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It Feels Like Disbelief is a remarkable book. Its poems are contemporary and engaged, sometimes edgy, yet they exhibit a skilled formal control and a marvellous capacity to make music out of language. There is an emotional strength at the core of these poems which allows the reader to accompany the poet on a series of shared and satisfying personal journeys.
The poems are also rewardingly wide-ranging, dealing with subjects as various as human intimacy, sensuality and love, history, refugees, fishing, books, photography, reading, desire, bushwalking, gardening, children, opera, archaeology and the Iraq war.
Throughout there is an elegiac sense of the imminence of loss; of how time and history undo the very things that we know and take for granted. Many poems reveal often troubling or mysterious domestic interiors, along with intense moments of recognition and recollection.
The book contains a number of longer poems as well as numerous lyrics, including a rewarding series of sonnets. These are all poems that amply repay a first reading and they will further reward the reader who becomes familiar with their subtleties and intricacies.
Hetherington returns to various themes and motifs throughout the volume. Music is one example, which first figures in the phrase 'elegant singing lines of silver death', soon becomes 'Bach's singing tune' and then a scale that 'rippled up and down the house'. By the end of the volume music is 'the call / of being that is usually unheard'. In such ways, these poems explore and recast human perceptions, while also conjuring memorable images and phrases.
This poetry collection is extraordinary in the way that it combines figurative language with plain-speaking. When the poet says that a wasp represents 'some trouble or beauty / transformed', he might have been speaking for the transformative power of his collection as a whole.
Paul Hetherington is the award-winning author of seven previous books of poetry and this new collection confirms his position as one of the most gifted poets of his generation.
‘Hetherington’s Acts Themselves Trivial is a most impressive volume, filled with sinuously delicious verse, in which the subject of poetic self-analysis, in and out of its various love affairs … with people, ideas and things, weaves a masterful spell of words.’ —Jeff Doyle
‘This is poetry of glowing sensuality, of urgent narrative pace, of tact in its exploration of intimate experience. Hetherington is an important poet with a growing national and international reputation, and this is some of his most accomplished work.’ —Shirley Walker
‘Paul Hetherington’s poems conjure the power of words, not just in the way he uses them, but in the way he invokes the visceral nature of language, the sheer gutsiness of writing. In this entrancing volume of selected poems … we see Paul wrestling with words, words that come from within himself, but also manifest, embodied words as separate, unruly beings in this world, unpredictable creatures that he seeks to tame and harness.’ —Tom Griffiths
‘Blood and Old Belief is a sombre, disquieting work. Its poetic craft is of a high order. Without enough notice being taken, we may have moved into a vintage period of Australian verse, where the generation after Murray and Page … renews faith in what can be done here, in and by poetry’ —Peter Pierce