AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Jalapenos Tinged With Gold
Black Pepper is a small press that specializes in high-quality poetry both in terms of the prestige and talent of the writers and the production quality of the books. One of their latest releases is Adrienne Eberhard's Agamemnon's Poppies, Eberhard, a Tasmanian poet who has worked in Papua New Guinea, writes poetry of vigor and originality that captures the excitement of nature as perceived by an individual sensibility. Two sonnets in the middle of the book deal with teenage relationships with great freshness, so much so that the rhyme and meter seem pleasingly transparent' though this transparency is a great formal accomplishment. Without doing a deliberate, feminist 'rewriting' of established topoi, Eberhard, writing very much from a woman's perspective and including superb poems on childbirth and motherhood, does nonetheless assay themes associated with male writers from Tasmania, or those who have written about it. The evocation of the landscape of the island inevitably recalls the early poems of Vivian Smith as well as Christopher Koch's Boys on the Island. "Coracle," as well as its companion poem "Coastline," recalls the role of that primitive boat in Marcus Clarke's His Natural Life: "part coral/part ache/part leak with a c/then there's lore and oracle too." Or, in the next poem: "Islands are coracles are memories/are sand and stone." Eberhard also pays oblique tribute to a female Tasmanian predecessor, Carmel Bird. "In The Garden" with its motifs reminiscent of Bird's novel The White Garden; primitivism, female victimhood, the whiteness of Sissinghurst. Nicolette Stasko is a well-known poet who has published in Antipodes. Stasko's imagery in "The Weight of Irises" is so precise, her stance so observant ("Fat green jalapenos/tinged with gold/hang like lanterns/on the bush/thinking to pick one/it dissolves in my hand/a pearled husk/of liquid decay") as if to concentrate a Keatsian or Marvellian sensuality fully in the mode of sight. Just when the reader has classified these poems in a particular mode of appreciation, though, a joltingly straightforward declaration of emotion will rip through the book like a lightning stroke: "When I cry it is never enough/When you cry it is always too much/We can't listen to anyone else's crying/We don't get paid for." This combination of eloquence and honesty marks this volume as one to be read slowly and attentively and then reread. Sometimes Stasko gets too "cultivated," as in a sequence of poems on Cezanne, but this is made up for by cool and ramified perceptions such as these in the prose poem "The Reef Heron": "it is necessary to crouch behind the salt bush so they/won't see or hear you and wait until they have gone. It/is cool and safe in the shadow." These and other fine books of poetry are available from Black Pepper Press, 403 St. Georges Road, North Fitzroy, Victoria 3068, Australia.
Mr. Darwin's Entomologist
Nicholas Drayson's Confessing a Murder (Norton) is misleadingly titled, as the book is a historical novel about Darwin, evolution, and the role of Australia as proving-ground and place of ramification for both. ("Confessing a murder" is how Darwin felt, subjectively, when he realized what the public implications of his theories would be.) The reader may immediately think of Roger McDonald's Mr. Darwin's Shooter (1999), especially as this book similarly programs a marginal figure who turns out to have more to do with Darwin's great achievement than might at first be thought, but it is a very different work. Drayson is a naturalist (he was formerly a curator at the National Museum in Canberra) and this book is one of those hybrids of fiction and nonfiction, presented as fiction, that have flourished so much in recent years. This liminal position between fact and imagination is straddled even more vertiginously by a "found manuscript" introduction that is so …