Good Reading : April 2010
APRIL 2010 ı goodreading 37 ALEXANDRA IRVING talks about some of the poetry books that she recommends this month. poetry round-up poetry word of mouth Teri Louise Kelly was born Terence Malcolm Rodriguez in Sussex, England. She moved to Australia after gender reassignment surgery in 1999. Girls Like Me (Wakefield, $19.99) is an exploration of her transformation, from the psychological through to the practical. She reflects on her childhood struggle to act like a boy, 'everyone wanted it', she writes. She laments the cost of a 'pretend vagina', and hints at difficulties she has faced with her family. Kelly's writing is tough and raw. She uses little punctuation, and prefers an ampersand over the word 'and'. She commences a self-referential poem about low- brow poets with 'aw f***'. Leaving school early, Kelly hasn't had much formal education, but has written three gritty memoirs about her life. Hope is the thing with feathers', Emily Dickinson famously wrote, 'that perches in the soul'.Two of her poems, along with more than 100 others, are included in Bright Wings (edited by Billy Collins, Footprint Books, $37.95), a beautifully illustrated anthology of poetry about birds. The illustrations are as important as the poems in this book, printed on thick, glossy paper. Where appropriate, the illustration matches the subject of the poem, with a number of poems about swallows following the bright blue-and- orange birds on the page. Under each illustration is a brief description of the bird, making this book part-field guide. Poets include Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, John Updike, and William Wordsworth.The paintings are by David Allen Sibley. It is perfect for any lover of birds. Kylie Johnson is not only a poet, but also an artist and ceramicist. In her beautifully bound book, A Once Courageous Heart (Pier 9, $29.95), she uses her short poems to create a piece of visual art. The words leap off the page in various sizes and colours. Some pages are left blank, while others are covered in hand-drawn flowers and raindrops. Covered in brown fabric, the book has the feel of a personal jour nal. In keeping, many poems appear to be fleeting thoughts about love and love interests, present and past. Others are short, sweet reflections on life. It would make a lovely gift for anyone who appreciates a beautifully produced book. Libby Hathor n, best known for her young adult fiction, has compiled a book of poetry about the Vietnam War based on a series of photographs. Vietnam Reflections, illustrated by Leon Coward (Pax Press, $27.50) contains short poems, each one describing what she sees in the photo, delicately filling in the background with imagined characters and stories. Hathorn doesn't try to cover the difficult sights she sees with flowery expression. The poems are written in simple, candid language, depicting the bloodshed in a straightforward and personal manner. When writing of the man who lies with a broken skull, she wonders if, 'with his brains spilling out like that', he had been buried by his people. Many of the poems are accompanied by a black-and- white line drawing. This collection is a beautiful memorial for those who lost their lives in the war. Chris Mansell's book of poetry Letters (Kardoorair Press, $20.00), is split into two sections. 'Letters from abroad' includes poems about the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt, cats, birds and wars. 'Letters from the interior' are personal poems, a large number expressing a fear of death, and others exploring romance and sex. Mansell sees poetry in everything she observes, and most of the topics in her poems are vehicles to express a greater world view or idea. For instance, the Mediterranean Sea becomes an expression of grief and humanity. Letters is an apt title for the work, which reduces ideas down to as few words as possible. Many of the sentences are condensed into two or three simple words that cleverly express so much.The repetitive use of 'not yet' in the poem it is marvellous sums up the anticipation of a burgeoning romance. Mansell's use of spacing to suggest time and meter slows the poems down and provides important emphasis -- giving a word so much more meaning.