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Martin Duwell Martin Duwell i(A2166 works by)
Born: Established: 1948 ;
Gender: Male
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Works By

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1 Thom Sullivan : Carte Blanche; Ella Jeffery : Dead Bolt Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Carte Blanche Thom Sullivan , 2019 selected work poetry ; Dead Bolt Ella Jeffery , 2020 selected work poetry
'Two impressive and enjoyable first books whose similarities and differences go some small way to helping map out the possibilities of contemporary lyric poetry, especially in relationship to place. The accomplished poems of Thom Sullivan’s Carte Blanche, for example, include pieces like “Moorlands” and “Hay Cutting” which apply what might be called visual lyric techniques to the rural landscape of South Australia. They exploit the always interesting tensions between compression and expansion, suggesting much in little and the general in the specific.' (Introduction)
1 Jaya Savige : Change Machine Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

'Jaya Savige’s third book has arrived nearly ten years after his second. And there was a six year gap between that book and his first. It’s not a prolific publishing record for an important younger poet but it does give the sense of major developments happening between the volumes, something that a reading of the poems themselves supports. It certainly seems a career in which risks are taken and unpredictable avenues are explored rather, as is sometimes the case with other poets, of a successful method being intensively mined to produce a book every year or so. The title of this third book is Change Machine and, though the poem of that name is about a change machine at Waterloo station which is not disinfected during the English version of the Covid crisis when “charity lags in the polls”, it can be secondarily read as a description of the poet (or perhaps, any poet) himself. (It might also refer to a poem itself though the changes poems effect are more likely to be in the life of the author than in the outer, political world where, as we all know, it “makes nothing happen”.) Notions of change and development vary of course with the situation and background of the individual. As someone of mixed Indonesian/Australian parentage born in Sydney, growing up on Bribie Island and now domiciled in England, there is a lot of hybridity in Savige’s history – something explored in “Spork” a poem from late in this book – and that must affect any ideas about development.' (Introduction)

1 Laurie Duggan : Homer Street; Selected Poems: 1971 – 2017 Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Homer Street Laurie Duggan , 2020 selected work poetry ; Selected Poems 1971-2017 Laurie Duggan , 2018 selected work poetry

'An earlier book, Leaving Here, was built around Laurie Duggan’s move to England in 2006. Homer Street is a kind of counterpart, being based on final poems in England before a return to Australia at the end of 2018. The first of its three sections is a farewell to England in the form of a valedictory poem, fittingly called, for such a visual poet, “A Closing Album” and a set of additions to his English-based series, “Allotments”. This structure (and structure is one of the things I will focus on in this brief review) is repeated in the second section where an initial poem, “Six Notes for John Forbes”, is followed by a set of additions to the Australian equivalent of “Allotments”, “Blue Hills”. The third section is an anthology of poems about painters, “not strictly ekphrastic works” as a note at the end says, but reflecting in their variety of approaches something of Duggan’s larger methods which have always involved a variety of responses to the world itself.' (Introduction)

1 Todd Turner : Thorn Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Thorn Todd Turner , 2020 selected work poetry

'A second book always gives readers a chance to see what in the first book was central and what was tangential, stuff to be got out of the way before moving on in one’s poetic career. And Todd Turner’s Thorn begins by making an immediate connection to its predecessor, Woodsmoke. The last poem of that book called “Fieldwork” in a deliberate reference to Seamus Heaney’s poem (and the book it gives its title to) was an extended move down into the detritus of a forest floor, into the lives of beetles and their larvae, nesting in the rotting remains of dead birds. It summarises the recurrent images of leaf-rot and its inhabitants which recur in the poems of that book. But it’s also about the searching as much as the symbolic significance of creative decay, the foul rag and bone shop of a particular heart, and perhaps it’s also about the limits of poetic knowledge. The first poem of Thorn is called “Thread” and is about a similar search, even if the setting is the inside of a person’s body and mind rather than the forest floor.'  (Introduction)

1 Aidan Coleman : Mount Sumptuous Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Mount Sumptuous Aidan Coleman , 2020 selected work poetry

