Swelter is comprised of two steamy
collections from Queensland’s tropical coast: Louise Waller’s
Slipway and Kristin Hannaford’s Inhale. Cover art is from
Marie Farr’s “To Float To Dream”, author photos are
by Shaune Sinclair and the jacket design is by David Reiter. To
quote from Gig Ryan’s blurb, “Louise Waller’s and
Kirstin Hannaford’s poetry share in a similar celebration of
love and family as well as in detailed description and the joys of
being immersed in nature.”
Waller’s poetry is accessible, colloquial and original. It is also brave and honest, full of pain and rage, but it also has a tenderness that is not sentimental, but deeply moving. She is also very funny. It is the sheer vigour of her work in whatever mode that makes for an immediacy and clarity that gives the reader a feeling of emotional release. The control, of course, is in the crafting of the poems.
In her chilling sequence “Excerpt from the Frida Dialogues” she focuses on the life and work of the painter Frida Kahlo:
You were strong, and yes it’s heroic
that side of your nature
But the struggle, is perhaps what Diego forgot
is less important with time
“Abolish the pain,” she states. One feels the verbal and physical cruelty between the painters Diego and Kahlo in this particular contest. The poem ends: “Or erase all the paintings, if / it would change him.” The combination of love, forgetfulness and pain becomes more than the physical accident and more an emotional trauma one feels, and to “erase all the paintings” a denial of the artist’s life.
There are several poems that are powerful and sustained. “Spare Seats at the Inquisition”, has hidden within it all the deceit, lies and sham that one can find at poetry readings. In the poem it’s as if we, the readers, are present too: “the spare hand few / who have not yet confessed / who are still in their seats / soaking with sacrifice.”
The sequence “Another Reading in Antipodes” is part of her exploration, rooted in the past or present, the poet, actress, and finally into a kind of autonomy:
Her primal theatre was so narcotic
that some in the audience fainted,
overwhelmed by her elsewhere show
This reads like a kind of personal topography of inner and outer worlds. In a further sequence, “Slipway Theatre” she writes about actors and the roles they play, encompassing the power of the spoken word. The theatre becomes a place of discovery, a source of knowledge: “sex was our first religion in those exotic nights / we learned our lines loved what was original / more than once abandoned reason to catch us on the run.”
There is not a bad poem in this collection, but “Apparent Horizon”, “Bird Sound”, “Baking with Buddha”, “Shade” and “I Howl Too” are my personal favourites.
When there is a correct balance of craftsmanship and feeling, as in Waller’s work, we have something so valuable, both to us as readers and to poetry in general that we cannot afford not to read her work and be grateful.
Kirstin Hannaford’s Inhale is life-affirming yet does not shy away from less happy moments as in her bleak poem “Eviction”,
In the heat
the corrugated roof
creaked and contracted as if it might lift off.
Light globes blew.
Our mouths changed shape,stuttered sounds -
in some days we did not talk.
It takes a special kind of confidence to allow your poem to walk unaided on such tight, bald lines.
Hannaford’s first poem “Pandanus” contains at least two of her emblems: nature, and statement-as-poetic-line. The poem is about the vegetation that grows along the coastal fringe of Queensland where the poet lives, “From the muddy beach I look up at the coastal fringe / of pandanus and she-oak / wait for prehistoric cousins to arrive.”
Many of Hannaford’s poems look at the odd view, and refuse to arrive there by the scenic route:
Eyes closed. She curls her body into shapes
only the young can find
held against the chalky hull of boat.
A seagull’s eye scans her briefly, she is
framed amongst the cargo of people
Another of her skills is to pile on detail, at its best in the marvellous “Coming Home”, a story of the distance between a couple and what causes the space to close – “Without turning she spoke to him of travelling / and the long day. / And, in their strange way, the distances between them closed” – and achieving in the end a kind of euphony.
One of the many advantages of a slim collection of work is that you can stop and savour each poem: “Don’t move, my fingers have spiralled / the soft down of skin, the divisions between us have ended” (“Possession”); “and I wonder if we have just crossed the road / lessons in cartography / mother and child / woman and boy” (“After the Shower”). Once you’ve taken time with the contents of Inhale, stopped and savoured, stared into space, the poems begin to form part of a whole rather than standing on their own, and the link, I think, is nature. Nature as redeemer – “two bodies are swimming / listening for the shrill keening of whale songs”; as emblem-of-life – “A body intended for sediment / leaves a footprint on this other planet”; as basis for image – “Over on the riverbank a white box eucalypt / is struggling to keep blossom-laden branches dry.”
