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

Dutton concedes nothing

The home affairs minister will not be held to account

Image of Blanche d’Alpuget and Sophie Taylor-Price

What Bob Hawke meant by aspiration

Last week’s memorial was a fitting send-off for an inspirational leader

Image of Julian Assange

The Assange project

The WikiLeaks founder faces life in prison due to the actions of the US and the UK, and the inaction of Australia

Cover image of Underland by Robert Macfarlane

The chthonic realms explored in Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland’

Cave systems, mines, urban sewers, mycelial networks, moulins and more


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 Blackpink at Coachella

Seoul trained: K-pop and Blackpink

Trying to find meaning in the carefully formulated culture of K-pop

Cover image of Underland by Robert Macfarlane

The chthonic realms explored in Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland’

Cave systems, mines, urban sewers, mycelial networks, moulins and more

Still image from 'High Life'

A master’s misstep: Claire Denis’ ‘High Life’

The French auteur chooses a sci-fi film to start over-explaining things

Photo of Leonard French underneath his stained glass ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Leonard French’s Balzacian life

Reg MacDonald’s biography may return this Australian artist to the national imagination


More in Noted

Still image from ‘Assembly’ by Angelica Mesiti

‘Assembly’ by Angelica Mesiti at Venice Biennale

The democratic ideal is explored in the Australian Pavilion’s video installation

Cover image of 'Animalia' by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

‘Animalia’ by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

The French author delivers a pastoral that turns on human cruelty

‘The Essential Duchamp’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

A comprehensive exhibition of the 20th century’s most influential artist

‘Room for a Stranger’ by Melanie Cheng

The medico-writer delivers a novel driven less by storyline than accumulated observation


Read on

Image of Blanche d’Alpuget and Sophie Taylor-Price

What Bob Hawke meant by aspiration

Last week’s memorial was a fitting send-off for an inspirational leader

Image of Julian Assange

The Assange project

The WikiLeaks founder faces life in prison due to the actions of the US and the UK, and the inaction of Australia

Image of Israel Folau

Testing faith

On Israel Folau, free speech and the problem with religious fundamentalism

Image of Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians

Where to for Indigenous recognition from here?

All eyes are on Ken Wyatt in Scott Morrison’s otherwise underwhelming ministry


×
×