It Feels Like Disbelief

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Salt Publishing, Feb 28, 2007 - Poetry - 92 pages
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It Feels Like Disbelief is a remarkable book. Its poems are contemporary and engaged, sometimes edgy, yet they exhibit a skilled formal control and a marvellous capacity to make music out of language. There is an emotional strength at the core of these poems which allows the reader to accompany the poet on a series of shared and satisfying personal journeys. The poems are also rewardingly wide-ranging, dealing with subjects as various as human intimacy, sensuality and love, history, refugees, fishing, books, photography, reading, desire, bushwalking, gardening, children, opera, archaeology and the Iraq war. Throughout there is an elegiac sense of the imminence of loss; of how time and history undo the very things that we know and take for granted. Many poems reveal often troubling or mysterious domestic interiors, along with intense moments of recognition and recollection. The book contains a number of longer poems as well as numerous lyrics, including a rewarding series of sonnets. These are all poems that amply repay a first reading and they will further reward the reader who becomes familiar with their subtleties and intricacies. Hetherington returns to various themes and motifs throughout the volume. Music is one example, which first figures in the phrase 'elegant singing lines of silver death', soon becomes 'Bach's singing tune' and then a scale that 'rippled up and down the house'. By the end of the volume music is 'the call / of being that is usually unheard'. In such ways, these poems explore and recast human perceptions, while also conjuring memorable images and phrases. This poetry collection is extraordinary in the way that it combines figurative language with plain-speaking. When the poet says that a wasp represents 'some trouble or beauty / transformed', he might have been speaking for the transformative power of his collection as a whole. Paul Hetherington is the award-winning author of seven previous books of poetry and this new collection confirms his position as one of the most gifted poets of his generation.

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About the author (2007)

Paul Hetherington lives in Canberra, Australia. He is the author of seven previous volumes of poetry, most recently the novel in verse, Blood and Old Belief. His poetry prizes have included the 1996 Australian Capital Territory Book of the Year Award (for Shadow Swimmer) and a 2002 Chief Minister's ACT Creative Arts Fellowship. He was founding editor of the National Library of Australia's quarterly humanities and literary journal, Voices (1991-97), is a former poetry editor of The Canberra Times and is a member of the Board of Australian Book Review. His doctoral thesis was on the American poet Emily Dickinson. He has been director of publishing at the National Library of Australia since 1994 and edited the final three volumes of the Library's edition of the diaries of the artist Donald Friend.

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