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Outside is the second full-length collection from the prize-winning poet David McCooey. Outside takes the most basic of categories – day and night, inside and outside – and makes them the source of powerful meditations on the strangeness of our diurnal lives. In the resonant landscapes of these poems, the domestic slides into the universal, the personal becomes the historical, and the cultural is the real. This is a deeply unified work, even as it encompasses reflections on such diverse topics as the number 5, hands, newborn infants, heaven, anger, and rock music. The collection also features a number of major sequences, including ‘A Short History of Night’, and an electrifying response to the films of Stanley Kubrick. The book is also finely balanced in another way: by a generous and unique sense of humour, demonstrated in the dadaist and hilarious ‘intermission’. Outside is always unsettling, but it is, too, always humane.
‘David McCooey is one of the most controlled and attentive poets writing in Australia. He allows a book to evolve over a period of time, and is willing to wait until the right poem comes. He never forces a line, never wastes a poem. For him, writing poetry is a serious art that has purpose and goes out into the world loaded with implication. Renowned as a critic as well as a poet, McCooey's careful study of poetry is shown in his poems, but they never rely only on this learning and consideration of craft. They sparkle with necessity and deeply felt insight into how one discusses the many layers of conducting a life. This remarkable book almost liberates an aesthetics, and is in itself a work of great beauty mixed with moments of biting satire. There is superb balance in this combination. The language is skilfully shaped and wielded, and the considerations deadly. Film, family life, raising a child, concerns with the mechanisms of 'culture' and 'ways of seeing', all overlap and segue into each other. McCooey takes risks in subtle and complex ways. Intertexts with thinkers like Winnicott form major threads while an engagement with Stanley Kubrick's films form others. This is a book of devastating frankness, and of great tenderness, but it is never overly delicate or polite. There's no voice much like it in Australian poetry, though at times it reminds me of some South American poets, and certainly of some French poets. It's the wit, the aphoristic turn just when it's needed, both within poems and within the timing of the book as a whole. McCooey has become entirely his own poet – genuinely good and essential. Read him!’ —John Kinsella
‘In David McCooey’s latest collection, a chapbook honouring filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, and memoir-poems from his own childhood, there is a line, “the primitive violence of eating.” That’s the kind of killer line McCooey always nails. The gentle folk of polite society may make a dinner party the most civilised of events, but it’s just primitive violence when you look at someone chewing. McCooey in a few words evokes the whole awful spectacle. He reminds us that everything, even beauty, is the sum of a whole lot of little violences. His gift – to get a detail in one shot, one brief line, not a word out of kilter – is the hallmark of his imagery.
I would rather read his poetry than that of anyone else of his generation.’ —Craig Sherborne
‘The poems in Graphic take strength and originality from the way they combine opposites. On the one hand, studies of Kubrick films and animal slaughter, they are straightforwardly fierce; but they achieve their effects in a manner remarkably controlled and subtle. They work with short lines and understatement, yet they are forever surprising you with brilliant images and perceptions. In fact, they recall Raymond Carver in the way their tone is intimate, but their effect uncanny.’ —Lisa Gorton