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Giramondo is celebrating the release of two fine new collections of poetry by John Mateer and Joanne Burns with a special book deal. Both books are available for $40 - because we love Sydney Poets.
The Portuguese traders who brought Europe to Japan in the sixteenth century were known as ‘southern barbarians’. In his new collection John Mateer offers a contemporary re-charting of the Portuguese Empire, the hemisphere of influence which ties Portugal to Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Australia, Timor, Malacca, Macau and Japan. This empire is a fugitive one, notable for its saudade, its awareness of loss, its yearning for a world that appears only intermittently in this one, as an echo, a trace, a memory. At its heart is the figure of the poet, as migrant, tourist,desterrado. His identity is inhabited by other identities, just as the place he is in reminds him of other places. He is Camões, author of Os Lusíadas, he is Pessoa of the multiple heteronyms. Haunted by doubles and reflections, accompanied by ‘spirit guides’ who pass between this world and the other, he is both ghostly andconnected wherever he goes, connected in his ghostliness.
The poems in amphora seize on the miraculous moments contained in life and language, interrogating them with scepticism, celebrating them with a comic sense of wonder. Their focus ranges from the magical exploits of saints recalled from the poet’s Catholic childhood in the opening section ‘ichoria’, to her variations on the Zen koan, customised as koannes, in the sequence ‘streamers’, which both mocks and appreciates the wisdom of paradox, to the accidental ‘out of the blue’ poems in the final sequence, ‘this week, next week, the week after’, which strike ‘domestic beatitudes’ from balloons and shoulders, dolls and stains and chairs. From such common things, from familiar words and phrases, and from the unfamiliar too, Burns draws attitudes which define a way of living – gladness, openness, curiosity, acceptance, and above all sensual delight, in the abundance of the world’s offerings and the possibilities of language: ‘may the polysemic flower bloom’.
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