Monday, March 4, 2013

Poetry Monday: Jean Kent

As some of you may know, I'll be running a session at the Newcastle Writers Festival, Saturday the 6th of April on "The State of Poetry in Australia" with David Musgrave, Jean Kent, Philip Salom, and Anna Kerdijk Nicholson.  I'm not sure I'll have time to read the latest book by each of the poets on the panel, and it's not mandatory for me to do so, but considering the quality of the people on our panel, I'm happy to have an excuse to try.  These poets are some of Australia's most dynamic, exciting, and powerful poets (and that's saying something - not that I'm biased or anything), so I'm not only going to be immersed in wonderful words in the lead up to the festival, I'm going to be sharing them here every monday.  First on the list is Jean Kent, a poet I've had the pleasure to meet on a number of occasions, since she lives reasonably close to me.  Jean's work has won a swag of awards, including the prestigious Josephine Ulrick and Dorothy Porter prizes.  Her latest book is Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebook, published by Pitt St Poetry, and launched in 2012 by Judith Beveridge. The book is something of a rich, delicate travelogue, taking the reader through Paris, Lithuania, and back to Australia.  The poems combine, in a way that Kent seems to have mastered, an intensely focused domesticity with the wonder of discovery. The scenes in these poems are as  familiar, and at times, comforting, as our own kitchens, and as unusual and alien as a foreign language.  That Kent manages the balance perfectly is part of her great talent:

So much gets lost
Between the words on one page with their scythes
And floating hats, the letters alive like the air in the forest
With gnats and bird swoops and antler hooks

I have a feeling that this is going to be a rather extraordinary conversation.

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