Tag Archives: shari kocher

Shari Kocher’s The Non-Sequitur of Snow – This book is a little gem

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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.

 

from ‘Snowmelt’

 

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

 

from ‘Spoons’

 

 

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

nothing spectacular

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.

 

Verge 15 — If all the issues have this vitality, and take you to a verge in such distinctive ways, it is worth a subscription

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poetry is the mouthpiece of the unspeakable

Verge is a literary journal published by Monash University Publishing. The Press aims to bring ‘to the world publications which advance the best traditions of humane and enlightened thought.’

This issue is edited by two women with New Zealand links. Joan Fleming is a poet currently writing a doctorate on ethnopoetics at Monash University. Her second poetry collection, Failed Love Poems, has just been released by Victoria University Press. Anna Jaquiery is a Wellington based novelist. Pam Macmillan (UK) have published two of her crime novels. She is also completing a doctorate at Monash University in Creative Writing.

This issue contains poems and short fiction, and includes a number of writers with New Zealand connections (including Emma Barnes, Amy Brown, Lynn Davidson, Rosa McGregor, Lee Posna, Erin Scudder, Steven Toussaint, Sugar Magnolia Wilson).

 

Joan has written a terrific introduction that sent me down trails of sparking thought in view of my new project on NZ women’s poetry. She introduces the life-blood theme of the issue: errance (‘1. the act of travelling from one place to another without any clear destination 2. a wandering of the mind’).

Such a poetic prompt stands in for the way many writers work. Yes, there is a starting point but you then let go into uncertainty, discovery, uncertainty, electricity. Joan writes: ‘What we know and can’t know is a personal obsession of mine. I try and practice a mode of attuned, sensitive ignorance in my own poetry, as well as in my research.’ The word ‘can’t’ — a tiny hook as though taboo or impenetrable or withheld.

‘Errance’ also stood for the way I engaged with the issue as reader. In a sense (aural, visual), the work is afterness (Post Language) in that it steps out of Language Poetry. A thin, almost invisible guy rope. You enter into murkiness, the unfamiliar, difficulty, miniature theatrical stages, staged heart, aural agility, sumptuous image building, dissolution, elusive meaning, skerricks of story, smidgeons of character, semantic hinges. Aural chords. Visual melodies. Sharps and flats for ear and eye. What binds this collection of writing is an utterly infectious joy of language. A love of the word on the page — of the way this word electrifies that word. Or mutes. Or sidetracks.

I loved the metonymic kick between this word and that word, this presence and that absence, this gesture and that arrival.

Always poetic currency fermenting in the gaps.

 

Here are some of the poems I loved:

Cody-Rose Clevidence (I can’t reproduce the title correctly as the first word is crossed out) but the poem is from ‘Flung Throne.’ The looping, loping syntax brings you back to the word, then steers you to a pulsing visual tapestry. Hairs raising on the back of my arm as I read this.

Lee Posna ‘Job’s Clouds’ The poem takes ‘cloud’ as its poetic core and then surprises you at every twist and turn. The last line catches you, utterly.

Steven Toussaint from ‘Aevum Measures’ Reading this for me is a Zen-like experience where I get drawn into the moment of a line ( a word, a phrase) and everything stalls. The language — resplendent for the eye, divine notes for the ear. Poetry then becomes transcendental. Uplifting. Leads you elsewhere. Beyond this, for me, the surprising metonymic glints are a vital feature.

Cy Mathews ‘Old Song’ This is like a road poem, a skinny road poem (part fable)  spining down the page where nothing much happens, like that view that is always the same, never shifting, until you spend time and learn to look and there you are nestled in its alluring grip and difference.

Shari Kocher ‘Errancy: A Primer, after Emily Dickinson’ Poems split in two halves with an empty backbone that makes reading variable. You move through honeyed melody and crackling connections. Over that split between left and right. Up down. I acquired a compendium of phrases I want to keep with me for awhile.

 

Reading this issue it felt as though there is something in the air we are breathing. A poetry mist/spray that gets into our lungs. Motifs echo. Poetry here invites a different way of reading, yet never lets go of eye and ear. And still, in the very best examples, you meet that drumming heart. In the white space, the cracks, the cloudy patches, in the inbetween.

If all the issues have this vitality, and take you to a verge in such distinctive ways, it is worth a subscription. Bravo!