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The unhaunting is Taylor’s first collection of poems since his Collected poems was published by Salt in 2004, and ranges widely, in geography, mood, thematic preoccupations and style. The book’s title is also that of a poem concerned with how places can be haunted by people even while alive, and whose death provides a kind of exorcism and psychological healing. The poet’s own experience of severe illness from cancer in 2003 enables him to see death not as something to be feared and abhorred, but as an opportunity for reconciliation and love. However most of this book is much lighter in tone, reflecting the poet’s own sensitivity to the infinite variety of experience. A visit to Falmouth, time teaching in Shanghai, the funeral of his wife’s mother in Germany, cooling one’s heels in Paris, a visit to pristine forest in the south of Western Australia, all find a place here. Also clearly evident is a concern for the health of the environment, and a deep love of Australian nature and Australia’s land- and riverscape. The poet’s love of music is not only reflected in a sequence explicitly about it, but also in his play with rhythms and sound echoes, and in the use frequently made of them to structure poems and sequences, almost – but not quite – in defiance of meaning. The language is lucid but tantalising, fully aware of current experiment but not surrendering its own distinctiveness of it. The book also contains a number of translations of poems by the Italian Nobel Laureate, Eugenio Montale, for whose poetry Taylor feels a distinct affinity.
‘Taylor’s poems are included in many anthologies and stitched into the tapestry of Australian poetry like subtle, burnished threads. They show a cool intelligence that is modest, tolerant: caught in moments of utterance, searching for and playing with significance and attuned to their own provisionality. The ‘voice’ is speculative, emotional, formally inventive, but international and regional.’ —David Gilbey , Australian Book Review
‘Andrew Taylor… has been working away consistently over thirty-five years to produce an enormously impressive body of work….It is a book that will live with me for months and years to come. Every time I open it, I find new pleasures. Taylor is a quiet poet, fastidious and precise, but this does not preclude a wide tonal variety and the deployment of a keen intelligence and wit in poetry that dazzles with its formal variety. The breadth of subject matter is astonishing. It is, of course, impossible to illustrate the richness of this book via one poem. Suffice to say that here is a massive contribution to the cultural hoard.’ —Adrian Caesar , Westerly
‘Writing has never been static for Taylor – a true innovator, he has combined formal control (astonishingly in place right from his very first book, The Cool Change, published in 1971), with the need for formal dexterity generated by the need to move, to reassess all ideas that cross his broad scope. … [Swamp Poems] are clearly spiritual poems that retain their critical edge, their empirical analysis of materiality. Imagistic and contemplative, the eye of the observer is both witness and participant – is removed from the scene as observer, but directly implicated as part of a greater whole. These are poems of terror and beauty, but subtly woven into a space where “nature” and the “constructed” fuse and morph. They are small journey poems that open large vistas.’ —John Kinsella , Ars Interpres
‘Taylor’s sharpest poems mark out landscapes with the precision of a mysterious photograph.’ —Barry Hill , The Weekend Australian
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