After all manner of ‘changes, transformations, alterations, mutations, re-orderings, transfigurations, conversions, variations, reorganisations, evolutions, metamorphoses, modifications and reconstructions’ Brief has re-emerged.
Olivia Macassey remains editor and the issue is dedicated to Jill Chan, poet and writer (1973 – 2018).
This is a journal where writers play with what words on the page do but not to the point they are denied heart, art or musical impact. The reading effects are multiple. Take essa may ranapiri – with their spiky yet lyrical movements from body to more body (desirable?) to falling lark to unsated tabby.
In Brief‘s pages words are inclined to go bold, stretch out or drift and float on the white space of reading. Loren Thomas’s ‘Wrists’ ( I have not read her before!) offers friendship links, bracelets and then pulls that into question with the white-space hiccups in the middle.
Then again you might delight in John Downie’s poetry sequence; it’s built along a time line in stanzas hugging the left-hand margin and a strong sense of narrative. It may be autobiography or invention but I look forward to the forthcoming book with accompanying images it is taken from: The Only Time: an autobiography in twelve pictures.
The mark of a good journal is that it keeps you moving through diverse and distinctive fascinations. I move from the single breath piece by Carin Smeaton (‘what to do with them all’) that I just want to hear read aloud to the agile wit of Nick Ascroft’s ‘Bring Me a Pie’ (just love this couplet: ‘pull itself through the spitty drizzle,/ the rice pudding of town’).
I delight in the tropical heat of Lisa Samuels where words block out the immediate world because it is just you and the poem and you want to set up residence. I am thinking tropical because her writing shimmers in ways that are both intensely real and satisfyingly unreal.
Then again there is the audacious imagination of Chris Stewart’s ‘My father is an elephant’ that reads like a strange and wonderful children’s story written for adults:
I have a grey memory
of my father the elephant.
His ears brushed the dust
on my mother, but I never
heard his trumpet fountain
any water when her skin was dry.
I checked his bio and he won The Margaret Mahy Prize at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. I can see why. His poems have appeared in multiple journals but it is clearly now time for a collection!
I have barely scratched the surface because my fascinations include writing by Iain Britton, John Adams, Vaughan Rapatahana, Jack Ross, Erik Kennedy, Bronwyn Lloyd. I am super conscious that the issue is so varied in direction and intent that a reader will find quite different points to linger over with heart and intellect on diverse settings.
I am a fan of literary journals because at their best they reacquaint me with old favourites, introduce new voices, make me hungry for more and most importantly, make me want to write. brief 56 is no exception.
Dust to Dust
Five hundred years from now,
we’ll, of course, be dead.
will unearth our bodies
and miss our minds.
How they will dare to think.
What will they find of us ?
What does the heart leave behind
that is not buried,
that is not saved?
Brief 56 page
John Dwnie’s poem and colour reproductions