Time and again, the poetry confounds expectations and unpicks itself, structurally, grammatically, and linguistically, presenting what looks like a story, a letter, a footnote, a telegram, a Wikipedia entry, a diary entry, or even a simple poem about a single thing, only to undo the stereotype, the perception, or the form, through a reworking of its conventions.
Beyond the mistakes and the failings of humans which are highlighted in these poems, there is something that redeems us. We can, and must, love, and transcend. IV is a collection poetry about the ephemeral nature of life, of pain, about how we learn, grow, become mindful/present/enlightened, and above all, about love. No matter how much we’ve severed, sutured, eluded and deconstructed, love is always transformative.
This work is Ecopoetry at its most astute—where nature is primary, and human perception becomes transfigured by the encounter. All or nearly all of the poetry is set in The Hunter Valley, NSW (Australia), and many poems revisit these places from different perspectives, different stories, and different times of day, life, emotional contexts.
Despite its seeming simplicity, the poetry in The Guardians is condensed tightly, and though the work remains rooted in the domestic, there is a universe pulsing in each observation. Time is stretched between present and an infinite regression of past, and all that we inherit, all that is wild lurking below the surface of our lives. This is poetry that can be read again and again, each time yielding something new and powerful in its minute and expansive observations.
Though the poetry is easy to read and instantly accessible, the work operates on several levels. There is the political: the woman dispossessed, unable to afford rising Melbourne property prices (and a later nod to the global financial crisis; there is the spiritual: the idea of letting go of attachments and expectations: “I am a whisper/of butterflies”; and there is the tangible: the poet’s attempts to make a coherent life and create meaning during this period of intransience.
Devadatta’s Poems is a delightful book of poetry full of the kind of mischievous fun that comes with exploring a fallen character: an anti-hero already relegated, historically, to obscurity. Beveridge’s Devadatta is as compelling as he is repellant and his voice is one that will amuse, enlighten, and enrich readers.
At times, the poems are so full of parataxis, clever juxtaposition, ironic aside and syntactical juggling, that the poems, taken too quickly or in too large a dose can create a kind of vertigo. However, I couldn’t leave the book alone. It kept drawing me back, one poem at a time, and each time I returned I found something new; something powerful.
Autoethnographic is a difficult read. Though the poems are deceptively prosaic, they don’t yield their messages easily, and are unsettlingly dark, disjointed, and at times, so self-referential that they feel like a chaotic nightmare. But once you let go of the desire for linearity and meaning and instead open up to the linguistic subtleties, to new modes of perception, and to the revelations which are decidedly non-linear, the work becomes quite special.
Though each of the poems stands alone and indeed many of the poems in the collection were published individually, there is an underlying story that links the work together. This is a story of memory, loss, history and hubris. It’s a story about a new future and about the relics of the past that travel with us and are left behind as we transform – individually, and as a species. The poems are self-referential, memetic – with cultural ideas and motifs travelling from one poem to another, and metapoetic in a way that is somehow both humorous (at times) and profound.
Once again, Porter succeeds in that impossible juggling act of narrative and poetry. Even for the most casual of reader, El Dorado reads easily as a fast paced, intense and psychologically satisfying thriller. For those who want more than simply a quick escape, El Dorado explores complex topics of childhood innocence and guilt; love and hatred; desire and psychosis with the kind of taut intensity that only poetry can provide.