reading revival: a poetry book blog

reading revival is devoted to promoting australian poetry books and related discussion through reading one book - firstly, duty by geraldine mckenzie. i will choose a new book roughly every 3 months

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

gig ryan has sent me her review of duty from the age.[the references to hill are to barry hill's the inland sea, reviewed at the same time.]

Duty, Geraldine McKenzie
review by Gig Ryan (The Age, 30.3.02)

Duty is Geraldine McKenzie’s anticipated first book. At 100 pages McKenzie shows little hesitancy for a ‘new’ poet and this is energetic experimental work, occasionally with some similarities to the late Robert Harris’s award-winning Jane, Interlinear. Sometimes though McKenzie’s excursions are both private and repetitive, boiling in a sort of romanticism of disorder, where inventive language seems a tic, a short cut. This paroxysm seems to leap out a little past midway through Duty. Like the various scopes used in medicine now, one gets a colourful view of an interior body part meaningless to any but a specialist in that part. As with Hill’s book, Duty also traces a love affair. Where Hill is often confessional and corrective, a little like Ted Hughes’s in Birthday Letters, McKenzie is less bound to actual matter than to intellectual analysis and reflection. She welcomes ambiguity while remaining sceptical of the result - “I don’t think poetry / can save us”. Her sonnets display a control of rhyming schemes and voices, many with an Elizabethan formality and playfulness. Although it is common now for poets to quote, or sample, their influences and predecessors, this can also be a way of evading imagination. McKenzie’s love of wrought language is at times unguided but more often it is her strength - “and the cut / as fresh as ever throttle clutch and / brake for no one as progress / its maw and might have been / silky persuasion in the manifest / and wished down river withered / in a word it was just love / unravelled retrospective rape”.


At 5:44 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

invention as a tic; specialised meanings; the use of sonnets;evading of imagination; wrought language ... plenty of topics here ...

are short cuts bad? the condensing style of poetry could be described as a continual citcuit of short cuts, but ryan seems to be implying something else here: that poems arent as thought through as they could be, not as satisfying.

what is a poem aside from the words of the poem?

if poems are 'made with words' (mallarmé) is that the end of it?

is learning to read poetry analogous to medical training?

this suggests that unless mckenzies poetic body is alien/completely new (like jesus?) we may have resources from our earlier learning/reading. what texts aid us here? for me, getrude stein is a starting point for reading poetry - but any poetry prepares us to read poetry differently to the way we read journalism, fiction, criticism. is this a specialised poetry? would having read surrealism, dada, german expressionism, wallace stevens help? it can be a tic, a short cut, for critics to refer to surrealism & dada in relation to anything that is not (purely) of the english tradition - any poet may be influenced by the thought or practice of these movements without being particularly interested in their styles/procedures. their importance is what they allowed in terms of imagery, juxtaposition, narrative, disjunction - but these allowances had more effect on generations before mckenzie's. since then there have been: the proliferation of translation from languages other than english, language poetry, cage, the beats, the new york poets, oulipo ... without mentioning all sorts of ideas that have been imported into poetry from music, art, religion and philosophy: can a reader of foucault, derrida, adorno etc find poetry difficult? probably but this is perhaps not about orders of difficulty but reading rhythms & realities.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

im thinking about ryans comment about quoting/sampling as an evasion of imagination. the more imaginative tack would be to formulate your own words rather than reaching for yr reading history - but must poems be purely imaginative - the brechtian effect aside - of showing how things are made - its also a respite from ego & personality. sampling can also be an aid to imagination - a stepping stone to something new; as well as providing text with texture - showing it exists - a presentation of imaginations.


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