Poetry Pick #2: Lisa Gorton, ‘Press Release’

Published by Giramondo Poets, Lisa Gorton’s Press Release is a fantastic first collection. It is unsurprising that the work received critical acclaim, with Gorton receiving the inaugural Vincent Buckley Prize, and becoming 2010 poet in residence at the Australian Poetry Centre. With such high praise, the book could hardly disappoint.

Press Release takes its title from one of the collection’s sequences of three poems, entitled ‘Sci-Fi’ and set in the future. ‘Press Release’ itself, set in the year 2020, begins rather appropriately with a futuristic science-fiction press release. However, this emotionally and temporally distant beginning is merely the context for what we then read a very tender poem from the point of view of a mother letting go of her child. While remaining beautifully crafted poetry, this dramatic monologue gives a raw and genuine portrayal of human emotion. The voice of the mother sounds unforced and honest as she speaks to her comatose child. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the poem (even possibly the entire collection) is its end:

 

Press release, my darling,
and do not sorrow. Do not once sorrow.
If you will think of me, think only of these years
I held your unfailing present in my empty hands.

 

The carefully crafted simplicity of these lines alone makes the collection worth reading. But these lines also reveal another, more personal side to the collection. Gorton very cleverly uses the double meaning of ‘press release’, both as a noun indicating a statement to the press and as an instruction: to ‘press release’, as the phrase appears within the context of this poem. This context throws the entire collection into a new light; what Gorton’s collection becomes is is not simply a statement of a publicised self (or rather, a projected self), but also an attempt at a release. What both reader and poetic voice seem to be released from through the collection becomes clear in the telling lines: ‘his will be an innocent world / conquered in peace’. Through her poetry, it is possible that Gorton is attempting to release us from the weight of the past.

It is interesting that Gorton does not shy away from using more traditional forms in her poetry, with the collection containing both a sonnet, ‘Aeroplane’, and a pantoum entitled ‘Petrol’. What this acknowledgement of structured form adds to the collection (the majority of which is written in free verse) is not only a sense of the effect that the past is still having on us, even as Gorton is attempting to release us from it. Gorton is a far superior poet than that. Instead, she uses these forms as a new (or perhaps reclaimed) discourse for aspects of modern life.

There is definitely a weight of history in the collection, particularly in the Mallee Sequence, which is set in Victoria, Australia, largely at the end of the Second World War. However, this weight is not always negative, and Press Release is also permeated by a sense of light and air. The collection opens with a poem entitled ‘Graffiti’, which beautifully outlines the interplay between the weight of history and the lightness of being in an almost Kunderra-esque fashion:

 

Out of the dark, ashes fall softly.
We have to stand up again and again to shake them off.
What a weight of light!
The dark is smaller than you expected.

 

This reworking of the weight of the past into something light and freeing is something which Gorton continues to do right through the collection, in form and theme alike.

Press Release is a beautiful and intriguing first collection. It is an easy book to read, and Gorton’s portrayal of human emotion is so natural and seemingly effortless that it draws the reader in. It is not only from the weight of the past that Gorton releases us, but from the weight of ourselves, as we are invited to slip easily into the perspective of her poetic creations.

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This Poetry Pick was chosen by Katie Hale, founder of [insert text here].

Born in Cumbria, Katie’s first story (written aged four and entitled It’s Not Fair) received much critical acclaim from indulgent parents and well-wishing neighbours. Since then she has been published in Velour, anthologies 11 Poets and Above Water, and university magazine The Jam, and has twice won the Anne Pierson Award. She spent a year living in Melbourme, and is about to move to St Andrews to begin a Masters in Creative Writing.

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For Lisa Gorton reading at a TEDx talk in Sydney, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_WDM4mNWT8

The Red Room Company’s profile of Lisa Gorton: http://redroomcompany.org/poet/lisa-gorton/

Giramondo Publishing information on Press Release (cover image taken from this site): http://www.giramondopublishing.com/category/author/lisa-gorton-author

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Poetry Pick #1: Jennifer Copley, ‘Beans in Snow’

‘In fairy tales, only the good fairy wears wings.’

But in Jennifer Copley’s darkly enchanting collection, Beans in Snow, good fairies are few and far between.

Far from the Disney fairies we have grown all too used to (fairies of good magic and household spells, who ensure that true love triumphs in the end), Copley’s collection returns us to the original and unsettling nature of fairy stories: told to disquiet, and even at times to scare. This is a world where beans in snow ‘won’t grow’, where ‘brothers and sisters get separated’, and where ‘children, smelling of gingerbread, cry out to them from cages’.

