3 January 2017

Chris Ringrose of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, on The white room poems

In a recent overview of nine of Walleah Press's poetry books in recent years, Chris Ringrose wrote:

"The most consistently elegiac of these volumes is Anne Kellas’s The White Room Poems, a very distinguished collection of poems revolving around the drug-related death in Switzerland of Anne’s son. At the Melbourne launch of the book, at the admirable Collected Works Bookshop, I was struck by the mixture of qualities in the poetry as it was read aloud: the frailty and anguish alongside the resilience and creativity, and the intimacy of tone allied to an obliqueness of approach. The book travels through memories, dreams, fears and premonitions of disaster to confront the death itself, the reactions of others, and then on to a still coda set in various Tasmanian settings including Cornelian Bay and Tinderbox Marine Reserve. The halting, musical, brief lines demand to be read slowly, and release their meaning gradually. This is a text to be read and re-read, for its patient anguished exploration of grief, the interaction of its literary contexts (Coetzee, Basho, Celan, The Cloud of Unknowing), and significant contrasting locations in South Africa (where Anne Kellas was born), Europe and Tasmania. It is hard to do justice here to the ominous snatches of dialogue (‘You don’t like my friends!’ says son to mother at one point [42]) or the regrets and questionings:
If I had listened well, would you be here?
Typing, with your castanet fingers,
rests at the end of the bar, treble clefs and silences, pauses
And expert world falls
all your silent silent, silent poems
You never shared with me ...
Australian Poetry Journal, December 2016, vol. 6. n.2

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