from the editor's desk

A Review of Andrew Taylor’s ‘Impossible Preludes (Poems 2008-2014)’

Andrew Taylor, Impossible Preludes (Poems 2008-2014). Witchcliffe, Western Australia: Margaret River Press 2016. RRP: $24.00, 85pp. ISBN: 9780994316738.

Jackie Smith

Andrew Taylor’s Impossible Preludes (Poems 2008-2014) is a unique and beautiful retrospective on life, love, and everything in between.

For better or worse, poetry has been dubbed the black sheep of the Australian literary market for quite some time now. These days, fewer publishing houses are taking a chance on this unique form of the written word, and even fewer book stores stock a wide array of a modern poet’s wares.

Despite this, Australian poetry and the poets who create such mastery continue to flourish in their so-called ‘niche’ market, quietly continuing to produce compositions of remarkable quality, and receive national (and sometimes international) recognition for their achievements.

Andrew Taylor is one of these poets. Although Taylor published his first poetry collection in 1971 (The Cool Change, University of Queensland Press), it wasn’t until he took out British Airways Commonwealth Poetry Prize in the mid-1980s for his book, Travelling, that he became something of a staple in shaping Australia’s poetic landscape, with more recent contributions including 2001’s Gotterdammerung Café and 2009’s The Unhaunting.

Despite this illustrious career, many Australians, including myself, have yet to discover Taylor’s work. Though I have dabbled in the genre myself occasionally, as a reader I have generally stuck to the more ‘classical’ poets such as Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats and, of course, William Shakespeare. It is only recently that I have discovered the gems that are Australian poets like Samuel Wagan Watson and Sandra Thibodeaux. So it was with gusto that I picked up Taylor’s latest composition, Impossible Preludes (Poems 2008-2014), and I am so glad I did. From the opening ‘Poem beginning with a line from Wallace Stephens’ (3), to the closing ‘Times at Night’ (85), I was captivated by the lyrical beauty that is Taylor’s work.

Take ‘Piano Lessons (Für Marita)’ (29) for instance:

You practiced your Beethoven sonatas
in that over-furnished under-lit room
where you had to perform on the upright Lipp for our parents’ guests
And where you taught me and where
I’d practise so I could skip
the dishes and learned that F.A.C.E
was more about Pythagoras
than not being embarrassed.

It’s in stark contrast to that we might have encountered at high school: those flowery, dense paragraphs one had to wade through on a hot summer’s afternoon were enough to ward even the most committed book lover from this unique literary genre. In my experience, it is this ability to recognise and draw attention to the beauty in life’s simple things, that draws me to the poetic genre again and again. Seemingly, Taylor does this with ease line after line in a way that engages the reader with feelings of familiarity and admiration.

Impossible Preludes is full of little gems that bravely honest and captivatingly brilliant, though they do not adhere to one topic. In the epitome of variety, there are love poems (such as ‘Cooking for two’ (23) or ‘Revisiting Maslin beach’ (25), odes to nature in ‘River’ (26-27) and ‘Karri Forest’ (45), and explorations of the fickleness of the intergenerational gap, like ‘Young People’ (10).

Each line is a story within itself, painting a picture for the reader to follow as vividly as one might expect in an art gallery. Every poem is full of colour and weight as it takes you on a journey into the mind of this creative and talented individual.

Whether you’re a seasoned reader of poetry or new to the genre, there is truly something for everyone, as this book mesmerises and transports you to another world.

Jackie Smith is a freelance journalist and editor and proof-reader based in Brisbane.  Her work has been published through a variety of local and national media outlets. Follow her on Twitter (@jasmith_89) for regular updates.

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