John Kinsella, Drowning In Wheat: Selected Poems 1980-2015. Sydney, New South Wales: Picador 2016. RRP: 32.99, 400pp. ISBN: 9781447221487
John Kinsella, Firebreaks. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc 2016. RRP: 30.95, 288pp. ISBN: 9780393352610
John Kinsella has released four books in 2016 (in addition to the three discussed below is the recently launched limited edition three-volume set, Graphology Poems: 1995-2015, published by 5 Islands Press), and, as juvenile a line of enquiry as it may seem, it is interesting to consider the environmental costs of such prolificacy. It is possible, with a little research and arithmetic, to approximate the number of trees felled for the printed pages of Kinsella’s poetry over the years; but how to count or account for the seeds—both literal and metaphorical—planted by readings of the same?
Another question: What might be the collective noun for poems? A collection? An anthology? Stale Objects depress recently published a ‘chrestomathy’ featuring poems from Elena Gomez, Autumn Royal, Claire Nashar and others… To refine the question: what might be the collective noun for the more than forty books worth of John Kinsella’s poems? A collective noun for the poems selected from 23 collections—from 1997’s retrospective Poems 1980-1994 to A Shared Wonder Of Light (2016), a collaboration with photographer John D’Alton documenting West Cork and Kerry, published by Whyte Books—and collated in Drowning In Wheat? Or those from Firebreaks?
A flock of poems?
The leaves, like wire, are so tangled
A ring-necked parrot drops into flight
fence posts collapse and ossify
(‘Old Hands/New Tricks’, 13).
fences’ sunk to gullies
catching the garbage of paddocks
(‘Pillars of Salt’, 18).
find nothing but sky
and wire trembling
(‘A Rare Sight’, 85).
the metalman speaks in tongues to his Vulcan
son, who, deep in their alchemy, acknowledges only
with jets of flame
(‘The Fire in the Forty-Four’, 112).
on seeing Mont Blanc – THE POEM –
and not Mont Blanc – THE MOUNTAIN –
the surrounding plains
with their finely etched topography
can be brought into focus (75).
We can see the Wheatbelt, Wireless Hill, a Warhol or West Calf Island, Ireland—THE FLOCK— and bring the wider world that supports and surrounds the subjects of these poems into focus.
Ward off the solstice from my flock, for now
Comes on the burning summer, now the buds
Upon the limber vine-shoot ‘gin to swell (Eclogues VII)
They vary by the second. Time
is their main ingredient, their shape
is colour: of bark, of grass, of sand,
of clay, of rock, of sky, of fence,
of beetle, of fly, of bird. They
are interwoven cuttings of colour.
All colour is contact but nothing
is primary (220).
Corella outside its flock
a frantic daylight angel. Flourishing still-life (208).
Kinsella, John. ‘The Long Poem and The Sequence,’ Spatial Relations. Volume Two: Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Chorography. New York: Rodopi, 2013: 95-98.
Virgil. The Eclogues (trans. J. B. Greenough). Adelaide: The University Of Adelaide, 2014. Sourced online at: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/v/virgil/v5e/index.html
Dave Drayton is an amateur banjo player, Vice President of the Australian Sweat Bathing Association, a founding member of the Atterton Academy, and the author of Haiturograms (Stale Objects dePress) and Poetic Pentagons (Spacecraft Press).