Reviewed by Jennifer Maiden
August 2023, Paperback, 90 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1923065222
The mood of ecstatic recuperation in Noel Jeffs’ collection, Balmain Contemplations, is always flowing and engaging. He uses a generally unbroken line rhythm to convey the immediacy in physical and spiritual experiences associated with aging, an outdoor accident, an injury, a convalescence and a delighted homecoming. The setting is Balmain, and the inhabitants include dogs, birds, food and roses.
This system of imagery is woven with religious associations of annunciation or resurrection, but with an innocent freshness that removes too much knowingness or didactic artifice. The quote on the back cover is Proust’s observation that the real voyage of discovery is not travelling but seeing newly. One should observe at this point that to see something as if for the first time is not the same as seeing it once again differently, and that these two things have a separate poetic function.
There is a sense in Jeffs’ work here of experiencing things once again with more energy, affection and sharper observation (rather as the birds in it re-use wires as branches), and the feeling of a revolutionary first impression is reproduced by the pace not the diction. This is important, as Jeffs sometimes employs used phrases (not cliches) to give his narrative naturalness, and there is no sense that these are not re-defined by their context.
The book’s mood is not of rebirth but of resurrection. As such there is a general atmosphere that the novelties, even to the treat of a cup of coffee, have been well earned by the narrator, and the reader can only wish him continuing joy in them and the pleasure with which poetry eloquently blesses him
About the reviewer: Jennifer Maiden is an Australian poet. She was born in Penrith, New South Wales, and has had 37 books published: 28 poetry collections, 6 novels and 3 nonfiction works. Her current publishers are Quemar Press in Australia and Bloodaxe Books in the UK.