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Space travel likened to a dream, pursued refugees, bikes ‘ridden in a free-form dance with cars’, Olympian exertion, and a crime whose solution involves global flight – these are some of the many forms of motion in Andrew Sant’s tenth collection of poems. Set in Australia, China and Europe, the poems predominantly angle in on aspects of speed, a matter the French historian Marc Bloch considered the one particularly distinctive feature that distinguishes contemporary civilisation from those which preceded it. They include narratives, lyrics, dramatic monologues – diverse points of view with social and political dimensions.
The other liberties of the title exist – often under pressure but whose boundaries are often broadened by wit – in recognisable rural and urban environments as well as in imagined places, for example in a playfully conceived banana’s republic. Another is an island which has affinities with Robinson Crusoe’s. The book also introduces for the first time Mr Habitat, a brisk character with a strong voice, who is nowhere at home yet in gutsy, colloquial language expresses his views and makes wry observations – often in tight urban situations.
It is a collection that’s verbally headlong, edgy and energetic, richly observant and wide-ranging, concluding with the celebratory poem ‘Abundance’, about bird and sea life off the Irish coast, and which suggests there is much to be gained from recognising that certain liberties exist at an irreversible cost.
‘Liberties can be taken, and sometimes have to be. One of the liberties that poetry takes, and that prose can't, is temporarily to break up or interrupt a sentence with a line ending. Indeed, one of the reasons that speed-reading poetry can be so difficult, that makes poetry a cure for speed-reading, is that the line endings make us pause, whether we want to or not. One of the many fascinating things about the poems in the Australian Andrew Sant's absorbingly interesting new book is the way that the poems, and not just the title, make us wonder about this connection between poetry and speed.’ —Adam Phillips, The Observer
‘There are many fine poems in this book. The range is considerable with narratives and Sant’s lyricism being especially strong.’ —Sunday Tasmanian
‘Andrew Sant writes intellectually compelling and formally taut poems ... made possible when an exceptional facility with language collides with everyday subjects.’ —Brian Henry, PN Review
‘Sant’s accomplished, cosmopolitan style gains from repeated exposure. ‘Pleasure’ has been a word much trivialized of late when talking about poetry, but Sant’s poems genuinely provide that all-too-rare commodity ... Tremors should make readers fully aware of Sant’s achievement.’ —Nicholas Birns, Verse
‘What Sant’s poetry, like all good poetry, gives us is the nimbus surrounding the facts, the aura of intimation, imagery and music which makes those facts begin to speak of things whereof we cannot speak ... Whatever a Sant poem is ostensibly about, or begins by being about, a hell of a lot of other matters are likely to be encountered between beginning and end.’ —Stephen Edgar, Famous Reporter
‘Sant’s words are chosen with proper care, he has an eye for the telling metaphor, a just sense of rhythm and writes a lively, gritty free verse that is serious without being po-faced and not without real humour.’ —Matt Simpson , Stride Magazine
‘The poems are witty, acerbic, intelligent … muscular verse which dances through the pages.’ —Nicolette Stasko, Southerly
‘Sant’s poems are of a distinguished order … poetry that transcends its own nationality and locality, to become the reader’s own territory and the reader’s own time.’ —Elizabeth Knottenbelt, Agenda
‘What chiefly makes Sant a distinctive and distinguished poet is his craftsmanship ... Poem after poem in this collection radiates with a quickened, nervous energy and an active sense of engagement.’ —Paul Hetherington, Australian Book Review
‘I don’t see how you could read this without being at once aware that you’re in the presence of a most accomplished poet … It’s good to know that while in literature’s market-place ‘the arrogant, the forward and the vain’, to use Dickens’s formulation, are making their usual uproar, altogether elsewhere Andrew Sant is busying himself with the making of true poems’ —John Lucas, Critical Survey