Chris Mansell is a serious poet. She has an agent and a Statement of Intent, and apart from my faithful drinking partner, Tug Dumbly (who just so happens to hail from Ms Mansell’s neck of the woods), I don’t know any poet with an agent, and certainly none with an S.O.I.

Chris Mansell lives for poetry, or so it is implied in all she writes and all she does behind the scenes, like one of those superhuman dynamos without whom poetry in this country would simply stop breathing altogether.In Chris Mansell’s country, women are women—complex, verbose, focused, serene—while the men (being men) are pre-verbal, diaphanous, mercurial, walking predicates of tragedy on a grand scale:

dad understood the distance
he’d taught his son well
to be a man
at the funeral
we talked of roses and bicycles
my brother spoke thanks
properly and bravely
and much later
in the women's kitchen
   (’poem for my brother’)

Mansell’s poems have always been beautifully crafted, and when she reads them, the syllables wash over the ear like the tides of Lombok before the troubles. But as narratives, they are identikits.

Exceptions such as ‘Poem almost found in The Sciences magazine’ are very much that, and seem put there to placate the more conjectural among us. But the attempt fails in my opinion because poetry stripped back like this relies heavily on ideas, and ideas (nomes, syllables of the soul, whatever you want to call them) are not Mansell’s forté. Her forté is the crackling coals of assonance and a gentle 6/8 metre, like Dylan Thomas at his ‘Poem in October’ best:

She was not of our kind
or we hers
though we thought we knew
her and the shape, scent
movement, thought of her
but she was not of our kind
the dark movement in her
caught her by the dream
held her heart
from the inside pulled her
inwards to herself
   (‘Poem for the death of a friend during childbirth’)

I only wish readers could hear this poem being read by the author as I just have. She is a brilliant reader of her own work and this piece is the strongest in the collection, well worth the RRP on its own. Of course, elegies have their own in-built narrative and sonic, and this poem is up there with the best of them, leaving us enough to chew over and a great deal of space to ruminate on the aftertaste. Like the lamented herself, the poem is ‘herself this one/catcher of light/coiler of dreams’.

But then we return soon enough to identikit narrative and archaic paradigms— ‘you are a woman/you say to yourself therefore brave’ — the title ‘Ordinary Truth’ saying it all, I’m afraid. This is where Mansell’s poetry falls down all too often, this paucity of original thought. I would have expected more from a poet with a Statement of Intent but then, maybe, that’s the problem with so much of the creative output of Mansell’s generation: agendas.

All the same, Interactive Press have done a good job with this collection, although not everything works that should. Nothing flash, but you can follow the text on your PC console as Chris Mansell’s beautiful warm whisky voice sings its odes to a fading world.

— Justin Lowe, Cordite

Chris Mansell in Fickle Brat takes on the toughest things in life: death, illness, tragedy, isolation: with both unwavering honesty and artistic flair. Finely crafted, often witty and experimental, this is highly personal poetry that knows a poem needs clarity and daring not just sincerity or the power of the emotions it taps into. Issues of gender, of speech and silence, of pain and stoicism, of the intimate darknesses of life and how we survive them— such is the material Mansell explores and illuminates through her art.

This is an important collection for several reasons. The first book of poetry by a major poet in seven years, it represents the distillation of experiences, of vision gained, of poetic work, of a harrowing persistence in art despite all. Mansell speaks of her father’s death and the ways (male and female) of coping with grief (“poem for my brother”), of the long term effects of war on a generation of Australians (“under the skin” and “song of my soldiers”), and — most
movingly of all — of private tragedy in “the hospital: history of a love affair”, “the unstraight” and “singing mirror stone”.
Alongside these very strong biographic poems there are poems of wit and tenderness, of comic insight and philosophic and spiritual questing.