'Aidan Coleman’s first book, Avenues & Runways, is an example of a comparatively rare thing in Australian poetry: something in the minimalist tradition. To risk a gross generalisation, Australian poetry, viewed from a very distant perspective, does seem word- and assertion- heavy as though, in a country with a very small audience and a fairly low professional standing, poetry and poets have to be seen to be working hard and producing nice thick texts. What subtle suggestivenesses there are are likely to be framed by dense text. Avenues & Runways belonged, I think, to a sub-branch of this minimalist mode which is usually called Imagism. The word (and, probably, the mode) was invented by Ezra Pound in 1915 and he is responsible for one of the examples that all poetry readers know: “In a Station of the Metro”.' (Introduction)

1 Graeme Miles : Infernal Topographies Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Infernal Topographies Graeme Miles , 2020 selected work poetry

'In a poetic culture where individual poems often seem to be cut from slabs of discourse spun out from a recognisable set of obsessions, Graeme Miles’s poems stand out as having a strong individual integrity. They are poems (this is his third book after Phosphorescence and Recurrence) which, in other words, you have to live inside a bit before they begin to suggest their power. The “recognisable set of obsessions” is there but because each poem tries to be a free-standing event, it might be better to call them interests. It does pose a problem for a reviewer since the default approach is usually to search out underlying themes. I’ll be doing this in the case of the poems from Infernal Topographies but at the back of my mind is always the knowledge that the best approach to poems like this (as in the case of the poems of Peter Porter, say) would be to look at a few in detail and comment fairly obliquely on their shared themes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for a good or readable review for readers looking for some overall sense of what a book is doing. So I’ll look mainly for patterns of themes but compensate by calling them “interests” to try to take away some of their usual dominance. If I’ve space, at the end I’ll look at one or two poems in detail.' (Introduction)

1 John A. Scott: Shorter Lives Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Shorter Lives John Scott , 2020 selected work poetry

'John A. Scott’s spectacular Shorter Lives is made up of a series of poetic biographies of crucial figures in the development of what is usually called Modernism but which, as the distance from it lengthens, looks less like a movement and more like a rejection of the nineteenth century and everything it stood for. Developments in art, literature and music, often violently ideologically opposed to each other, were gathered together by this common drive to a rejection of the past on the basis of the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And the rejection of the European nineteenth century is something that continues to this day, one hundred and twenty years after the formal end of that century, especially in the grotesque parodies of nineteenth century culture – as embodiments of all the issues contemporary Western life disapproves of – that appear in popular culture. This seems unprecedented: it’s normal to kick your parents as you struggle to make an individual life, but not normal to keep on kicking the crumbling skeletons of your great-great-grandparents.' (Introduction)

1 Martin Langford : Eardrum : Poems and Prose about Music Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Eardrum Martin Langford , 2019 selected work poetry prose

'Music is the most emotionally engaging of the arts/entertainments, the one we hold most closely to. You can lose friends after arguing about music whereas you are unlikely to lose friends claiming that Thackeray is a better novelist than Dickens or that Antonioni’s films are overrated. Martin Langford’s Eardrum is entirely about music. It is immediately engaging (at least to me) but unusually difficult to write about because one is continuously breaking off one’s own composition to argue with some specific point or to follow another one further. This usually doesn’t happen with books of poetry where a critic is able to retain a certain personal distance from what a poem wants to say about society or a tree, or wants to do in some experiment with form or language.' (Introduction)

1 Michael Farrell (ed.) : Ashbery Mode; David Stavanger and Anne-Marie Te Whiu (eds.) : Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Ashbery Mode 2019 anthology poetry ; Solid Air : Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word 2019 anthology poetry

'Anthologies tend to raise more interesting issues than individual books of poetry. It may be that they just raise different issues but that those they do raise are more obvious and pressing. They also have more structural issues than a book of poems by a single author. And then there is the question of what they assume their purpose is: to present the best, put some texts together for students, to establish a new literary-historical blueprint for the future of poetry, etc. Michael Farrell’s immensely enjoyable Ashbery Mode doesn’t try for any of these conventional aims. It is, essentially, a collection of poems celebrating the influence of John Ashbery in Australian poetry. I don’t think I have ever seen an anthology with such a rationale but that might just be an accident of my reading. At any rate, as a largely celebratory anthology – is it the poet’s equivalent of an academic Festschrift? – it makes no pretensions to creating new interpretations of the history of Australian poetry although, of course, it will select only poets seeing Ashbery as a valuable influence in their own work. And, as with a Festschrift, you have a sense of poets choosing which works to contribute. The book doesn’t anywhere say that this is the case but I’m sure, as a reader, that it is: in other words, the book’s structure isn’t entirely the work of a lone, godlike anthologist. One of its most charming features is its principle of organisation – always something of a bugbear for anthologists. It does this geographically, starting with Nicholas Powell and David Prater, Australian poets living in the reasonably remote Finland and Sweden, before working its way across the Atlantic to the West Coast of Australia, then up the East Coast, into East Asia and finally across the Pacific to the East Coast of the US.' (Publication summary)

