The Australian Public Intellectual Network
  Home    Network Books    Australian Common Reader    ACH    Conferences    Network Reviews    Virtual Library    Altitude    From the Editor   
Senor Pilich

This is the saga of Senor Pilich and how he saved the monastery. Senor Pilich, monastery cat extraordinaire, is struck by the sinister Mr Dreggs. Struck by his boot, that is. 'Mr Dreggs, a thief, was at large in the monastery. He was a confidence man. He was overly interested in valuable and historic things. He looked suspicious, acted suspiciously and, above all evils, he did not like cats. Dreggs was a positive threat to the place. He had to go.' Señor Pilich and his friends foil  Dreggs at every turn in a hilarious adventure which causes mayhem throughout the monastery. Meanwhile, monastic ...
Tuesday, 22nd July 2014
  News      Calendar      NRB Current Issue      

API Review of Books

Altitude BirdIssue 44
Features reviews by Kathleen Broderick, Linn Miller, Christine Choo, Bill Thorpe, David Ritter, Eve Vincent, Stephanie Bishop, Alison Miles, Richard Kay, Amanda Day, Bernard Whimpress, Mads Clausen, Marion May Campbell, Sylvia Alston, Catie Gilchrist, Eva Chapman, Lucy Dougan, Stephen Lawrence and Nathanael O'Reilly. Click here for more details.


Altitude BirdPopular Music: Practices, Formations and Change - Australian Perspectives
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. Click here for more details.



By Cate Kennedy, Carindale: Interactive Publications, 2004, 64 pages, paperback, $23.00. Reviewed by Helen Hagemann in the June 2005 issue.

Help more readers find out about this article
Slashdot Slashdot   Digg Digg   StumbleUpon StumbleUpon

Joyflight is Cate Kennedy's second collection following on from Signs of Other Fires published by Five Islands Press, 2001. This lyrical work touches on the personal, family biography, and Irish history. Kennedy's poems all share a concern for lived experience, and convey the social mores and fabric of rural life, whether at home or abroad, stylized or imagined. Her poems have a unique metaphysical quality, where landscapes offer different perspectives. Many poems convey the motif of flight, allowing the reader to go beyond rooms, the flat landscape, 'beyond gravity', to more interesting and lofty observations. What is joyful about these poems is that a reader's knowledge is extended when grave stones of history are revealed, when world powers are again Apollo-Soyuz linked, and New York's Metropolitan Museum is visited. Kennedy's exposé of a mock-up 'Authentic Irish Pub' is a blarney-styled satire on video-camera tourists, where even the driver can't wait 'to get the taste of them out of his mouth with a Guinness'. ('Irish Singing Here Every Friday Night')

Expansive is a word that comes to mind in these well-crafted, narrative poems in two parts. Part 1, 'That Pure Torn-Open Moment', observes personal moments and small events on the family farm. In 'Minotaur', Kennedy shares a precarious moment when the family has to contend with noisy bulls in the mating season:

It takes dogs and a vehicle to separate them;
the old bull bruised and limping, enraged and abusive
forced back to his lonely paddock
his usurper -- younger, a weight advantage on top of his form
better at disguising his damage
calls back any time, old man
and shoulders his way back to prime position under a tree.
Like the human world, animals, too, have their own frustrations. The old bull's exasperation, and comical engagement with the fence are vividly drawn:
All day the old bull moans unspeakable injustice
reinstates his case
screams up and down the boundary
limping on his bleeding hoof
making a show of resenting the fence.
The title poem 'Joy Flight' conveys a father's story. As the poet states, 'provoked from him/by some landslide of sorrow'. Through Kennedy's synchronicity and storytelling we are drawn into the event of three boys wanting to fly in 'that silver machine/ that sky'. The cover photograph reveals it was 1937, Yorktown, SA, where a Tiger Moth rests its tail in the long grass, a single-propeller engine nosed towards the fields, pointing skyward. As with many stories that look back through time, there are often pent-up secrets looking for their own catharsis. Kennedy handles the dichotomy of the boys' triumph over their father's disgruntled manner with sensitivity and skill. The re-telling of a boy's joyful experience and youthful defiance is worthy of admiration, allowing the reader to wonder about the highs and lows of a troubled moment. Beyond the literal there are deeper cultural meanings, family tension, fear, hard times, and a frivolous expense pinching a man's face and his pocket. The wider implications deal with the family's misery of poverty, the Depression years, aircraft that symbolise World War I, and young men dying in the sky. However, redemption comes within the poem when parents succumb to the wishes of 'boys taut with longing':
Disaster could have struck, and sent my grandmother mad with grief.
My grandfather would have been condemned
to watch that, from the ground, forever.
But nothing went wrong.
They flew, and returned safely to the earth, transformed,
an awestruck moment in a poor childhood,
desire made real, a stern father hiding his smile on the home run.
While this is a minor criticism, I felt the poem finished on Page 8 with the strong thematic line, 'astonished by joy and flight'. Had the poem ended before the last stanza it would have had more impact. Instead, a father's story segues into the narrator's own conscious desire to share further talismanic and hidden familial fictions/stories. I found myself formulating these words: 'Yes, but don't tell, show!' This could have been another poem, perhaps, still incorporating the first section's excellent line: 'That pure torn-open moment'.

