Alan Fish and MA Carter (ed. Philip Salom) in So Long Bulletin

The Keeper of Fish by Alan Fish and Keeping Carter by MA Carter

(both edited by Philip Salom, Puncher and Wattmann)

Philip Salom is that rare thing in Australian poetry: a true avant-gardist, subverting the ‘lyrical I’ (or perhaps the lyrical narcissist) with Pessoa-like heteronyms who have no time for the niceties of contemporary poetry. Though he keeps a handle on his heteronyms (the ‘offensive’ MA Carter and the ‘love and death’ fixated Alan Fish) by having his own name on the cover as ‘editor’, Salom expands from his own identity as a poet and succeeds in producing two new, different styles and kinds of poetry for each heteronym – which he may not have written as Salom, yet paradoxically are unmistakably his own. Perhaps the function of the heteronym is that it severs not only the poet from the ‘I’, but also the reader from the poet – challenging our readerly habits of attachment to a ‘voice’ (and some readers may find this off-putting). The books are presented with piss-taking blurbs, bios and introductions to the ‘poets’ who, like Ern Malley, seem tantalisingly real and fully-formed. Salom has fun with his heteronyms, but this is not a self-indulgent or whimsical exercise: the poems are real and this is more than just an exercise. The poems present a challenge both to readers and to poets (and poetry). They don’t set out to charm the reader: take MA Carter’s ‘Poetry and Beauty’, with its concluding lines ‘Playing honest? Yes? In our hearts we are all fakes,/ which is something not said by the sentimentalists’. These are the final two volumes of the ‘Keepers’ trilogy – the first of which was written by Philip Salom. 

Petra White, SO LONG BULLETIN of Australian Poetry and Criticism

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