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When Peter Porter noted the brilliance of Philip Salom’s poems and said they were unlike anything in Australian poetry, he was referring to Sky Poems (1987), an ironic otherworld of the twentieth century and the first book of the Alterworld trilogy. Salom later added The Well Mouth (2005), an underworld of limbo and stopped-life to counter Sky Poems’ endless possibilities. Now the accidental realities of Alterworld reach into the twenty-first century but remain haunted by Salom’s ambiguous visions of life and death. The poems have satirical verve and sensuality, and are layered in surprising linguisitic echoes; his imagination is almost architectural but also acutely social. Alterworld is extraordinary and unique.


“Philip Salom’s Alterworld is much more than a standard ‘new and selected’. Two major books, Sky Poems (first published 1987, FACP) and The Well Mouth (2005, FACP) are reworked, and a new collection completes the three. The two previous books were already a closely connected pair: where Sky Poems takes an upward trajectory, developing a sky-like place of apparently unbounded imagination, The Well Mouth is a book of and in the earth, implying all that the downward direction of the human imagination has traditionally meant: death, decomposition, renewal. These were, in short, complementary books, working on the old and deeply rooted antithesis of the sky-like/celestial and the chthonic. The third collection, Alterworld, develops both of these, as well as revisiting and extending some themes from Salom’s numerous other collections.” GRAEME MILES, Cordite Poetry Review

“Philip Salom’s almost overwhelmingly intense trilogy Alterworld combines his 1987 work Sky PoemsThe Well Mouth from 2005 and a collection of new work called Alterworld . At its simplest it is a kind of reversed version of Dante’s Divine Comedy, moving from a meta-paradise down into a murky underworld and emerging into a world that is rather like everyday life, but with all the boring bits taken out.” PETER KENEALLY, The Australian

“Philip Salom’s Alterworld is a useful “three-in-one”. It combines two of his best known but out of print earlier books (Sky Poems 1987 and The Well Mouth 2005) with a new collection in the same vein. Both Sky Poems and The Well Mouth are hard to categorise. They are certainly livres composes while the latter can also be regarded as a kind of verse novel.” GEOFF PAGE, The Sydney Morning Herald

“There’s nothing bucolic about the poetry in Philip Salom’s Alterworld. Reading these poems can be uncomfortable, confronting and confusing, moving through a series of imagined worlds full of death, destruction, unhealthy sex and occasionally hope and nirvana (though no Salom nirvana is without its dark side). Taken as a collection, the book takes the reader on a journey that, despite the difficulty, is epic. There’s a huge and complex imagination at work here: with worlds as tightly plotted as that of any speculative fiction, and stories that drag us in, attract and repel at the same time. Once you’re sucked into these intimately related, but different worlds, it’s hard to look at life around you in quite the same way.” MAGDALENA BALL, Compulsive Reader

“Many of the poems are powerfully timeless, and layering them in one volume highlights that though our world may have altered in the past thirty years, we are still grappling with familiar questions and concerns…Recurring motifs include night, electronics, vehicles, engines, houses, birds and blood, and so Salom brings alive our twenty-first century society with a gothic, steampunk flavour. He represents a world deeply grounded in language, with meta-textual poems implying that words both nurturing and destructive. Indeed, the language is figured as the material of mortal life.” AMY HILHORST, Westerly Magazine (p.156-7)