1 David Musgrave : Numb & Number Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Numb and Number David Musgrave , 2019 selected work poetry

'On its back cover, Numb & Number describes itself as “a kind of clearing” containing poems which “open up, sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully, what it is to be in the world”. The poems will, in other words, clear away many of the obstacles to a more open, expressive poetry. But there is also a sense that this book is, perhaps, itself a “clearing house”, a collection of disparate pieces which need to be published to clear the decks for other projects. And Musgrave seems attracted to projects which are more complicated than a simple collection of individual poems. His 2016 book, Anatomy of Voice, is a remarkably ornate, almost baroque, construction “dealing with” the death of a beloved mentor but using among its structural props, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the emblem books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (As well as this, there is the fascinating experience of “auditory hallucinations” in which the mentor’s voice revisits from the past.) I mention this to make the point that there is a strong drive in Musgrave’s poetic imagination towards more complex structures than are implied in a conventional collection such as Numb & Number. It’s a book, which, for whatever reason, has a slightly rawer quality – in construction as well as in the individual poems – than both the highly structured ones and also previous works such as Phantom Limb and Concrete Tuesday.' (Introduction)

1 Rereadings IV : Richard Packer : Being Out of Order Martin Duwell , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 15 2020;

— Review of Being Out of Order : Some Poems and 'The Uncommercial Traveller' Richard Packer , 1972 selected work poetry drama

'This “Rereading”, like that of Norman Talbot’s Son of a Female Universe, takes its impetus not from the desire to investigate an entire book so much as to celebrate a much loved poem. In this case it is Richard Packer’s “The American Age” which I first saw in Tom Shapcott’s 1970 anthology Australian Poetry Now and then again, in its more natural habitat as part of a poet’s consistent output, in Being Out of Order, published two years later. I’ve known it, in other words, for just about half a century and I could still, if pressed, quote most of it from memory.' (Introduction)

1 Peter Boyle : Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

— Review of Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness Peter Boyle , 2019 selected work poetry

'This remarkable book is a kind of livre composé covering the twenty months which begin with the author’s discovery that his partner is suffering from an incurable disease. One’s initial response is that this will provide a difficult test not only for the author himself, but also for the Romance-influenced, surreal (to use a loose term loosely) poetic mode that Peter Boyle has pioneered throughout his career and which I have written about at some length on this site in reviews of his other work. Sometimes the background landscapes of his poems, though fictional, anchor them in at least the illusion of a solid reality: Apocrypha was, for example, an anthology of different kinds of poetry produced by different cultures in an imagined alternative world; Ghostpeaking was an anthology of poems produced by imaginary Romance language speakers whose biographies were provided – also anchoring the poems in some way. Here, the pain that anchors the poems is oppressively realistic and one feels, initially, that it might be difficult for readers to respond to conceptually elegant poems of dreams and dream images which are tied to a painful experience which they have either experienced themselves or can relate empathically to.' (Introduction)

