Academic journal article Antipodes

A Precious Gift

Academic journal article Antipodes

A Precious Gift

Article excerpt

A precious gift Christine Townend. Walking with Elephants. Woodford: Island Press, 2015. 94 pp. A$20.00. ISBN 978-0-909771-90-4

If you care about the vital harmony that allows life on this planet, if you value dignity for all living beings, if you enjoy poetry driven by an honest voice gemmed with fresh images, then Walking with Elephants is a must read.

This debut poetry collection from the established author Christine Townend is rich with compassion and intelligence, and it will take you from India to the Bush. The collection unfolds in three parts. The first, "Walking with Elephants," takes place in India, namely, in Jaipur and Manali. Part 2, "Speaking," imagines a diversity of voices from other living beings-from owls to coral (and an oddly included "Mermaids" poem). Part 3, "The Bird Flies for All Things," ends in Australia with a wonderful attentiveness to life-from lizards to landscapes.

Walking with Elephants illuminates the knowledge that animals "have speech, words, / history, children, fathers, sons, / leaders." Townend is unafraid to enter the world as an equal, even as a form of prey as she disappears "through a keyhole" embracing the lesson of a tearing bite that shows her "how the deer" can "sing" her way to "the stars." She is comparably humble about trying to understand the human condition, too. About a herdsman with camels, she writes,

He has come from a village I will never


is travelling a road

whose beginning and end

will never be known by me. …

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