April 2009

Arts & Letters

‘The Striped World’ by Emma Jones

By Alexandra Coghlan

Awarded Australia's prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2005 for her poem ‘Zoos for the Dead', it is with the publication of her debut collection, The Striped World, that Emma Jones makes her first inroads into the broader poetic consciousness. She also becomes the first Australian poet to be published by literary kingmakers Faber & Faber. Eliot, Larkin, Plath and Hughes all made their home and their mark between Faber's trademark cardboard covers, and this collection finds Jones not only being situated but aesthetically situating herself in this tradition.

The poems speak of Australia, of the uncertain orphan autonomy and historical ambivalence of the postcolonial world, but they refract these concerns through a recognisably Eurocentric framework. Jones is a highly educated and skilled ventriloquist; through the collection you hear her trying out different voices, whether the conversational lyricism of Larkin, in ‘Window', or the playful irreverence of Eliot, in ‘A Literary History'. If the result is a little frenetic, a little unfocused in tone, it also (consciously or unconsciously) vividly enacts the painstaking sculpting of self, a process undertaken daily by Australia's artists.

Jones's striped world pulses, shifts and ticks with the impatient energy of transition and gestation. We are stalked by caged tigers - "the bars were the lashes of the stripes / the stripes were the lashes of the bars" - and lulled by the "grey babel tongues" of parrots; yet, just as we are in danger of losing ourselves in words, we are brought up short: "I prefer the word / for the thing to the thing itself." Jones's confession recalls Adrienne Rich's ‘Diving into the Wreck' (a poem echoed in Jones's ‘Zoos for the Dead') and her quest for "the wreck and not the story of the wreck / the thing itself and not the myth". For Rich, "words are maps", ciphers through which to read the world rather than destinations; if Jones's poems are still largely concerned with their own poetic processes, with the "story of the wreck" and not the wreck itself, it's only a matter of time before her bold writing finds its own voice, and with it the ability to journey beyond itself. Until that journey begins, you could do worse than sojourn in the dynamic verbal landscapes of The Striped World.

Alexandra Coghlan

Alexandra Coghlan is the classical music critic for the New Statesman. She has written on the arts for the Guardian and Prospect.

Cover: April 2009

April 2009

From the front page

Morrison on song

The PM set some markers for the public service … but can he be trusted?

Image of Nigel Farage at CPAC in Sydney

Making sense of CPAC

Why the Conservative Political Action Conference should not be dismissed lightly

Image from ‘Midsommar’

Pagan poetry: the studied strangeness of Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’

The ‘Hereditary’ director micro-manages the mania in his new film

Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet

‘Monet: Impression Sunrise’ at the National Gallery of Australia

Impressionism’s namesake painting is at the heart of a masterful collection from the Musée Marmottan Monet


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Paul Keating & Jack Lang

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Born again

‘Things We Didn’t See Coming’ by Steven Amsterdam

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Time loop


More in Arts & Letters

Photo of Adam Goodes

Swan song: Documenting the Adam Goodes saga

Two documentaries consider how racism ended the AFL star’s career

Book covers

Robot love: Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’ and Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Frankissstein’

Literary authors tackle sentience and rationality in AI, with horrific results

Photo of Margot Robbie

Popcorn maker: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’

The tide may have turned against the director’s juvenile instincts and misogynist violence

Photo of Lil Nas X

Happy trails: Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’

The gay country-rapper exposes the complex play of identity, algorithms and capitalism


More in Noted

Cover of ‘The White Girl’ by Tony Birch

‘The White Girl’ by Tony Birch

An emotionally eloquent novel about the necessary inheritance of strength in Indigenous women

Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet

‘Monet: Impression Sunrise’ at the National Gallery of Australia

Impressionism’s namesake painting is at the heart of a masterful collection from the Musée Marmottan Monet

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history

Cover image of ‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

An accidental death in a tale of immigrant generations highlights fractures in the promise of America


Read on

Image of Nigel Farage at CPAC in Sydney

Making sense of CPAC

Why the Conservative Political Action Conference should not be dismissed lightly

Image from ‘Midsommar’

Pagan poetry: the studied strangeness of Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’

The ‘Hereditary’ director micro-manages the mania in his new film

Image of director Quentin Tarantino and actor Margot Robbie

Quentin Tarantino’s Sisyphean task

The polarising director and actor Margot Robbie on making ‘Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’

Image from ‘Succession’

Heirs unapparent: ‘Succession’

The HBO comedy-drama returns for another gleefully toxic season


×
×