Hannaford is also inspired by feminist writers and women poets, and her poem “You Want a Lily” recognises “women sounding women” where the woman explores her own body and comes to the conclusion
It is a woman
through the glass in here
And this is what we want to do as readers, join the two poets. The poems here are never resigned. Nothing is assumed to be inevitable or seen as “natural”. Feminists have to be more conscious than anyone else. They must continuously see and say that what the world/men has declared invisible or invalid is real and important. The work in this book comes out of the connections they are making, a collective sense of effort and of discovery. The poets intend to tell the reader everything they can, every secret, because they know this intimate, difficult exchange makes a difference, is the process of change. — Patricia Prime, Stylus
Louise Waller’s and Kristin Hannaford’s poetry share in a similar celebration of love and family, as well as in detailed description and the joys of being immersed in nature.
Waller’s tour-de-force ‘Excerpts from the Frida Dialogues’ is a jagged and incisive look at Frida Kahlo’s life and work – “with your she / of pain’s nip and tuck”, “the abundant clock of hair”, “Abolish the pain that fed your art / that loved you better / Or erase all the paintings, if / it would change him”.
Waller’s poems have accumulated over many years of publications and as a result show a great variety in their uses of language, from the colloquial “all the sorry-arsed sucks / drip over the tablecloth of conversations / carp on about crap / turn the back on the already back-turned” to the ethereal – “my lean galaxy of words”.
Like many women poets, she has a new take on some classic figures, as in ‘Abelard and Heloise Upon Meeting’ with – “Great biceps, she thinks, as he fixes / the happy hour cocktails”.
Both Waller’s and Hannaford’s work is truly life-affirming, yet neither shy away from less happy moments such as Hannaford’s bleak tale in ‘Eviction’ – “Emptying out the contents of our lives / through windows and doors. / Vomiting couches and kettles, clothes. / Spitting bones into hearts, / papers flew as birds”.
Like Waller, Hannaford has an abundance of images – “his sleek tar hair”, “the shower of cellophane”, fruit bats as “velvet purses” hooking “a knitting needle arm”, the “chewable air”, the swimming pool’s “aqua fringe”.
Hannaford is also inspired by Irigaray, Cixous, Janet Frame, and her poem ‘Habit’, which warns of the complacency in taking love for granted. sums up many of her themes – “if we could think differently about the stretch of days / not list toward our habit / the usual place, usual folds…Could I razor your way out of boredom?” — Gig Ryan
published by the apparently inexhaustible David Reiter, and his Interactive
Press (or Interactive Publications). It is, in fact, two discrete collections
by the co-authors: Slipway, by Louise
Waller, and Kristin Hannaford’s
Inhale. As it transpires, putting the
two together is an intelligent editorial choice. Both live in Yeppoon—both
are self-confessed runaway city-girls—but both use the atmosphere
around them to a similar effect. The mood of ‘tropics’ hangs
on these poems, sometimes almost smothering them. Balminess, mosquitos
and the sound
of lapping water are in the poetic air: but again, the human presence
is all important—‘Soon the bush will wriggling with people
from town—/ dogs, ki rugs,/ coloured hats,/ guitars and thermos
flask (Waller’s “Eve’s Determining Moment”.)
Waller’s verse encompasses an emotional range, from the erotic to the cynical, and anyone who’s sat through a bad poetry reading “Spare Seats at the Inquisition” strikes a chord: ‘somebody poet is sounding/ over bush barking rows/ and nobody yet is cheering ... / all the poe-ing going on’.
Taking Frida Kahlo as the prototype of the tormented, mercurial female artist is de rigueur these days. I’d always been more interested in the political contradictions in Diego Rivera’s oeuvre; but I confess to reading Hayden Herrera’s Kahlo biography before seeing Salma Hayek in the film, and thus being ensnared in the Frida phenomenon.
Consequently, I was taken by Waller’s excerpts from her “Frida Dialogues”, and the attempt to get inside the psyche of the painter. (The cover of Swelter features an etching by Marie Farr which visually alludes to Kahlo’s 1938 canvas What the Water Gave Me.) I found one inaccuracy in Waller’s Frida poems: in “Removed”, a poem about the painting “The Two Fridas”, she asserts ‘It seems you have just used scissors/to take a small sorrow out’. In Kahlo’s painting there are no scissors: the medical implement is clearly a clamp, to staunch the bleeding. It is a vain attempt as the vein still drips blood—but the painting is not, as Waller implies, about an act of purgative self-mutilation. Overall, however, this sequence gives an impression of the conflicting feelings that moved Kahlo and the (possible) desire to ‘Abolish the pain that fed your art’ (“Obsessions”).
