A review of Rose Interior by Tracy Ryan

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Rose Interior
by Tracy Ryan
Giramondo
96 pages, Paperback, April 2022, ISBN 9781925818963

Tracy Ryan is an award-winning novelist and poet. She has published five novels and Rose Interior is her tenth collection of poetry. I was not only impressed by Ryan’s prolific production but also her talent as a poet.  Ryan’s work is aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking. 

Ryan’s work focuses on the nature of place and space, as well as the notion of ‘home’, which not only materially exits on a place but also has a space in our mind, a space associated with feelings and memories. Rose Interior is divided into three sections, one titled “A room within a dream”, the second section is “For this inside/an outside” and the third section is named “World”. The poems in the first section of the book take the reader into the poet’s physical house, including the garden. The poem “The Sun Room”, which is from the first section gives an idea of the poet’s deep relationship with her environment:

what will emerge here
vertical blinds that soar
to a gable
worthy of church
or weird chapel
glassed-in
poem-home.

In this space are plants, ornaments, flowers, and settings described beautifully, with poems that are like waves: you ride them and sometimes you are shaken or jolted and sometimes you flow with the water. I was fascinated by a poem titled “Etruscan Love Song” which describes one of the great masterpieces of Etruscan art, the Sarcophagus of the Spouses.  This poem led me to think about failed relationships and what remains.

It is obvious from the poems that Ryan knows a lot about plants.  One poem titled “Herb Robert” encouraged me to look up the plant, which is a geranium native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. This geranium has many names such as Red Robin, Fox Geranium, Crow’s Feet and Death Come Quickly. This poem in short lines very cleverly and visually evokes the plant:  

a choral mass
by virtue of each
feeble & reedy voice
joined to the next
and the soars
blood-stemmed
arterial in reach
along every edge
you choose to travel
and some you don’t
ubiquitous at this
time of year but not
to be overlooked
just because slight,
pink & delicate

The second section in the book “For this inside / an outside”, is more personal, exploring memory, reflections and detailed observation. Some are nostalgic while others are very descriptive and poignant. There is a rich domesticity in this section, from daily trivia and machinations to the sounds of life at home and collections like ornaments which sit in obvious places. We observe ornaments daily, we clean them, we change their position, they have memories attached to them as Ryan explores so beautifully in “Mother of Pearl”:

Your lustre
like jewel but functional
platter for other treasure
placental & mirror-like
if mirror were clouded
over.  I held you when ill in
the short, ordinary manner
that seems years to children
accorded some token
to distract them: sweet puzzle
of gilded lily, silvered, one-sided
slippery disc, elusive
of definition.

In the third section of Rose Interior Ryan’s poems deal with topics issues such as schooling children during the pandemic and global warming. In a number of these pieces, Ryan speaks to the younger generations, for example in “World”: “The beautiful world is still there I tell myself fortnightly.” This is a poignant reminder of the beauty that surrounds us and the importance of seeing that against the many urgent and impending issues that surround us. Ryan’s poems in Rose Interior explores inner space as well as the outside world of plants and animals, real or imagined, relationships, experiences and feelings. It is an exquisite and transformative collection.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a well-known reviewer, writer and poet, she is also known for her sense of humour. “Her poems are sensuous, evocative and imaginative. Beatriz Copello is one of Australia’s foremost poets,” wrote Julia Hancock, ex-editor of Allan & Unwin and Freelance editor and journalist. Copello’s poetry books are Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish) and her last book Witches Women and Words published by Ginninderra Publishing. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many other print and Electronic Publications. Fiction books by author are: A Call to the Stars, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria and Beyond the Moons of August (Her Doctoral Thesis).

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