Monday, December 14, 2015
Welcome to the first instalment of Reverberations, where Australian poetry aficionados respond to the Australian poetry that most moves and inspires them.
In this edition we meet Sydney-based freelance writer Ariane Beeston. When I first hooked into the twittersphere in 2014, Ariane was one of the first people to follow me. I was constantly impressed by her tweets quoting Australian poetry and her enthusiastic engagement with other Australian poets. Knowing she was passionate about this country's lyricism, I approached her about opening Reverberations. In many ways, Ariane inspired me to begin this new phase of The Ultraviolet Range.
I love what Ariane says here. I wholeheartedly thank her for her honesty.
In my last year of high school I studied the poetry of Gwen Harwood. She was the first Australian poet I fell madly in love with. As a seventeen year old, although I couldn't relate to a lot of her writings on motherhood, death and grief, I knew I was reading something special. And while I still have my clumsily annotated high school edition of her selected poems, the meaning I've found in her words, the colour and beauty, has only increased with time.
and when I am seized at last
and rolled in one grinding race
of dreams, pain, memories, love and grief,
from which no hand will save me,
the peace of this day will shine
like light on the face of the waters
that bear me away forever.
- At Mornington
It was motherhood that drew me back to Australian poetry for the first time since high school. I suffered a severe psychotic depression after my son was born and for a little while was completely unable to read. One of my doctors suggested I try reading poetry- perhaps smaller chunks of text would be easier for my brain to decipher.
Via twitter I discovered Felicity Plunkett and her book Vanishing Point (UQP). It was one of those wonderful times in life where the right book finds you at exactly the right moment. Her poems spoke to the increasingly painful feelings of identity, loss and transformation I'd been wrestling with for months while I was so unwell. They were like little lifeboats helping anchor me to motherhood and all the changes it brought.
I plaited my fingers around her throat
and released a song she would drown in.
I called her into my fresh fecundity
wanting to remember girlish breasts with pink nipples.
At the edge of the room, out of the world's line of sight
we would smoulder quietly under the cover of maternity...
Later she would whisper to me of everything your birth
her pristine days and wild nights...
Earlier this year at the Queensland Poetry Festival, I discovered the lovely Melinda Smith. She read from her 2014 Prime Minister's Literary Award-winning collection Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call (Pitt Street Poetry) and her poem Given had me gasping. I could have written the exact same words.
Then: eight months of the black dog.
I crawl back from cold hell
that no one understands
out of quietest, loneliest lands.
Now you seem newly-made,
or is it me, new-born?
With poems entitled bitterweet, Don't worry e-happy and song of the anti-depressant, Melinda's collection is also hysterically funny and witty.
I've lost count of the number of copies of Kathryn Lomer's Night Writing (UQP) I've given to friends and family. There's an exquisite lightness to it that makes it easy to read, even for those who don't normally read poetry. It's hopeful, insightful and multi-layered - full of poems about love, madness, parenting and grief.
The biggest stars, or the closest, ripple
silver lines across the bay.
One falls, brief and burning, like a love affair, a life.
David Stavanger's The Special (UQP) has been another favourite. It's dark, weird and gritty, but playful at times, too. There's an edginess to his poetry that's unlike anything I've read.
It's hard to let people in.
How do they get back out?
At the moment, it's David Brooks' work that I'm devouring - his beautifully erotic, dry and intelligent poems from Open House and The Balcony. And there are still so many of his earlier collections left to enjoy.
writing a message
with her tongue on my neck
in a language I don't understand.
- The Balcony
Ariane's writing has appeared in many publications including Daily Life, Essential Baby, Essential Kids, The Motherish and Role/Reboot. She is not to be left unsupervised in a secondhand bookstore. You can find her on twitter - @ArianeBeeston