A heart stopping reminder of what a poem can do, Sarah Holland-Batt’s Pursuit Music has all the crackling, cascading cadence of a neon noir thriller, the lyrical language of on the lam iambics, the rhythm of the road, its bolt holes and pit stops, its desperadoes and detours.
Holland-Batt chronicles a duo on the run, literally poetry in motion, with cool imagery – the liquid, mercury of polarised lenses our only witness protection…. under navy amphetamine skies – set in rapid pulse beats.
Pursuit Music is the first poem you encounter in Griffith Review 66: The Light Ascending. It’s a novella edition with the addition of several poems by award winning poets Stuart Barnes, Stuart Cooke, Shastra Deo, Anna Jacobson, Ella Jeffrey, Daniel Swain, Laura Taylor and the aforementioned Holland-Batt.
Daniel Swain’s poem, Routines, is a wry blank rhyme, an adverse verse of rumination and aphorism-The summer before people pretended to prefer orange wine to a nice dry Riesling. That’s when I knew Brexit would happen. People just want to belong to smaller and smaller unities.
Although labelled a novella edition, there are only two pieces that really fit into that category – Julienne Van Loon’s Instructions for a Steep Decline, and Keren Heenan’s Cleave at 72 and 60 pages respectively.
The shortest of the stories is the long awaited first fiction from Holly Ringland since her bestselling novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. The Market Seller is a twelve page page-turner, a bewitching contemporary fairy tale with a tantalising mystery complete with potions, recipes, both botanical and baked, and brutally fractured families.
Ringwald’s fracture of the normal creates a breathtaking apprehension – dark, distilled and disturbing.
Another gem of short fiction is Pat Hoffie’s Chronicles of the Maiwar Mangroves a then and now narrative that connects a fantastical Victorian wonderland on the banks of the Brisbane River to the city’s present-day mangroves where a sense of unease and an encounter with the uncanny put the wind up the reader in a delicious tingle of the shivers.
Memory and imagination mingle and meander in Julienne van Loon’s Instructions for a Steep Decline, a canter through the corridors of a comascape where questions from the unconscious collide with conscience.
Each of the stories and poems in THE LIGHT ASCENDING make their worlds come brilliantly alive, to reckon with our time, look at our past and posit the future. There is prose that has eaten poems, poetry that feasts on fiction, offering a smorgasbord of stories on a table that bears the bounty of continents, cultures and generations, inviting you to dine or graze at a narrative banquet.
THE LIGHT ASCENDING is, truly, the ultimate compendium of summer reading.
THE LIGHT ASCENDING: GRIFFITH REVIEW 66 is published by Text.