Andy Kissane, ‘Radiance’ in Cordite

John Upton reviews Andy Kissane’s Radiance in Cordite Poetry Review


Percy Bysshe Shelley is sailing a boat on Sydney Harbour, steering with the tiller between his knees as ‘a cheesecloth moon floats above Pinchgut’, but his companion, Australian poet Andy Kissane, can’t bear to make eye contact:

… I’m a little spooked by the empty caves

where his eyes used to be, and the bald white hill

of his cheekbone where a hungry mackerel feasted

on his flesh like a Catholic breaking his Lenten fast.

In ‘Percy Shelley’s Heart’, Kissane writes with gusto and surreal humour. But he is equally at home portraying domestic intimacies within the poet’s own relationship (‘Sea of Tranquillity’), or hardship and joy as a child plays soccer with his friends following a day scrounging a living in Phnom Penh’s garbage tip (‘On Smoky Mountain’).

The book discovers radiance and human endurance in a world of compromise and betrayal, and celebrates imagination’s wild joy. The poems come from a five-year period from 2009 to 2013. Kissane’s idiom is free verse, usually unrhymed (there’s one villanelle), with the metre frequently based around iambic pentameter but slipping unobtrusively into hexameter and tetrameter to keep the rhythm fresh. The pentameter is conversational, engaging, but rhythmic gear changes, along with judicious spondees and anapaests, keep it interesting.

Radiance is in four sections…

John Upton , Cordite, 21 October 2014

Read the full review in Cordite

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