Kennedy establishes an explicit link between poetry and the landscape. Her concrete images are inventive and fresh. In 'Wormwood', the land is epitomised for its harshness and failings: 'Nothing native ever finds a hold again/ bramble and gorse sprawl snarling over the clay/ glinting pale like a scar through hair'.

'Thinking The Room Empty' brings us face to face with outback Alice Springs, a harsh environment, and the possibilities of losing one's way:
A friend, losing her way in the desert
walks out of a dry, Alice Springs riverbed into thirty thousand miles
of flat ruled horizon, blazing heat, waterless saltbush.
This is an engaging poem, allowing readers into that private moment when we see a poet working at her best. Yet, this is someone else's dilemma and challenge: 'She is thirsty, and she trespasses/ climbs through the fence/ walks expecting rifle fire'. The poem works on various planes, both meditative and transcendental. Firstly, the skilled artificer transports us beyond the page, the room and airlifts us to a rooftop, where we 'catch sight/ of a low mountain range/ elevated over the line of the horizon/ the direction back to town'. The experience of being saved is felt, made universal.

The last two stanzas are rich with insight. Kennedy's inward observations go beyond the narrative, and are hauntingly philosophical:
I wonder how many times I have broken some lock
searched hastily and withdrawn
thinking the room empty,
overlooked the disguised and waiting gift
missed the mountain.

I wonder what my stunted sightline
has failed to notice
what path home
I have abandoned.
In 2002, Cate Kennedy won the Vincent Buckley Poetry Award making it possible for her to travel to Ireland. Part 2, 'Burning the World's Almanac', includes poems that were written during her sojourn, and is a dedication to Irish history and tradition. The poem 'Poor Commissioners' exposes the monstrous sufferance by a group of 150 famine victims in 1849 who were denied food and shelter at a poorhouse in County Mayo, Ireland. Kennedy's sympathetic narrative of the plight of these famine victims is dramatic and justified. We sense the bureaucracy of the times, and recognise the polarities of poverty and class. These visual effects of discomfort share a confluence of empathy, and the injustice of lives lost (ancestors, perhaps?): 'your father there, huddled, vanishing/ so that the snow at last/ a misjudged enemy/ invited you down to rest/ muffling each voice/ and a faint half-dreamed comfort'. The imagination works here to make a fragment of history durable and singular, but certainly it is only one of many, horrific Irish events of the past.

Readers will be well rewarded with this book of thirty-four poems. There's an intimacy and truth, imaginative transitory moments, old wounds re-told and healed. Lovers of narrative poems will discover Kennedy's precision with language, metaphor, irony and humour that are all strikingly pictorial. At times, the book requires several readings for its long line lengths, but in the re-reading images like: 'green blooms of translucent aphids/ unhurriedly drinking a rose to death', are memorable.


  • Helen Hagemann. 'Review: Joyflight by Cate Kennedy' [online]. Network Review of Books (Perth, Australian Public Intellectual Network), June 2005. Availability: <please cite the web address here> ISSN 1833-0932. [accessed 22 July 2014].

Back Cover Blurb

  • 'Kennedy's poetry inhabits a large world, both of geography and of humanity, in which her voice, imagery, angle and insights are personal and individual. Approachable, subtle and crafted, this work offers many different sorts of satisfaction'. Aileen Kelly

    'These poems are driven by Kennedy's instinct for story,character, and place, but there's a moment when the poems 'suddenly open up, out of nowhere' and we find we're 'standing inside ourselves, in that pure, torn open moment'. Bronwyn Lea

Have You Also Read?

  • Popular Mechanics

    imageLiam Ferney, Carindale: Interactive Publications, 2004, 68 Pages, Paperback, $23.00
    Reviewed by David Crouch in the April 2005 issue.

    Popular Mechanics is the fresh debut work of innovative Brisbane poet, Liam Ferney. It is a collection of well-crafted poems. They counter-balance dashes of popular and literary culture with a delicacy of finely worked detail. The book is broken into four sections whose themes trace trajectories stretching from a John Forbes poem to the tale of 'the cold chicken river murder mystery' and is inflected throughout with the surprising music found in snatches of slang and sounds of everyday speech. A reader encounters surreal juxtapositions of imagery which interact with a refuse of iconic cultural artifacts, all slow-filtered through a subtly laconic use of language. And from the outset, ... read more.

Network Review of Books

Interactive Publications

  • IP began as a corporate publishing consultancy in Brisbane, Australia and still works as such. But it is most widely known for its award-winning literary publishing under its three imprints: Interactive Press, Glass House Books and IP Digital.Under its Director Dr David Reiter, internationally known for his own poetry and fiction, IP has moved to the forefront of New Publishing in Australia. A lean and mean enterprise, IP is determined to succeed where other small publishers have failed -- in the key areas of audience development, promotion and distribution. It also champions innovation in its professional and contractual relationships with authors and its wholehearted dedication to new forms of creative work.

NRB June 2005

Need to Contact Us?

  • API Network
    c/- Richard Nile
    Professor Australian Studies
    Director Institute for Media, Creative Arts and Information Technologies
    Murdoch University
    Australia 6152
    Tel +61 8 93602170


Site Meter