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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

'The Possibility of Flight' by Lia Hills

From the BLURB:

The poems in Lia Hills’ first collection journey from ‘artesian memories’ of the Australian desert to the ‘shifting territory of the gods’ in rural Pakistan, as they glide with a wing shift between love, language and faith.

Truth be told, I don’t actively seek out poetry books.

I know, I know! That’s atrocious to admit when I love words so much. Honestly, I have my favourite Emily Dickinson poem memorized (“hope is the thing with feathers”), as well as my favourite Anna Akhmatova poem (“You will hear thunder”) . . . and I sort of think that gets me by. I can quote a few more classics, and when I’m in the mood I can get quite happily lost in a nice bit of poetry, but very rarely do I actively seek out poetry books. I don’t really buy them, I flip through them. And I have never bought a modern poetry book for myself . . .  until now.

I found myself at ‘Collected Works’ bookstore recently. It’s located on Swanston Street (number 37, to be precise), upstairs in the Nicholas Building. If you haven’t been there before and you find yourself in Melbourne, you should definitely check it out. ‘Collected Works’ is exactly what a bookstore should be – cramped with a shambolic array of books, tucked away and frequently open late for poetry readings. Anyway, I found myself browsing the beautifully chaotic shelves at ‘Collected Works’ and something compelled me to pull out this very slim (64-pages) royal blue poetry book, enticingly titled ‘The Possibility of Flight’. I flipped to a random page and my eyes landed on this line. . . 

The statesman’s pocket my new cage, he called me a spectre then stole my dialect to wrench the core of men, made me the Braille, dots beneath skin, of a blindman’s game.

. . . and I was hooked. Oh! That imagery; “made me the Braille, dots beneath skin”, had me breaking out in Braille-like goose bumps.

Poetry should be a little bit visceral – the words shouldn’t sit stained on the page. The reading of them should invoke some sort of bodily response. At least, that’s the way good poetry works for me. When I first stumbled across Akhmatova’s poem the first line was like a punch to the gut: “You will hear thunder and remember me, / And think: she wanted storms.” And I have since taken that poem everywhere with me, it’s imbedded in my memory and there to stay.

That has also been my reaction to a lot of Lia Hill’s poems in ‘The Possibility of Flight’, published in 2008. It’s an apt title, because reading some of her words is akin to that belly-dropping dip I imagine birds experience when they ride the sky.


at night I rise to gather lost words
they collect in edges
        these invisible demons
make for consequential myth
I could ride the rise of the bête-noire
        crusade against language
it's lyric I seek
but not in an a capella of newsprint
        crystal ball    rhetorician’s tool
the proof in the unhappening    the raw mix

entends-tu le glas qui sonne?

as dawn crawls
it’s dust I find
lament in my dissociation of sensibility
                                      on a molecular scale
am I to become atomised
    speak the language of the blind?

I may not be an avid poetry reader but Lia Hills has converted me. If I stumble across another gem like ‘The Possibility of Flight’ I might just need to start building myself a collection of modern poetry books. These words are captivating and addicting, a song rises in search of a tongue and I find myself craving the music of Hills’ words.


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