantly at war with your neighbour.”’
The poem then goes on to explore concepts of home, the power of death, the detail of an ant and finishes with pointless terror; Allan does in fact marry the ordinary every day world with existential terror. The tension that drives this poem is maintained throughout the collection and magnifies the poetic impact of the reading experience.
This is a collection which will:
1. make you think
2. show you things in a new way
3. make you feel with visceral energy
4. enchant you with its playfulness and the beauty of language
5. show poetry at its extensions
6. need to be read aloud to be fully appreciated
There are 25 poems by 14 poets in this collection, 4 are male, which in my experience is a fair representation of the male to female ratio of good contemporary Australian poets. Most are Tasmanian poets, which is also fair considering we are so under-represented as a group in mainland originated anthologies.
There are names I haven’t seen before: Diane Fahey, Brenda Saunders, Sue Stanford and Rob Walker. It was a real joy meeting these writers for the first time.
There are names I’ve only seen sometimes, these being Raymond Allan and Jennifer Compton, and it made me want to seek more of their work out.
There are names I’ve seen often, and being Tasmania have had a drink with or broken bread with in our own homes, these being the other 8 poets: Ivy Alvarez, Stephen Edgar, Karen Knight, Andrew Peek, Lyn Reeves, Megan Schaffner, Edith Speers and Philomena van Rijswijk.
With reading this last group I felt the excitement of my knowledge of their bodies of work open up and play against these new found poems. It’s inspiring to see their current poetic preoccupations and obsessions; and the directions these are taking them in their use of form, imagery and so on. This experience has left me with the image of the poet-reader as a two-faced bird: one face is of the magpie gatherer, and the other is of the eternal, incorrigible sticky-beak.
It’s good to see Lyn Reeves’ poem ‘Eucalyptus’ published in full in this issue, although the shortened version in the last issue was also quite good. I’d like to congratulate Peter Macrow on surviving his first editor’s folly and welcome him to this exclusive club. I also wish to thank Peter for his generousity in giving a guest editorship in what is only the magazine’s third issue. Graeme Hetherington chose not to have a featured poet this issue, which disappointed me until I read the collection, then I was only too happy to have a little more poetry from most of the poets.
Ivy Alvarez voice
The next issue of blue giraffe will feature Karen Knight. Her poem ‘Failing the Rorschach Inkblot Test’, is part of her collection Doctor Says, a Picaro Press chapbook which explores being an inpatient at the Royal Derwent Mental hospital, which will be launched at the Republic Readings in July.
Ivy Alvarez voice is still uniquely her, but stronger since her overseas successes. Her poem ‘Pear’ should be shown to all those people out there who’ve tried, me among them, to write fruit and veg. poetry in writing classes.
Stephen Edgar is exploring some dark places, and I’d really like you to check out his obsessive structure in ‘Sufficient unto the day’.
Andrew Peek offers us some very different poetry in its content and playfulness to his recent collection The Calabar Transcript which had an African theme. I think his ‘Credo’ poem generally applies to a poet’s work.
Jennifer Compton’s ‘The Twig’ is a delight.
Diane Fahey’s poem ‘April’ is such a Tasmanian landscape poem I’m stunned by the recognition and the beauty, if you read no other poem aloud, do so with this sonnet. It begins in the smoky season’ – forestry burn-offs perhaps? Towards the end she says, I just have to quote this bit:
…No planes scrape
the sky, the sun will set unseen,…
Brenda Saunders has a direct, penetrating voice. I’ll quote an image from her ‘Night Train’.
At Delft, a hoar frost
Freezes land to sky.
Megan Schaffner’s craft is spot on as always, her sight and insight equally matched, and although I’ve never been to Cook I feel that I have now.
Edith Speers’ two poems belong together like non-identical twins. ‘Oasis’ begins:
The long road home
Lets you settle for a while in some kind of oasis
And ‘Vulture’ begins:
the long road home
has a day in it somewhere where you find
a vulture perched on your shoulder
this vulture has
a black slug of a tongue
the vulture’s tongue tells you you are ill
there’s something wrong with you
and I feel this vulture sitting on my shoulder, and on the shoulder of the whole collection.
Sue Stanford’s poem ‘Culture’ explores what a house really means. This one will bend your mind a bit, it’s like a dream world and reality have collided.
Philomena van Rijswijk is a master in sustaining the long poem; it’s as if the landscape has seeped into her and she just breathes it back to us in poetry.
Rob Walker’s poem ‘The bird leaves its cage and enters another’ explores the concepts of language and prisons; and I admit I was sooky, but I cried at the end of ‘love at the physio’.
I’d like to finish by quoting the daily insight from the Dalai Lama on my desk calendar for today: ‘On a daily basis, you must take more care of your mind than just money, money, money!’ With this in mind I urge you to buy this not for profit chapbook and share some poetry.
Liz Winfield’s launch speech for Blue Giraffe 3 , which was at the beginning of June.
I’d like to begin with a quote from the magazine itself, ‘blue giraffe is a Tasmanian-based series of anthologies which aims to present the best of contemporary Australian poetry.’ I think guest editor Graeme Hetherington achieves this aim. To select poems for an anthology is a creative act in itself and the vision shown by an editor’s choice of poems will give a reading which is different from any other exposure; it is like looking at the poems within the poem.