Academic journal article Antipodes

Rosemary Dobson: Collected

Academic journal article Antipodes

Rosemary Dobson: Collected

Article excerpt

POETRY Giving voice to blank space Rosemary Dobson. Rosemary Dobson: Collected. St. Lucia: U of Queensland P, 2012. 384 pp. A$27.95. ISBN-13: 978-0- 7022-3911-3

There are inherent difficulties in at- tempting to offer a just review of a life- time's worth of work in 900 words. It is not with a sense of hubris that I approach this challenge, but with a desire to learn and explore poetry beyond what is read- ily available in your typical, American bookstore. Having read Rosemary Dobson: Collected, I feel fortunate in both regards.

When I received Dobson's collection, I was astounded by the prolific nature of her work, which spans an impressive 64 years (1944-2008). That being said, I have never read 339 pages of poetry faster. Dobson's poems flow naturally, calm and revealing. Her work has a read- ability that makes one forget one is read- ing poetry. She is capable of doing what I consider to be one of poetry's great dif- ficulties, holding up to both cursory and critical readings.

Dobson's early works are contempla- tive, many of them addressing the prac- tice of observation and story making. This can be seen in her numerous poems about paintings and other visual medi- ums. Through ekphrastic poems Dobson gives life to the blank spaces, the still moments in works of art and life. Giv- ing story to her various observations is an effort to cultivate understanding of the world in which she resides. There are three quotes from various poems, which reflect Dobson's views on poetry and, by extension, life. The first quote, from "Ev- ery Man His Own Sculptor," speaks to what she does with poetry:

I'll shape these long-boned, seeking


To know whatever either finds,

And spread them wide to spend or


What life can give-what I can make.


There is a sense of curiosity and play within these lines, almost like a child be- coming self-aware and testing what he/ she is capable of doing.

Dobson's collection progresses in much the same way we progress through life. The earlier poems are full of ques- tions, many of them in the form of an existential or philosophical or even ironic turn at the end. There is an ob- session with what is unknown, a wanting to know coupled with a fear to know: "1 know not, and 1 fear to know" ("The Rider" 12). This parallels the recurring image of the scarecrow in "The Ship of Ice. …

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