“I wrote a poem with all my self./ Every muscle, every nerve/ and every bone … I danced my poem/ tore at the mothering sky/ bore down into the ground/ it took me, ate me/ compelled me” (Rebecca Edwards, ‘Birthmark’, Scar Country, p.18, UQP, 2000).
The poems in Blue Giraffe 2 did compel me. They refreshed my ways of tasting the world, travelled me to places I could never have imagined myself. I am grateful to all of the 18 poets represented here who have worked with every muscle, nerve and bone to dance these poems into being.
I am also grateful to Peter Macrow for having the vision, time, energy and other resources to create this collection of poems.
It potently dances us round the rooms and other open spaces created by these poets.
There is nothing at all prosaic about this collection. Each of these poets knows how to make words sing, how to place words together in such a way that we are delightfully compelled to dance with their rhythms, their ideas, their emotions. Louise Oxley describes people fishing, casting their lines into the sea, creating “small parabolas of patience”. This a beautiful and apt description of fishing but equally a terrific metaphor for what these poets achieve. They have each cast a line into the ocean of experience and through the exercise of exquisite skill and patience have finessed to shore a catch of words for our delectation.
Or as Erica Jolly describes an aboriginal elder: “he shares his skill until their hearts are in his hands”. My heart was subtly handled toward new understandings by these wise and experienced poets.
John Murphy in his poem about birds feeding in a flowering bottlebrush describes the “dainty etiquette of sipping”. I’m afraid I first consumed BG2 in one long, unseemly gulp. I couldn’t put it down, wanting to race over the page to see what was next. Then having satisfied my unseemly urge to gulp I rested a while under Kitty Madeson’s “fruitful tree” before returning to that tree like a dainty honeyeater to sip and to savour, to meditate on the riches and diversity of this collection.
Like the blue giraffe I wandered through this poetic savannah savouring the crystal glistening of Ivy Alvarez’s rocks, the elegant angles of Liz Winfield’s clumps of grass, the sculptural patterning of Anne Kellas’ storm-worn tree, quenching my thirst at Lyn Reeves’ essential waterhole.
Today I’m not going to be able to mention all the poets included here because that may cut into your drinking time at the waterhole (provided so graciously by Chris and Janet). But I do want to comment on Peter’s innovative idea of having a featured poet in each edition of BG2. I enjoy the opportunity to wallow and sip at greater length in one poet’s work, to glimpse more than one grass clump in their landscape.
Lyn Reeves is the featured poet in this edition and what a splendid, rich and nourishing waterhole she provides for the thirsty reader. Her 10 poems “swirl with the urgent flash of dreams” and like a baby’s vertebrae “ripple beneath our hands like birdsong”. Her words swirl and ripple and sing, dancing the reader to sensuous worlds of great beauty, colour and intensity.
They are poems based confidently in the organic world, subtly using images from that world to whirl the reader on transcendent and translucent journeys.
Like Lyn, Esther Ottoway quietly brings us to new sensibilities, teaching us to transcend the ridiculous quest for perfection, to take delight in the unexpected beauty of a “dented pie-tin”, the serendipitous joy of a Chinese whisper.
Finally I’d like to take my cue from Erica Jolly who, in her poem “Response to a telephone call telling me my poems are too political”, commands the reader to: “touch”, “share”, “enjoy” and “appreciate”. In launching this collection may I encourage you to touch, share, enjoy and appreciate the words of these talented poets. May this collection “take you, eat you and compel you”.
Now I’d like to invite Lyn Reeves (featured poet), Louise Oxley, Anne Kellas, Joan Sampson Tucker, Kitty Madeson to read.
Launch speech for Blue Giraffe 2, November 9, 2005. Dr Gina Mercer came to Tasmania in 2003. She is a former editor of the literary magazine LiNQ. Her first poetry collection was “The Ocean in the Kitchen” (Five Islands Press, 1999). Her first novel was “Parachute Silk” (Spinifex Press, 2001).