The West

Poetry d'Amour 2014

Poetry d’Amour 2014 Love Poems
Edited by Liana Joy Christensen
WA Poets Inc, $19.95

Australian Love Poems 2013
Edited by Mark Tredinnick
Inkerman & Blunt, $27

The thing about love poetry is its ability to simultaneously alienate and draw you in: the former by highlighting the artifice, the construct, of love's language; the latter by offering a vicarious intimacy - the intensity of which is, by necessity, rarely equalled in real life.

This dual nature of love poetry is evident throughout these two fine collections of Australian love poems, both of which will be featured at this year's Valentine's Day Poetry d'Amour events (see below for details).

Poetry d'Amour 2014 Love Poems includes (mostly WA) poets as diverse as Tineke Van der Eecken, Donna Ward, Kevin Gillam, Vivienne Glance, Danny Gunzburg, Christopher Konrad, Shane McCauley and Rosie Barter. Poet and editor Liana Joy Christensen has chosen to organise the collection thematically, each section named after the title of one of the poems.

Thus in the section "The world offers a choice", which as Christensen writes "contains poems where love is writ large on the landscape" we find Maree Dawes finding a man, who, unlike others who "offer the world/through google or wiki" can name "clouds/from memory".

Another section explores the ambiguous nature of love: here's Annamaria Weldon in her poem, Collaborators: "But surely you feel . . . /I'm certain the stone/walls of your room/are aware we are/ translating each other/into fresh vastness".

Music and eroticism are also well served. In Solo for Two Voices, Mags Webster sings, "we are a chromatic/a circle of fifths/rhythms returns/ - toccata of/human sounds" while in First Seduction Helen Hagemann hymns, "We begin that rib fingering thing/that comes with love, you caging the/soft weight of my breasts in your hand".

The humour, the pain and the mutability of love are explored with equal facility and honesty. As Christensen writes in the introduction: "In this third collection of Poetry d'Amour it's clear that the woods are riotous with love songs in all keys and cadences." This is a collection which, though by no means perfect, is not only to be savoured privately but read aloud to lovers present and potential.

In his introduction to the gorgeously designed Australian Love Poems 2013, prize-winning poet, nature writer and essayist Mark Tredinnick writes, "Love is the poetry of the body and the mind".

Here, Tredinnick has gone through all the poems in the collection and "lifted some phrases that allude memorably to the season and faces of love, or to its very nature . . ." and "placed each poem in one of love's rooms . . .". Thus there are lovely links between poems, lines, themes and sections here too - though ones which are perhaps looser, more opaque.

Tredinnick has also cast his net wider than Christensen's, and the poets here include Peter Rose, Robert Gray, Judith Beveridge, Paul Kelly, Lucy Dougan, Dennis Haskell, Susan Fealy, Jackson, Cate Kennedy and Les Murray.

The result is a harmonious fabric studded, however, with dissonances reminiscent of love's sharp spices. If, in Ode to Lust, Cate Kennedy writes, "It doesn't need to have a bed;/its teeth pull off your underwear;/it likes you driven from your head, legs around neck. Clothes over there", we also have Lisa Jacobson writing in Triage, "Those legs wrapped around her cello warn me in dreams/of the fragility of things; bird nests, worn string".

And if the aesthetic of death is palpable in Fiona Wright's In Flowers and Fever ("The piano, you said,/is the only instrument that can't sing,/Each note passing and playing its own death"), its hard reality is more so in WA poet Dennis Haskell's beautiful, elegiac Oranges: "The morning of your funeral,/I washed my hair/with the last of your shampoo/as if to get part of you,/the smell of you, on me".

If love poetry can take us, like the lovers in Roland Leach's The Cartographer's Sonnet ("We woke to find maps of continents, ancient/and unknown, tattooed on our skins . . .") to worlds hitherto unknown, it can also remind us of love's ability to alter our perception of the everyday, as in Paul Kelly's witty, aphoristic Haiku: "Time is elastic/Together, days disappear/Apart, seconds crawl".

I can see these two collections of love poetry lying side by side on your bookshelf, whispering to each other long into the night.

Valentine’s Day Poetry d’Amour 2014 next Friday features a day event at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and an evening event in Perth Zoo’s Japanese Gardens. Special guests include poet and editor of Australian Love Poems 2013 Mark Tredinnick, actress and author Ailsa Piper and award-winning WA poets such as Shane McCauley, Amanda Joy and Maree Dawes. For full details of workshops and events or to book, visit damour or

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