Mansell’s is a poetry deeply connected to life, to our need for
community and meaning in the face of both the mundane and the unbearably painful. Mansell clearly believes that poems should speak to people about people. Without sentimentality or simplification Mansell’s poetry in Fickle Brat will long remain a touchstone of artistic integrity and
artistic courage.

— Peter Boyle

On more recent work by Chris...

The precision of Chris’ language is evident when you hear her read—the words, phrases, syllables, pauses and breaths are pieced together with absolute care and attention. She wants you to get the sound of her poetry like a piece of music, as well as the words and the feeling and the crosscurrents... she wants you to work a little bit. She issues a challenge to you - come on, have a go! But Chris' poems are never exclusive or high-falutin'.

You are being offered gut feelings (lust, despair, pride, fear, tenderness, bravery, weakness) but not only that—in this book of poems you get sharp, intelligence and very pointy wit, and you get a good belly laugh, and you get a flirtatious tickle, and you get sparklingly clear, beautiful pictures, and you get outright weirdness to disturb your dreams or your insomniac hours, and you get pure undressed sadness, and protective maternal fierceness and all sorts of cocktails and mixtures of these and more.

But this complexity is being given to you with no threads hanging, it is seamless. So beautifully done—it’s almost un-authored. And it’s in the inner silence I spoke of that this construction is done.

— Jen Saunders, launching Mortification & Lies

Chris Mansell’s importance as a significant voice in Australian poetry in the past few years is well acknowledged, and her recently published volume of poems, Mortifications & Lies, will help confirm her reputation.

— Patricia Prime, Stylus

Those who were at Launceston’s ArtHouse gallery one memorable night in September 1990 were witness to one of the all-time great poetry performances. With brilliant improvised support from musical geniuses Michael Fortescue and Greg Kingston, Chris Mansell presented her long poem, “&”. It was one of those performances to which so many things in addition to the text contributed superbly, but as you listened you knew the poem would be excellent on the page as well.

— Tim Thorne, Famous Reporter

Mortifications & Lies is an important book, both stylistically and thematically a ground-breaking book. One emerges from the experience of reading it disturbed and challenged. Its haunting rhythms do not easily let go. It reinforces insights many of us already possess, but reminds us of the need to reject complacency, to become involved.

— Margaret Bradstock, Five Bells

Chris Mansell is one of Australia’s most respected poets. She is well-known for her performance works, so her latest work, The Fickle Brat, was perfectly suited to IP Digital’s new audio + text series.

On the CD, you get the complete e-book, but also Chris reading 34 of her favourites in high quality .mp3 sound. You can choose to listen as you read along, or you can just close your eyes and listen to the audio anthology.

What makes this series even more interesting is that you can hear the audio anthology on a portable CD player, as well as on your computer. Which means you can listen on the beach, in your car, or wherever you have a portable CD!

Chris is a keen observer of human nature, as adept in presenting the pre-language utterings of a toddler as a memorial tribute to a poet who died young. In spite of the trials we face, she never loses her sense of irony and humour. Her extended work “good poetry” treats the power politics of writing with a delightful honesty.

Take a step at preserving your sanity in peak hour traffic by ordering this title right away!

Chris_MansellChris Mansell is a poet, teacher and publisher with an established national and international reputation. Her poetry and fiction has received prestigious awards such as the Queensland Premier’s Award in 1993 and has attracted grants from the Australia Council.

Over the past 25 years she has authored several volumes of poetry, fiction as well as writing for children and the stage. She has numerous appearances in important Penguin and Oxford anthologies of verse. She has received several Australia Council writing grants and has been in residence at many centres throughout the country.

Her previous books include Head, Heart, & Stone (Fling, 1982), Redshift/Blueshift (Five Islands Press, 1988), and Day Easy Sunlight Fine in Hot Collation (Penguin Books, 1995).

She lives on the south coast of New South Wales with her family.

For more info on Chris, check out her web site.

Listen to audio on the iTunes Store.

Buy the CD in North America from CD Baby.