Nov 30, 2015

Book Review–The Taste of River Water by Cate Kennedy


If you are a fan of Kennedy’s short fiction then I suspect that you will enjoy her poetry in The Taste of River Water

The collection presents poetry with a strong narrative structure and focus i.e. these poems tell stories, the diction and register is fairly plain/natural in its delivery.


I must plant the tree seedling
a friend left here on the step
find a place for the cards.
It seems important somehow
a matter of fumbling pride
to fold all this paper square for recycling
the florist wrap from such extravagant, unwanted flowers
the envelopes
I’m saving the envelopes
I forget why for the minute.

Kennedy has been criticised for this facet of her poetry and I certainly felt that some of the poems could easily have been flash fiction if not formatted into lines. 

Still there’s something to be said for poetry that entertains, that doesn’t require copious rereading for understanding, that gives you story and emotion.

This collection is fairly accessible to the inexperienced reader and I found it a  fluid and enjoyable read for me, combining an ease of understanding and artful narrative construction.  In terms of content it also ticked my boxes for nostalgia, history and emotional engagement.

Cate is a good storyteller and that shows in her fiction as well as her poetry.  There’s a solid sense of completeness in her poems, that she’s stopped at just the right point. 

That’s probably the biggest takeaway for me as a poet, her skill at crafting story through poetry. 

Are they memorable poems? I suppose time will tell.  They were all, however, enjoyable.

Not a wasted cent here.


This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.



Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Nov 28, 2015

Book Review – Lifesaving Poems edited by Anthony Wilson


In some ways this book is a very personal collection of poetry, an anthology for one.  Lifesaving Poems was a notebook that then turned into a popular blog.

Anthony Wilson’s inspiration came from a Seamus Heaney quote questioning how many poems a person can recall responding to over a lifetime.

Answering that question, as this book does for Wilson, is going to make for a very select and subjective collection of poems. What the success of the blog showed though was that this didn’t seem to matter.

Lifesaving Poems presents each of the selected poems that Wilson recalls having an impact on him followed by a page or more of commentary.  What I liked about the commentary was that it wasn’t academic analysis.  Sure Wilson may have directed the reader to technical proficiency but overall I found the commentary clear, concise, conversational and engaging.

Indeed, while some of the poems did not inspire a response in my own reading, a thoroughly enjoyed all the commentary.  Sometimes that commentary caused me to review what I’d read and develop a new understanding.

A side effect of reading Lifesaving Poems was of course being exposed to some UK poets who I hadn’t heard of.  I did experience some frustration upon discovering (and getting excited about) new UK poets only to find that their works were only out in short print runs or from small publishers whose operational costs were high and priced the works out of the market for me.

But Lifesaving Poems might just be my favourite poetry book of the year.  It’s approach to discussing poetry doing much more for me in terms of developing understanding and taste than the standard approach to reviewing and critiquing poetry.

If you’d like to sample some of the commentary go here.  The commentary text is similar if not the same to that in the book, though the formatting is different.

A worthwhile spend for lovers of poetry whether poets or readers. And as a bonus its readily available in Australia through Booktopia.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Nov 24, 2015

Book Review– The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith


The second of three Cormoran Strike novels, The Silkworm is  the weakest of them, though perhaps that’s because I read Career of Evil prior to this and some of the tension that’s built up outside of the central plot in The Silkworm is undermined by knowledge of what happens in book three.

The Silkworm is still good crime fiction though.  I did find the plot a more convoluted than book one or three and perhaps a tad unrealistic but to tell you the truth I enjoy having the killer revealed to me this time almost as much as I like trying to figure out who had done it.

If you enjoy reading about the rather cloistered world of traditional publishing and don’t mind a few swipes at the self-publishing market the The Silkworm certainly hits the required tension of a well paced crime thriller.

Despite knowing what happens to the main characters in book three, I still found Rowling’s characterisation enjoyable.  I love the subtle sexual tension between Cormoran and Robin and the depth of characterisation provided.

I was unwell for most of the reading of this work and found just participating in the story enough of a buzz to keep reading. 

It’s not necessary to read these books in order, they do stand well on their own.  But as I have remarked previously, the best thing about the series is its central characters and their growth.

Great holiday reading.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Nov 14, 2015

Book Review: Classic Haiku - A master’s collection by Yuzuru Miura


How much you enjoy this work will depend I think on your individual path to Haiku, whose translations you may have read first and your own experience and perhaps practice of English language haiku.

I find that I have a preference for the translations that I am most familiar with and so Miura is at a disadvantage for a great number of the included classic master’s (Basho, Issa, Buson, Shiki) Haiku that I had experienced previously. 

That’s not to say that there weren’t a number that I thought (and could still change my mind on) were interesting additions.  Compare the following:



Calm and serene

The sound of a cicada

Penetrates the rock.

- Basho (trans. Miura)


Lonely silence,

a single cicada’s cry

sinking into stone

- Basho (trans. Hamill)


What was a welcome addition to my reading and knowledge was the inclusion of lesser known (in the West at least) but still historically significant later masters like Kyoshi, and Dakotsu:


A woman

Taking a bath in a tub

Is coveted by a crow.

- Kyoshi

The 100 or so haiku are set out in seasonal format, including a section on New Year’s.  Each poem is written in English, Romaji and Japanese script, one poem to a page with attendant calligraphy or sumi-e painting.  When a poet’s work is introduced a short biographical note is attached. 

Though by all means easy for a novice to read, I do wonder if this work might provided more interest for someone with a fair bit of Haiku reading under their belt.  A worthy addition to your Haiku collection, though perhaps not a must have.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through areader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Nov 2, 2015

Book Review–First Light : a selection of poems by Philip Hodgins


It’s perhaps a sign of how divorced from the larger Australian culture poetry is, that I missed Philip Hodgins’ rise and impact on the scene. 

The accolades don’t seem to gel with my experience: - “one of the major poets of his generation”, “a leading poet in any terms”. 

I knew nothing of him until two years ago.  And in my work as a relief teacher I have not once come across him being studied in classrooms (a crying shame considering the content and variety of his form).

This is not a criticism of the poet nor of the scene.  It is, I think the times we live in and they way that poetry survives as an art form in this country.

While much of Hodgins works can be viewed for free at the Australian Poety Library, First Light gives the reader the chance to hold a curated collection in their hand.  Something that’s suprisingly hard to do (there’s only one copy of one collection in the entire South Australian Library system)

I had searched the country for second hand copies of his Selected Poems to no avail.  That First Light is produced by an American publisher is also curious for a poet that is held with such high regard.

I am, however, an unabashed fan and although I think we may have had some differences of opinion on some things, he is my favourite Australian male poet.  I have read a library copy of New Selected Poems and in comparison First Light does as good a job of showcasing Hodgins’ best work: the skill with which he uses form and free verse, his updating of the realities of farming life in the poetry cannon and his poems on the subject of his own death.

I’ll leave you with links to some select poems contained within this collection:

Shooting the Dogs


I think any serious Australian poet should know of Philip Hodgins, particularly any one writing of a rural experience. First Light is a good compact collection that I think would appeal to lovers of more traditional form, rhythm and rhyme as well as free verse. 

First Light is available at all good bookstores and online via Booktopia.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through areader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...