Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To be published in Plumwood Mountain Journal

Flute of Milk by Susan Fealy
Perth, WA: UWA Publishing, 2017.ISBN: 9781742589398

I recently visited a small country town in Western Australia and attended Saturday morning markets. I bought a small plastic tray for $3. A memento I assumed from the seller by visiting the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It’s amazing when serendipity occurs. Imprinted on its surface is Johannes Vermeer’s painting the Milkmaid. after The Milkmaid’ is an epigraph in Susan Fealy’s first poem titled Made in Deflt, and perhaps the first line conveys a museum visit, where ‘White walls melken the daylight’.  

Ekphrastic poems loom large in this collection. However, as a reviewer I’m not here to praise how well Fealy defines these works as an inspiration for her poetry. They are merely a backdrop for her visceral language that creates a kind of Droste effect; an image within an image, or her words over art-form: the map of the world / has been painted over.  

Only a woman, blond
Light from the window,
Her wide-mouthed jug
And bread on the table
One can almost taste the milk
Escaping her jug.    Page 15

An emotional response to this work might be through an ecological valence. The poet responds positively to coloured environmental objects, cultivating Henri Matisse’s blues. A certain blue penetrates your soul is a quote from Matisse and used as an epigraph to the poem A Confluence of Blues. Colours are conveyed in sensual language and are a visual experience for the reader. Fealy uses the sense of sight (even sound) to convey her unique expressions of blue; ones that indeed penetrate the soul.

The frequency
of light that lies
between violet and green
Arthur Dove once said
Painting is music of the eyes.
A fleet of blues flute violet
others oboe green.       Page 18

This collection published by UWA Publishing is enriched with Fealy’s use of known-mediums such as Literature, the Melbourne Museum, The Oxford Dictionary, a Sculptor, as well Australian Artists and Poetry. All are referenced as “Notes” on Pages 75-76. Michael Sharkey suggests in his review of the work. ‘Fealy’s references “go beyond description of the objects and processes of each object or art-form she considers, to suggest an interest in the causes of artistic inspiration across all the modes of art that strike her eye and mind. On the face of it, her poetry is provoked by surprise confrontations with arresting verbal accounts of events and phenomena, and with artistic work in other modes than poetry. Visual art, plastic arts, film, flower-arrangement, ceramics … they’re collisions of eye with object.”

These lines are highlighted from For Cornflowers to Sing (Still Life with Cornflowers, Brett Whitely). And The Vase Imposes.

For cornflowers to sing
each line must scar
its making

There must be light
and the idea of a window   Page 65

The Master of Flowers respects
the economy of nature ─

confines them
in slim vessels, quells
a mad thirst with still water.  Page 66

The Milkmaid (on plastic)

to be continued when published ......


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