Though these are personal poems, rooted in love, loss, grief, and rebirth, there is a strong, though subtle underlying politic which takes the form of advocacy. Collective empowerment is an important theme throughout the work, linking back to the title–kindness as a radical act.
Even at its most intense, Blackford’s poetry never stops being warm, accessible and humorous. The Alpaca Cantos is beautifully presented with thick paper, careful layouts, with lovely drawings by artist Gwynneth Jones. These are poems that are both complex and simple, tragic and yet infused with delight and an almost impish joy in the day-to-day.
It’s as if, by bringing in a multitude of varying voices including some multilingual, we begin to see a common humanity in the recognition that comes with such intense vulnerability, anger, self-reflection, empathy, and perhaps above all, the radical inclusion that is not only evident throughout the poems in this collection, but a powerful underlying theme.
Belief is an elaborate mosaic where the tiles are words; paradoxes, satire and the vernacular adorn the pages of this beautifully crafted book. Belief is divided into seven sections, each section opens a door to two worlds: one the writer’s imagination and psyche and the other opens to the external world.
There is an exuberance here; a delight in the word, in the construction of the self, the abnegation of the self, and in the sheer pain and joy of living, losing, and loving, that comes through each of the poems.
These are poems that pivot on a moment: a chance meeting, a sudden change in situation, or a close observation that takes something commonplace such as an afternoon on the back verandah watching fireworks, driving a vehicle, or reading the news and moves in so close it becomes abstract: a synecdoche for something else. In a way that’s Proustian, the imagery gives rise to a memory, or a perception which is emotive and powerful, revealing something subtle about the world.
Beatific Toast is a poetry collection that is as rich with silence and music as it is with semantical meaning. Though the book is only fifty nine pages long – chapbook size – there is a lot of ground covered, with poetry open enough to encourage and reward multiple re-readings. These are poems are charged by sound, by light, by colour and scent, inviting the reader to join in, to participate, not just by reading the work but by moving with it.
The poems take us to the brink of who we are in many aspects: animal, alien, destroyers, inhabitants, lovers, indivudals and collectives. These are poems that make no concessions to humanity’s frailties. We’re about to reap what we’ve sown and all of these exquisite conceits may be illusions against time’s inevitable collapse: “but all these vapours will be unmade” (“The Woodland Chapel”), and yet there is something audaciously beautiful, subversive and permanent in the moment of our experience, in the placement and play of language and in the almost languid sensuality of touch.
Though the poems in Green Point Bearings are grounded in the natural world and are rooted in place, particularly Lake Macquarie, the Hunter and Northern Sydney, there is also something a bit magical in these poems. There is a mystery in this natural world that is inexplicable, arising from the spaces in which the poems are contained, in the rock, the trees, the flowers and shrubs that are everywhere and still precious, always in motion and changing: “Everything here speaks of infinity”.
The observations are visceral, coming from within a strong sense of the body. Thinness and its relationship to illness is a continual theme, though very different to the analytical approach of Small Acts of Disappearance. In Domestic Interior the perceptions are simultaneously more delicate and more intense, drawing the reader directly into the deepest heart of pain. The body and its relationship to food informs nearly every perception.