1 Barry Hill: Eagerly We Burn : Selected Poems 1980 – 2018 Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

— Review of Eagerly We Burn Barry Hill , 2019 selected work poetry

'At fewer than two hundred pages, Eagerly We Burn – the title is taken from one of the poems in a collaborative book with the artist, John Wolseley, devoted to birds – is a restrained and tight selected given the size of Barry Hill’s poetic output. The poems are organised by book but retrospectively (ie beginning with new work and ending with Hill’s first book, Raft) and there’s quite a bit of revision, especially of the earlier work, though it’s not rewriting, more a matter of adjusting and polishing. Raft was published when its author was forty-seven and the earliest poems in it were written when he was forty. That’s a late start for a poet but it does provide some clues that might help frame a description of what Hill has done and is doing. One gets a strong sense that the poems arise from what one is tempted to call “projects” though this can convey an inaccurate impression of a preconceived and planned intellectual quest. Hill’s projects might better be described as long term engagements with certain cultural, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and artistic experiences. Not necessarily an unusual source of poems but seldom done so exhaustively. Engagements like that are part of the powerful drive to extend the borders of the self, to, in Auden’s words, “twig from what we are not what we might be next”, and they tend to begin in maturity.' (Introduction)
1 John Jenkins : Poems Far & Wide Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

— Review of Poems Far and Wide John Jenkins , 2019 selected work poetry

'The book’s title says it all in a way. Few recent books have shown such a variety of styles and poetic modes The styles range from sharp, Duggan-like, found poems – “Overheard on bus // It was like . . . / grasping at fogwebs” – to extended meditations, parodies and (in “The Annual Eros Motor Joyride”) exhaustive explorations of a single comic idea. The modes range from lyric to narrative and all the varieties within them. It takes a little while and a few rereadings to work out that this is not a grab-bag of recent work (“compendium” might be a politer word) but a coherent book, attempting, with some deliberateness, to push the boundaries of the possible in poetry, to reject conventional consistency which is, as one of the poems says, “a bloodless abstract, a lesser good”.' (Introduction)

1 Judith Rodriguez : The Feather Boy & Other Poems Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

— Review of The Feather Boy and Other Poems Judith Rodriguez , 2018 selected work poetry

'It’s a sad fact that The Feather Boy is Judith Rodriguez’ final book of poems. She died late last year. It comes after a long publishing lull. Once having gotten underway as one of the four Brisbane poets of Four Poets in 1961 (where she published as Judith Green) she published books at a fairly conventional rate up to her New and Selected Poems of 1988, but after that her publications became rather sparser. The Feather Boy is really a retrospective collection of poems written after that date – as she says on the book’s cover “These are poems of nearly thirty years”. The cover also apologises for the resulting lack of “a tightly-themed book” before going on to say that the times demand a book of varied concerns and interests as do the variety of “people encountered”. There is a clue here to the book’s genre. It seems to me to be a “final book”, a certain kind of “late work” in which the author allows him or herself a good degree of latitude. I was struck by the similarities with Gwen Harwood’s final book, The Present Tense with its “Six Odes for Public Occasions”. In Rodriguez’ case this means including poems which lash out at the outrages of the period and those that celebrate friendships – usually those in which the friend has already died. Comic doggerel poems get to be included (the annual ASAL parody nights have a lot to answer for here) whereas they would have never made it into earlier, “straighter” books. All in all, there is a certain unbuttoning in poetic matters and a focussing on the humane values of friendship as the dark comes ever closer and everything is pared down to essentials. In fact, friends – in this genre – perhaps replace children as the centre of intimate interaction, presumably because, in advanced age, one’s the children have long since metamorphosed into separate and probably reasonably distant human beings.' (Introduction)

1 Robert Harris : The Gang of One: Selected Poems Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'The Gang of One is one of those literary rescue efforts that need to be both encouraged and supported. Robert Harris, who died at the young age of forty-two, was never a dominant figure in Australian poetry, a fact demonstrated by his spotty inclusions in the various anthologies of the time. Had it not been for this book, a selection from his five books, together with some journal-published poems and some unpublished ones, selected by Judith Beveridge and with a good introduction by Philip Mead, he might have disappeared forever, like so many others. Instead readers can now get a far better perspective on a decidedly odd, and in many ways impressive, career.' (Publication summary)

1 Sarah Day : Towards Light and Other Poems Martin Duwell , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'Sarah Day’s previous book, Tempo, was loosely concerned, as its title suggests, with time not as an overarching or structuring theme but rather as topic or perspective that recurred in what might have, otherwise, looked like quite different poems. There are plenty of poems about time in this new book, Towards Light, but the most important theme seems to be the issue of wholeness and its counterpart, dissolution, especially expressed in the opposition of light and dark. The last section is devoted to a particularly painful and personal experience of dissolution in her mother’s experience of Parkinsonism and her eventual death. The poems here are never a mere list of horrors but are always clear-eyed and analytical: the entire section reflects this in its title, “The Grammar of Undoing”. It’s tempting to see it as a theme subtly announced in the first two poems of the first section of the book: “Fe” (whose title is the chemical symbol for iron) is about the movement of Magnetic North, and “Fog” is about the way a visual image of a ferryman on a lake is obliterated by fog.'  (Introduction)

