Call to Listen
by Colleen Keating
Published by Ginninderra Press
Reviewed by Judith O’Connor
This stylishly produced collection of some eighty poems,
with a particularly tasteful and pleasing cover, is just what it says – a plea to stop
our activities and busyness and start looking, listening and observing the world around us. The poet supplies us with any number of simple examples:
it’s a hard thing to love a rock
you need to receive it as a gift
gaze . . . (‘How to Love a Rock’)
. . . a fallen water tank; rusted blood red . . .
But we quickly see that the range of topics and inspiration,
is far wider and deeper than what at first may appear incidental.
The collection is cleverly arranged into eight separate categories,
taking in a wide sweep of the poet’s life and experiences.
I particularly enjoyed the verses inspired by outback Australia
for which the poet has borrowed (and referenced) the words of Mary McKillop
‘We are but Travellers Here’. Having trekked to the summit of Mt. Sondar and hiked in many of the poet’s footsteps (‘Ormiston Pound’), I was surprised and delighted to read her award winning ‘Daybreak over Mt. Sondar’ and its moving description of the dawn:
…in the beginning
air static as a nylon petticoat pulled over my hair
fingerprints of red ruby . . . (‘Daybreak over MT. Sondar’)
Every page brings fresh and, at times, challenging verses on a range of human emotions from ‘Almost Dawn’ with its sensuality:
… he turns
arms cocoon me
in an aura of warmth
his breath tingles
in the dip of my neck . . . (‘Almost Dawn’)
to ‘At the Nursing Home’:
… I fill the foot bath
my elbow checks the tepid water … (‘At the Nursing Home’)
Another of my favourites, ‘Sisters’:
… we lunch together
the milestone of another decade
and that word ‘remission’ a green shoot springing
from the scarred black earth…
But from being a poem full of depression and sorrow, it ends magnificently:
with our lust for life
toast with a glass of bubbly
Joie de vivre (‘Sisters’)
The poets voice changes to anger and outrage in other poems such as ‘Guantanamo Bay’ ( . . . this is a poem not to be read aloud; for it speaks of solitaire confinement …) and ‘War on Terror’ ( … it’s coming; through a hole in the air) along with poems reflecting visits to Japan and Fromelles.
Whatever the reader’s mood, quest or interest, these poems are sure to satisfy, surprise and inspire.