Blast, the literary biannual literary magazine specialising in high quality poetry and critical writing, lives up to its website description as sturdy and discerning. Its A5 size is pleasing to hold, its uncluttered and straightforward production values have an integrity reminiscent of the unassuming poetry books from forty or more years ago. There is no need for any design gimmick as its content speaks profoundly for itself.
The autumn/winter Issue No 9 features 17 accomplished poets whose work varies in form and subject. They include David Wheatley, Morgan Yasbincek, Bruce Dawe, Sylvie Newman and Ron Pretty. The issue starts with four poems from Jordie Albiston who is, to my mind, always interesting: mansfield (k), miscellany, methinx (i), methinx (ii). I enjoy the familiar yet arcane feel of her work and her playfulness with words: . . . who is the dog’s god . . . My favourite is methinx (i) a poem in sms language which concludes . . . ths lifes 2 short 4 a hero/(methinx it all means 0).
I was immediately engaged by the works this issue of Blast, although not all of the poems were to my taste. It is not my intention here to critique each poem: as a reader-poet I could certainly respond more exactingly, here and there, to certain poems. However, some of the poems or lines from poems that stood out include: . . . or a lone goat, tethered to a field it eats tidy . . . from Ode by Petra White; You are like the regret I feel/when a bird song ends. Wind . . . from Bird Song by John Millett; Hospital Villanelle by Morgan Yasbincek; David Prater’s poem Poet Momentous that takes an ironic look at the fashions and snobbery of poetry culture; the compact first stanza of Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s Scenes from a Journey for aptly illustrating how less is more and which reminded me of William Carlos-Williams; and the quiet power of The Walkers by Bruce Dawe .
This issue of Blast ends with two prose pieces – a review and an obituary that both roundly complement the poetry.
I was particularly impressed with a review by Elizabeth Campbell who is the Review and Features Editor of Blast. Her intelligently honest and critical analysis of two books of poetry that had recently won significant prizes led her to conclude with a question: what does it mean for the state of poetry in Australia, that two such books should be so highly praised and awarded? A question that seems to beg so many others. What impressed me was her ability to state her case clearly in language that does not disguise itself in diplomacy or euphemism, nor use a tone that is sneering or superior. It was also refreshingly free of the congestion that comes with the language of academic literary criticism.
The second prose piece, an obituary for Dorothy Porter by Jennifer Harrison, is impressive in its collegial generosity and its personal fondness for the well-loved poet’s energetic contributions to the life of poetry and the literary community.
I note at the time of writing that the spring/summer issue of Blast No 10 is already out. My reading of issue number 9 means I’ll be looking out for the next one.