By Anne Elvey
A long bridge of books and paper
spans the gorge. You have gone
ahead and vertigo is a hand clasped
round my ankle, with the gravity of flesh
suspended in air. Old books
are roped together. Their hard spines
dig into my soles. The side ropes
are the papier-maché of bad poems.
A heart worn on a sleeve. At my first
launch I left behind
a layer of skin. On my hand is
the scent of words. It has rained lately.
The wind bites. Your back is almost
out of view. I want to sit down –
a small huddle in the swinging air –
and let the paper decompose and dry
to scatter on the wind. Vertigo climbs
me hand over hand. I have not looked
down to see the roaring chasm nor up
to the eucalypt sky. Across are the rocks
of Cataract Gorge. I follow my eyes
along the backs of my hands, knees
abraded by each volume’s edge.
There you are! Shrinking the distance.
From Kin (Parkville, Vic., Five Islands Press, 2014)
Previously published in Going Down Swinging
Used with permission.
I was bound to love this poem, having grown up in Launceston, Tasmania and experienced many times the vertiginous walk across the suspension bridge over the Gorge. The poem is metaphorical too, of course, which I don't overlook. Let's just say that for me it is a particularly powerful metaphor, as I know in literal terms what it felt like when some teasing friend or cousin, or even uncle, shook the bridge. Obviously this poet knows the sensation too.
Anne Elvey is managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics. Her poetry collection Kin (Five Islands Press, 2014) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize 2015.
Her new chapbook, This Flesh That You Know, international winner of the Overleaf Chapbook Manuscript award, was published by Leaf Press (Canada) in 2015.
In 2016, she is chief editor at Melbourne Poets Union (https://melbournepoetsunion.wordpress.com/).
Anne holds honorary appointments at Monash University and University of Divinity, Melbourne.
We have never met in person, as it is a long time since I lived in Melbourne, but we have friends in common, one of whom gave me a copy of Kin. It's thoughtful poetry of quiet beauty. It doesn't jump up and shout at you, but I find myself returning to it over and over, and the experience deepens each time.
'The book has three sections which, loosely speaking, are personal, ecological and spiritual by turn' – as poet Geoff Page notes in his review in The Canberra Times. He admires the music of her poetry, its 'extreme lyricism', her characteristically 'unobtrusive shift from the natural to the spiritual', and says, 'Elvey is the mistress of the telling phrase'.
Kin is available from Five Islands Press: http://fiveislandspress.com/catalogue/kin
This Flesh That You Know is available from Leaf Press: http://www.leafpress.ca/Anne-Elvey/Anne-Elvey.htm
If in Melbourne visit Collected Works Bookstore: https://www.facebook.com/Collected-Works-Bookshop-175023895845165/
Poems and photos used in 'I Wish I'd Written This' remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.
Gorge photo by Peripitus, licensed under Creative Commons