A review of Shore Lines by Andrew Taylor

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Shore Lines
by Andrew Taylor
Pitt Street Poetry
Paperback, 108 pages, ISBN: 978-1-922776-06-8, June 2023, A$28

Shore Lines by Andrew Taylor is a large collection of poetry. The book is divided into six sections, the last one being an epilogue. Each section contains a title which more or less gives you an idea of the content.

From the first section, which has as the title a quote from Wallace Stevens: Looking for what it used to be, the reader is regaled with brilliant descriptions.  Reading them gives you the feeling that you are standing on the places he writes about. 

All his poems flow with lyric rhythm whether he is talking about family routines or food and fun. The past tints his poems with nostalgic colours.  Sometimes he tells us about dead people and relatives, and sometimes about places where he lived and played. Some of the poems evoke a very strong sense of place which contrasts present and past, as in “Coogee Beach”:

It’s not a surf beach.
The waves
that evade the reef can dump you
on the steep shore and wreck your back
should you try to ride them.
it’s a crescent of gold, silvered
by patient gulls, with swarms
of back packers and diligently swimming

In all of Taylor’s poems the imagery is rich and detailed. Some of the poems take reflective turns, with themes of nostalgia and memory, often juxtaposing the strength of nature with human vulnerability and the persistence of memory.  The most poignant and evocative poems invite the reader to reflect on their own experiences of places that hold personal significance.

I enjoyed the variety of topics from visiting a famous poet like Peter Porter to a humorous poem titled “Lycidas adieu” where Taylor starts the poem with “What a relief!  Having no poems to write”. Some poems offer  candid advice about food preparation and slow cooking. Even a love poem is not missing from the collection, like the following poem, “Sydney to Lima”:

I watch the putty of your face
break to a bewildered smile
as you murmur You’re here!
How did you get here?
I almost say
By plane, by plane across the Pacific
but I whisper, By love, and by hope
and again by love. Colour
begins to waken your cheeks.

Shore Lines ends with a final section titled “Epilogue” containing three poems titled “Act I”, “Act II” and “Act III”.  These poems are in a poetic narrative style exploring “creation stories” in a humorous and modern light, focusing on god’s perspective and actions. In “Act I”, with a very whimsical and playful tone, Taylor writes about god not having a specific plan of action and decides to create ‘time’.  The conversational style breaks from the traditional, solemn religious texts, providing a fresh take on an age-old story.  

In “Act II” the poet shifts to cultural and artistic creation. The tone remains light and slightly irreverent (which I loved), particularly around the notion of god being bored and seeking new projects.  In “Act III” humans are created to destroy the beautiful garden that god had created.   

The playful irreverence of the three acts may not resonate with all readers particularly those with more traditional views on sacred text and divine portrayals. I found these acts very entertaining and funny, a welcome contrast to the majority of the poems in the book which have a very serious vein. By no means I am saying that the other poems are not entertaining, they are, but in a different way.  Andrew Taylor is an award-winning poet and academic with various poetry books to his name, Shore Lines adds another diamond to his crown.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is an award-winning poet, she writes poetry, fiction, reviews and plays. The author’s books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria, A Call to the Stars translated and published in China and Taiwan, Witches Women and Words, No Salami Fairy Bread, Rambles, Renacer en Azul and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. The author has participated in international conferences, has taught Creative Writing at W.S.U. and other scholarly institutions, she has read her poetry at Writers Festivals and other poetry events in Australia and overseas. Copello is mentioned amongst the forty “most notable people” graduated from the University of Technology.