Kristin Hannaford writes about relationships, family, friends and women’s experience. Other female artists also shape her perceptions: Janet Frame in particular, who corrects the academic study of ‘hemispherectomies’ and ‘Oliver Sacks oddballs’. ‘Janet Frame screamed at me from the pages of her asylum/ salvation poetry’ (“apogee”). And in “Looking for Sarah” there’s the intriguing presence of the female lead from John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman: she examines ‘ammonite fossils’ on the Lyme Regis sea-shore, and the poem ends with a clever twist as the mysterious woman sets one down that will wait ‘for Attenborough to arrive’. The poems I most warmed to were the snapshots of people: stolen moments like Uncle Len’s performance at his daughter’s twenty-first, who made ‘short work of a beer/ turned the sounds of Eagle Rock into the hall/ and danced in a pot bellied fury’.
Hannaford’s “Honeymoon” embodies the mood and modulations of Australian poetry’s ‘new country’. Cruising in the ‘Torque Flight Valiant ... / Following the Sturt highway, west, to Mildura’, the visible reminders of human penetration of the land are everywhere: ‘Kangaroo after kangaroo lay splayed and bloated’. The poem’s crucial incident is the Valiant hitting a bird and ‘the thud/ under the front left wheel’. The female character stops, walks down the road and picks up a feather but the male is unmoved: ‘All the way to Mildura, Dan makes chicken noises in the car.’
“Jabiluka Honey” and Swelter are permeated with this kind of illusion-free sense of what it means to encounter and to write about landscape today. These are volumes in which the vagaries of human response and emotion are measured against the omnipresent natural and considerations of how ‘the natural’ is utterly altered by human contact. Both books also testify to the intelligence, craft and preoccupations which mark off Australian poetry’s new country terrain.
— Brian Musgrove
Two steamy collections from Queensland’s tropical
coast: Waller’s Slipway and Hannaford’s Inhale.
The two authors share an interest in love and family as well as a celebration of being immersed in nature. Waller’s incisive work is selected from individual pieces produced over many years and is influenced by her work in drama, while Hannaford’s demonstrates great facility with imagery and interest in authors like Irigaray, Cixous and Janet Frame.
Both collections capture the vibrancy of coastal life often missed by urban day-trippers.
Particularly of note is Waller’s extended Excerpts from the Frida Dialogues, which she adapted for performance in Rockhampton, based on the life of Frida Kahlo, wife of Diego Rivera, and an accomplished artist in her own right. And Hannaford’s seven part Moon Cycle provides a visceral retake of Janet Frame’s notion of “salvation poetry”.
This title is the latest in IP’s Emerging Authors Series and further demonstration of our commitment to publishing the very best work from regional Queensland authors.
Louise Waller was born in Brisbane. She travelled extensively in Australia
before settling in regional Queensland in 1984.
Louise has been employed as an arts consultant and a Community Arts Officer, developing policy and infrastructure for diverse groups. In 1989-90 she accepted a position on the Australia Council’s advisory body for public galleries, museums and contemporary art spaces.
She has adapted some of her poetry for theatre and group performance. She received arts grants from 1999-2002. Her poetry has received awards in national and regional competitions and work from Slipway featured at the 2002 Queensland Poetry Festival. In 2002 Rockhampton Art Gallery featured her latest performance art tableau The Two Fridas with a film on artist Frida Kahlo.
Louise lives with her husband and children in Yeppoon where she continues to explore new ways to work with poetry and theatre.
Kristin Hannaford was born in Sydney. She has an Arts degree (Hons) from the University of New South Wales. In 1996 she left Sydney for the warmer climate of Yeppoon, Queensland, where she lives with her husband and two young boys.
Her work has been published in many Australian magazines, e-zines and newspapers, and she has received awards for poetry and short fiction in the Bauhinia Literary Awards 1999–2002.
In 2001 Kristin was commissioned to produce work for a local theatre/poetry project, and she has also received arts funding for other individual projects. Kristin’s recent work was featured at the 2002 Queensland Poetry Festival. Inhale is her first collection of poetry.