Shari Kocher The Non-Sequitur of Snow Puncher and Wattmann (Sydney) 2015
So then let the Mountain be.
Let the hush of apples and ladders be as they are.
Let the shoes empty that enter the traffic
and release from its flow
the hush of the halo. Let the hush be
a halo. Let there be mourning any time of day.
This book is a little gem. It is perhaps the first Australian poetry collection I have reviewed on a blog devoted to NZ Books but the borders of my blog are porous.
Reading this book prompts diverse reader responses. You never know what effect the next poem will have upon you and I like that. Nonetheless, there are hinges that unify, that hold the collection in a single embrace.
First the initial impact. There is an over-riding sense of simplicity in the spareness on the page, the quietness of voice, the restraint, the vocal elegance. The effect promotes stillness, contemplation, slowness of reading. At this leisurely pace, there is an opportunity for an exquisite absorption of detail.
And then simplicity gives way to complexity, richness, relations, strangeness. Contemplation skews and slants as you shift between the real and the dream-like real. Flavoursome nouns salivate upon the tongue. Recollection is filtered through a surreal undertow. You fall upon the child, the lover, the family, the mother, the sister. Angels, apples, ladders, snow.
crowded in drawers or leaning
precariously by the sink
their metal mouths
pursed and shrinking
the way my mother shrank from us
as if each child that swelled inside her
gouged her out a little more
Complexity gives way to a poetry echo chamber where words and phrases are picked up from one poem to the next like little loose stitches and rendered in a slightly different pattern. Faint echos that feed into the book’s predilection to repeat. Some poems play with form and smudged repeating lines like offvillanelles. That repetition is comforting. Sometimes it is just a word such as ‘let’ that resonates like the drip of snow melt.
So many poems to love but I especially loved ‘A Letter to Dorthy Hewett’ where Shari pays tribute to the Australian poet she loved at the news of her death. She draws her into the space of her living and writing and talks. That talk drags me into the heart of poetry.
Here are the first and last stanzas:
I’d always imagined
I’d meet you one day
just two women
going along the path
in a parallel world …
stripping me bare
they shout aloud
in tongues that flare
the skin around my bones
bidding me, as Lazarus was bid,
to get up and go outside
to keep on loving, and to live.
You will have to track down this utterly gorgeous read and find the missing pieces. It is worth the hunt! After several decades of writing poems, Shari’s debut collection is one to celebrate.