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Review: Carnival Edge: New and Selected Poems, by Katherine Gallagher

The Australian Reader #72, January 2011

One measure of a poet is the degree to which they take risks with their poetry, with its style, its diction and/or its subject matter. Katherine Gallagher is one such poet, taking risks with her poetic technique as she explores both her life and the worlds of art, poetry and reality around her. In doing so, she sometimes strikes sour notes, yet in doing so she does not diminish from her acheivement, an
achievement which is, in Carnival Edge, readily apparent.

Here and there that technique reveals itself. Reading, for example, The mother has also gone / leaving only this shrill shell / once part of herself in Relic, we can see that the skill with with Gallagher handles her technique is clearly evident. The mechanics of the poem, the words, their rhythms, and their sounds, combine to create a whole that expands beyond these elements, and that reveals a wider, defamiliarised world to us.

Coming to This is a listed tree in The Ash Tree, for example, is evidence of the care placed into the poems. In the repeated 'is', 'if this is' and 'listed', you see the way the poet forms patterns of sound, emphasis and imagery that combine to create the sense of excellence that underlies this book. And Carnival Edge is evidence enough of Gallagher's ability as a poet.

Carnival Edge not only withstands repeated reading, it invites it. It
is a work that demands that it be taken up by poets and explored, so that it can reveal its richnesses, and show further ways in which poetry can be explored. As a poet, myself, having read Carnival Edge a number of times, I can only say that these prospects excite me enormously.