It is in the extended anthropomorphism of animals where Gibbins’ work really shines. My favourite poem in the collection remains “Field Guide”, where the a range of creatures are allowed to express themselves in such a poignant way that their unique essential characteristics are illuminated at the same time as they highlight something utterly relevant to the human condition.
Jessica Bell’s Fabric is a rich collection of poems that take the reader on a deep tour of the psyche. Charting and moving across politics of language, Bell explores love, pain, failure and redemption from a variety of angles. Most of the poems sit at the fragile threshold of instinct and meaning, using symbol and sensation to get to the shock of denouement.
Regardless of topic, from war, oyster bars, junk yards, to fluency, the reader never finds a word out of place, over frilly phrases or rigid format. Instead, the poet offers clear language, with specificity of detail and style that meets the needs of the poem.
One of the key links between both sections are mountains – the linked chain between the past and present; between Korea and Australia. There is always, a great deal of respect for the native landowners – the Yugambeh people whose stories and artwork are present throughout the narrative.
The blurb on the back says it all: “This is David Barnes’ first and last book.” That David ever came to be a poet is a kind of miracle in itself. He’s an unlikely candidate. A ward of the state, placed in institutions and physically and sexually abused – there was little likelihood that he would become a functioning adult, let alone a loving one who could have a happy relationship, a much-loved son a self-deprecating sense of humour – or a writing career.
I’ve always found the term ‘experimental literature’ to be unsatisfactory, since it begs so many questions. For a start, what hypothesis is being tested? Then again, how would you know that the experiment – if such it is – has been successful? Only if the hypothesis has been confirmed? Yet what if the experiment had done its job, by providing a rigorous trial?
By the time the work gets to “Days of Violence days of Rages”, the extended poem becomes an incantation of pain moving Alice through an entire lifetime of sex, communism, childbirth, betrayal, loneliness, illness and death. It’s both intensely powerful and at the same time, self-indulgent and bitter.
I especially liked when she reaches a moment of spirituality in “Dream” that has a happy, feel to it “… Your eyes quivering in the light / Where is God / But in a dream where / the light between us, always yellow …” hints that there is something more one can obtain beyond our life.
Throughout, there’s a lot of luminous polemic, a slue of terrific poems (Man Ray’s ‘Untitled’ was a new one on me), a bevy of insights about art and poetry. If you are looking for a classy thought-provoking rant, if you want something to stir and shake you up and perhaps inspire you to start writing poems (if you don’t already) then The Art of Recklessness is prescribed.
Although the price is rather steep, even for a textbook, this isn’t a book you can just read through, put back on the shelf and forget. For those that want an insight, both as reader, and perhaps more valuably, as writer, into the techniques of poetry in general, and those specific to the giants of poetry that make up the ultra-influential modernist movement, this is a book that can be returned to regularly. It is well structured, well researched, clearly written, and full of innovative insights.