1 Emma Lew : Crow College: New and Selected Poems Martin Duwell , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'Reading Emma Lew’s first book, The Wild Reply, in 1997 I was tempted to guess that the generative method of its powerful poems was based on something like putting the characters of one novel into a quite different novel (usually Central European or Russian) – say like transferring the characters of Great Expectations into Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago – isolating a scene and then writing it as a fragmented monologue or third person narration removing all clues as to what either of the original novels might have been. Spending some time with Lew’s poetry while looking at this new and selected poems makes me realise how inadequate this guess was (though it has retained its attraction, to me at least, as an interesting way of generating a certain kind of poem).' (Introduction)

1 Simon West : Carol and Ahoy Martin Duwell , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'Simon West’s fourth book begins with two poems which, in a way, embody the major themes of the work. The first, “River Tracks”, is a kind of celebration of the Goulburn River working its way north-west through Victoria to its meeting with the Murray just before Echuca. It’s a free-flowing meditative poem (recalling someone like Coleridge) and one’s first response is that this kind of poetry is a long way from the Italian influenced lyrics of West’s other books but the word “free-flowing” is slightly and importantly inaccurate. Inland Australian rivers aren’t free-flowing, they are muddy, rainfall-affected, often broken streams and “River Tracks” wants to exploit this quality. It isn’t just a matter of making a poem which mimics its subject: the rest of West’s poems show us that it is more likely that he sees an unavoidable harmony between what he wants his poems to do and the landscape that he inhabits. And it is a very distinctive landscape of river red gums standing in the channels, overflows and sandbanks of the Murray and its tributaries. The poetry, to match this, wants to move not by logical or imagistic assertion towards a triumphal conclusion but by surprising shifts and disjunctions. The significances which poetry seeks won’t be found here in a steady flood flowing majestically out to meet the sea but in oddities and surprises symbolised in the isolated pools left behind near the river after a flood event. So the poem ends with the poet, walking around a park in Shepparton made on the site of a place where the river has scoured out a track which it will fill at the next flood “letting us bide for a bit in common reflection”. These words, the poem’s end, are designed to be read in a number of ways. The first would stress the word “common” with its double sense of ordinary, unpretentious, far from the conventional Romantic sublime but also of communal, social, far from an incipient Romantic solipsism. Another would focus on the word “reflection” – also a crucial term in Romantic epistemology – with its double meaning of thought and physical reflection: the water will cover the complexities of the muddy, detritus-filled ground that West is very interested in and reflect the sky.' (Introduction)

1 Clive James : The River in the Sky Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'It’s probably fair to say that Clive James’s conventional poetry isn’t widely admired by practising poets in Australia and one can see what the problem is. Most of the poems (there are exceptions) are beautifully wrought objects whereby what is essentially a prose idea – an understanding of an experience, a representation of an emotion – forms the structure of the poem. You can hear people arguing that this isn’t what poetry is at all. It’s not that the poems of his various selecteds and the most recent individual volumes, especially those written since the onset of his serious illness, are not often brilliantly achieved it’s that they rarely take the author and reader into surprising and unpredictable areas: into new meanings that can’t be encapsulated in elegant sentences. The River in the Sky (we met the title – a translation of the Japanese words for the Milky Way – at the end of his last book of memoirs where it was floated as a title for a novel about the Pacific War) might be a book which bypasses all these problems. There is a quality of undeterminedness about it which is very attractive. It might be described loosely as a collection of memorable experiences (some of which are familiar from the autobiographical volumes and earlier poems). But the interesting part is the structure whereby these experiences are organised. I’m not sure that James is himself entirely sure about the nature of this structure though, being far cleverer than most of his readers or critics, he can suggest a lot of possibilities – there’s never anything dumb about James’s uncertainties. And that uncertainty makes reading The River in the Sky all the richer an experience.' (Introduction)

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