Blue Giraffe 6 is a very satisfying read and Peter Macrow is to be congratulated for his choice of poems that resonate with one another in profound and at times unexpected ways.
A poem beckons
eagerly I reach for it
beyond the mind’s edge.
Jennifer Furst’s stanza from her poem ‘Five Seven Five’ could easily describe the effect on the reader of many of the poems in this anthology.
The theme of Blue Giraffe 6 is, as it turns out, the landscape of death and grief in all its mystery and everyday human detail. In exploring the experience of death, many of the poems here ponder that aspect most difficult to verbalise, but paradoxically present nonetheless: the sense defined by the space where he is not as Liz Winfield puts it in her poem: ‘after the fall’; or an unthinking chance as in Jennifer Furst’s other poem: ‘To Kate As She Leaves Us’; or grief as symbolised by a creaking blue door in Megan Schaffner’s war poem: ‘Every Day a Blue Door’.
The featured poet in Blue Giraffe 6 is Anne Kellas whose poetry I always reach for eagerly. These central poems are the anthology’s meta-physical thread: their ethereal, philosophical quality takes us even further into this essentially enigmatic space, leaving us to meditate on the cloud of unbeing as in her poem: ‘Journey to my son July 2006’. We accompany Anne feeling my ways through words as she attempts to grasp the essence of that uncanny absence we each experience in different ways, after someone close to us has died and we become as Anne suggests fractions of ourselves.
Death can also teach us that living the moment matters. And so to the other poems in the anthology that celebrate some of life’s intriguing patterns. As Jenny Barnard writes in her poem ‘Deep Song’: World is our making/ tears, bones, art, laughter, shadows. Blue Giraffe 6, like most good anthologies, has its share of poems that celebrate the energy of the natural world: here our gaze is directed to winter, seaweed, light, herons, insects: The earth is insect mad writes Richard Hillman in his poem: ‘When It’s Too Hot to Play’ and we can easily imagine a certain kind of summer intensity; while Sally Clarke vividly describes Spiders stitching carport to pergola, jacaranda to hills hoist in her poem ‘Spider’.
Human domesticity is detailed in settings that tell of street life, the world of children and the secret, forgotten things found behind wardrobes. Venturing outwards, other poems tell us stories about Bollywood, life in a psychiatric hospital, and the local swimming pool as a place of sexual awakening. The life of poetry in which we poets all have dinky jobs as Anne Morgan cheekily proclaims is also explored, as is the life of art as portrayed by Christiane Conesa-Bostock in her poem ‘Painters or Models’.
All good poetry celebrates language. rob walker’s poem: ‘shall I compare thee’ is a clever and amusing examination of contemporary vernacular at its most abstract. I read this poem out loud a few times with great enjoyment and wondered what a person learning English for the first time might make of it. It would be a great performance piece.
There are many lines from Blue Giraffe 6 that beckon and stay to grow into something that settles deep within you as you read and re-read. I encourage you to buy a copy in the hope that you will enjoy them as much as I did. Congratulations to all those involved in Blue Giraffe who made this latest anthology so special.