The Child & Time

Published : Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Label:   Poems  

For Henry

When I sit these days—
Or walk—
And wait for a poem
Mostly it’s a child that comes.
Saying, for instance,
Just past the rabbit in her sorry cage,
The convolvulus and the white roses,
I carry you?
Putting words in my mouth
And offering up the burden of himself in response.
Or at evening in the kitchen, saying
Where are you taking me?
Claiming my index finger in…


What the?

Published : Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | Label: Critiques  

I wish I liked this novel more than I did. There is no story—unless it was Rwanda; unless, here, it is the stolen generation—worth knowing and caring about more than the one this book tells: the slaughter of Sudanese villagers wedged between vicious idealists (the Sudanese army helped by Murahaleen militias, on the one hand, and desperate SPLA rebels, on the other). The problem in Eggers’ book is not the story; it’s the novel. And I wish it didn’t matter, but it does.

Billed as both an autobiography and a novel, the book is told by a Sudanese…


The Devil and the Detail

Published : Tuesday, May 08, 2007 | Label: Critiques  

If you wanted to read your way through the Norman Mailer oeuvre—thirty-six works to date—you wouldn’t start at The Castle in the Forest, his new novel, because that would be as far as you’d get.

Mailer is a titan of the modern novel, and his feet are made of clay. Obsessed with sex and evil and truth, determined to go again and again to the hell at the bottom of the American ego, possessed of a prodigious gift for speaking the minds of men as different (except in their fanaticism) as it’s possible to get from his own…


Under the Mountains and Beside a Creek

Published : Tuesday, May 01, 2007 | Label: Critiques  

Robert Gray and the shepherding of antipodean being


Pastoral: (Latin) pertaining to shepherds
—J.A. Cuddon, Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory

Since modern Australia rode to prosperity and nationhood on the sheep’s back, as it is said; and since the feet of millions of sheep—like four times as many roving jackhammers—have done unspeakable damage to soils never in their long history acquainted with hard hoofs, it behooves us to consider the kind of pastoral this dry continent now needs us to write.

Clearing the land for…


Cowshed One

Published : Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | Label:   Letter From Cowshed    Poems  

Straight from throwing what’s left of yesterday to the hens
and loosing them into their yard, I walk
to the cowshed and I bank
a fire in the stove in the room
where by now in years now gone
sixty cows would already have stood
and let themselves be milked and sent back to the paddock and the river and I walk
back to the house for coffee
to let the fire make up its mind.

And through the French doors I…


What’s Writing For

What makes writing worth writing—and reading—is what the story or the poem achieves beyond the tale it tells: its music, its wisdom, its form, the way it makes the ordinary world beautifully strange. A good tale is only good, in other words, if the telling is sound and memorable. It’s the voice and mood, the arc and flow, the poetry of the writing that endure when the storyline fades.


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