Copley’s poems whisper dark suggestions to their reader. They display such a control over the stories they reference that, much of the time, we are unsure whether the unsettling occurrence has taken place in the poem itself or in the unexplored caverns of our own imagination. The poems are filled with unanswered questions; we are the ones who must provide the answers, and they are not pleasant ones.

However, Copley is not tied to the realm of the fairy tale. Perhaps the most disturbing, and at the same time most beautiful, aspect of the book is the way it blurs fiction with biography. In the second and third sections of Beans in Snow, Copley writes about the loss of her own brother, who died in his late forties. We see Copley’s own pain in the context of the darkness of the stories. Snow (standing in for death, blankness, and eventually a new start) is a recurring theme. As the collection’s titular poem states: ‘Beans in snow won’t grow’.

But the collection ends on a hopeful note. The third section begins with a poem entitled ‘First Night in Heaven’. This section follows Copley’s brother after death. Here, we witness Copley’s creation of a fairy tale of her own. Building on the first two sections, this final one shows how stories (as well as being dark warnings against wandering alone in the forest) can be a way of healing. In the stories we create ourselves, Copley seems to be telling us, there can always be hope.

Beans in Snow is a beautiful, dark, funny and emotive collection. It draws on traditional fairy stories, but in a way that targets a modern reader. What emerges is the potential to create our own stories and our own potential endings. In the same way that Copley works so skilfully on our imaginations in the first part of the book, she also shows us the power of our own creativity in understanding our own misfortunes.

Giants and Snow Queens there may be, but there is also hope, and the good fairy of our own imagination.

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This Poetry Pick was chosen by Katie Hale, founder of [insert text here].

Born in Cumbria, Katie’s first story (written aged four and entitled It’s Not Fair) received much critical acclaim from indulgent parents and well-wishing neighbours. Since then she has been published in Velour, anthologies 11 Poets and Above Water, and university magazine The Jam, and has twice won the Anne Pierson Award. She spent a year living in Melbourme, and is about to move to St Andrews to begin a Masters in Creative Writing.

**

Related sites:

http://www.jennifercopley.co.uk/

http://www.smokestack-books.co.uk/book.php?book=21

Poem: ‘Fairy Tales’

Poem: ‘Coma’

Poem: ‘Princess’

Poetry Picks

‘The time has come, the walrus said…’

…to launch a new venture!


It’s all very well [insert text here] recommending the odd poem now and again, but there are a lot of brilliant poets out there, who have entire books filled with incredible poems. So why shouldn’t we recommend those as well?

So, we’re launching a monthly venture, called Poetry Picks. It’s pretty simple, really. At the start of each month, we’ll post a review of a book we’ve really really enjoyed, which will hopefully serve as an encouragement for our readers to go out and find a copy, and read it themselves.

But that is not all…

As with everything, we would like to include as many people as possible in this venture. So, we’re asking for open submissions.

If you’ve read a collection of poetry recently, and think that other people deserve to know about it, then why not write your own Poetry Pick and send it in to us? You can send it to us via the Submit section of the site, or via email: manage.noordinaryblog@gmail.com

A few things to remember when submitting:

  • Only say nice things, please! Poetry Picks is about finding collections of poetry that are really really good, so pick a collection that you love, and take it from there.
  • Make sure you include ‘Poetry Picks’ in the subject of your email, or at the start of the ‘submission’ box if submitting through the site.
  • Include a short bio of yourself (max 50 words), either in the body of your email, or in the ‘additional information’ box on the site. We may also post this on our Who We Are section, and put you down as a Contributor, so if you don’t want us to do this, make sure you let us know.
  • If possible, please include a picture. This can be a photo of you with the book, a photo related to the themes of the book, a photo of your cat reading the book – the choice is yours. Just make sure you’re the photographer – or that you have the permission of whoever is the photographer. (Legal battles over copyright would really put a dampener on things.) You can either attach this to the email, or (if submitting through the site) send a separate email with the photo.
  • We might edit your review a bit, mainly if there are any spelling mistakes or anything – but don’t worry! We’ll make sure we don’t change the meaning of any of your sentences. After all, you’re the reviewer – not us.
  • Of course, if you want to recommend a collection in the form of video, or write a poem saying why these poems are great, that’s also fine by us. We love unusual ways of doing things!

If you’re confused about anything, you can either get in touch with us, or have a look at the first Poetry Pick for inspiration.

Poetry Pick #1 coming soon: August 2012