By Andy KissanePoetry Puncher & Wattmann
Radiance is a book firmly grounded in the reality of contemporary life, lit by empathy and humour. Andy Kissane ranges from the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk to a sailing trip on Sydney harbour with Percy Shelley to the celebration of an enduring relationship with The Moon.
His poems are variously populated by literary characters and creators (Keats, Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf), children who work as street vendors in Mexico or garbage foragers in Phnom Penh, and Australian suburban dwellers. Subjects include love, sex, parenting and childhood summers, as well as exercises in political and literary ventriloquism, as Kissane imagines himself into lives and worlds very different from his own.
‘The book discovers radiance and human endurance in a world of compromise and betrayal, and celebrates imagination’s wild joy,’ writes John Upton for Cordite.
This is an emotionally charged, technically accomplished collection, rich with compassion and engagement.
Radiance is a perfectly titled collection – these poems shine with the wit and emotional warmth of Andy Kissane’s writing. His power of poetic narrative sets up a fine balance between acuity of detail and action. People, places and events are portrayed with a calm yet unexpected strength of compassion, rich with intertextuality and intimacy.
Kissane is a masterful storyteller, playfully creating a dialogue between the poems and figures such as Virginia Woolf, the poets Keats and Shelley and even the characters of Tolstoy. These are lively and highly accessible poems, unhurried, unfussy and extraordinarily generous. The reader comes away uplifted.
It’s not easy to peel the grubby yellow skin
from a knuckle of quince and even with a sharp knife
the paring is difficult. I stack the slices
so they crowd together on pallid pastry,
as anaemic as refugees on a forced march.
The names of camps pop unmusically
into my mind: Treblinka, S-21,
Estadio Nacional. What creative impulse
turns an orchard into a concentration camp?
Will you and I finally turn away
from the oven of our own making,
to cook something wholesome and sustaining?
O long sonnet, late volta, in the ceramic dish
the tart is all goodness, yet the pieces of steaming,
flesh-coloured quince look like bodies laid out
one on top of another in a shallow grave.
The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist