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The Shearsman Review — Book Reviews

Claire Hurley reviews Jennifer Cooke

The first poetry collection by Jennifer Cooke, *not suitable for domestic sublimation, reveals from its opening pages that it is invested in the political axes of irrelevance/irreverence. The title itself acting as an appendix, an afterthought, the introductory ‘*’ indicates a paradoxical amendment to what has just been said. This is how the poems emerge; as juxtapositional post-thoughts in an already oversaturated political conversation.

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Date: 7 July 2015

Dan Disney reviews Michael Farrell

Michael Farrell tells us that Cocky’s Joy is the ‘metaphorical cum personal syrup produced when culture, land, history and images of Australia collide with the rest of the world in my mind’ (press release); indeed, here is a crucible of rhapsodic, visceral energies. The book begins with ‘Breakfasts’, as if implying it has been a long night of the aesthetic soul in the Antipodes, and that here are to be found nourishments we’ve longed for……

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Date: 6 July 2015

Dan Disney reviews Natalie Harkin

Australian poet Natalie Harkin’s Dirty Words is a book of historical, ethical, indigenous consciousness; a savvy repository organized as if an archive. Or indictment. Framing each of the poems are quotes from a range of sources, and each text is codified alphabetically: thus we work (harrowingly) from ‘Apology’, ‘Boat People’, and ‘Climate Change’ through to ‘Xenophobia’, ‘Yothu Yindi’, and ‘Zero Tolerance’.

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Date: 6 July 2015

Dan Disney reviews Andrew Spragg

This book of dire imaginings is a forecast in which the weather turns sublime, the poet mapping trajectories of our presently mutating contours of reality to an imagined near-future. In the epigraph to OBJECTS (the title functions either as a verb or noun), Spragg signals his intentions
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Date: 22 May 2015

Geoff Sawers Reviews 4 Collections

Stanley Cavell wrote, in a quite different context, “If philosophy is esoteric, that is not because a few men guard its knowledge, but because most men guard themselves against it.” Each of these books appears esoteric in some way at first; each requires the reader to reorient him or herself in order to read it aright and pull the heart out of it, and each rewards quite differently. There is an over-used and slightly boring trope in poetry book blurbs that a work will show us the miraculous in the mundane. Beckett could show us the mundane in the miraculous. Perhaps it is better at times to learn to see things as they really are, and a work that uproots both reader and author from their settled perspectives has at least the potential to do that.

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Date: 22 May 2015

Claudia Rankine reviewed by Sophie Mayer

Citizen: An American Lyric is the autopsy of Kenneth Goldsmith and the conceptual poetics for which he stands. Documenting the lived experience of ‘this cut’ of racist microaggressions, in language and gesture, Claudia Rankine speaks with and through what’s ‘stuck in [the] throat’ of white America. 

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Date: 17 May 2015

Amelia Rosselli reviewed

Rosselli wrote Serie ospedaliera in 1969 during a period of hospitalization, her translator Roberta Antagonini tell readers, for “a mental illness she suffered from for most of her life” (79). Here is a poet who “penetrate(s) into rooms furnished for a truer life” (8), and these texts are (in her own words) traumatological  (36), the poet’s “petrolific/ imagination” (43) lighting across vestiges which swarm with appearances and objects taken as unreal.

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Date: 17 May 2015

Volker Braun's Selected Poems reviewed

Reviewing Time for Dreams: Poetry from the German Democratic Republic (1978), an ‘officially sponsored’ anthology of poems for English-speaking readers in East Germany, Michael Hamburger singled out Volker Braun’s ‘Government Decree’ as one of the few poems to allude directly to all that was rotten in the GDR. A comradely pitch for greater participation in GDR decision-making, Braun laid bare the decidedly unrepresentative machinery of governance in the communist state. Elsewhere in the anthology, Hamburger lamented, one was left to ‘read between the lines’. 

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Date: 17 May 2015

Science-Fiction Poetry Anthology Reviewed

Science-fiction (sf) poetry has had an inglorious past. With the exception of Edwin Morgan, to whom this present collection is dedicated, few mainstream poets have attempted the genre. At the same time, poems rarely appeared in sf magazines until Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds which, as part of its avant-garde affiliations, featured the sf experiments of poets such as George MacBeth, Peter Redgrove and D.M. Thomas. The latter, especially in ‘The Head Rape’ (1968), found a narrative style and content that complemented the fiction although, in retrospect, the poems strain for hallucinogenic effects. 

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Date: 17 May 2015

David Brazil - The Ordinary

First off, what’s striking about this book in particular is its particular register, in terms both of tone and of formal practice – the two, I think, not really separable. At one point, Brazil writes, “my prosody’s from here” – here being, primarily, his home-town, Oakland, CA, whose environmental pressures and socialities are figured through a highly-developed auto-didactic acquaintance with ancient languages, and with political, economic and theological history, and through the detritus of language and material out of which the poetry’s shaped. 

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Date: 4 February 2015

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