Overland Emerging Poets Series: Rebecca Kylie Law

2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets commended poet: Rebecca Kylie Law

Rebecca Kylie Law is an Australian poet. She holds a Masters degree in Poetry from the University of Melbourne, for which she was awarded second-class honours, a postgraduate diploma in English Literature (Shakespearean Poetry, UOM), a graduate diploma in Creative Writing (UOM) and a bachelor degree in Fine Art (RMIT). Her poetry has been published in numerous literary journals. She writes in English and French and is currently developing her skills in Italian. She will undertake two residencies as a poet in Melbourne and Italy this year. Her first publication, Offset, will be published by Picaro Press and released late 2012.



Mirror and Girl

(After Judith Wright)

i no longer miss myself in your eyes for blood or money, the girl’s hazel retreat passed on to eucalyptus when small agony broke through protests, glad like a summer dusk. The legs teeter passions- this time you loved I have gathered, respecting histories of decisive cataloguing assisted in the main by what we have realised you cannot, what Rilke placed in vials, tears, have dried up to outstanding ecstasies you say have been conferred. The tree is best beside us and the question: beauty. Shy eyelashes gave themselves up, sunlight tanned your skin, the perfume of flowers became you; & antipodean yellow hills below blueness brought new ways of seeing. Taught by the moon, holding loved ones were moments in time. And your face has his kindness already. Pollen dust storms about the image because there is a likeness. And it stays devoted, that which you love, backgrounds your next vista, shadows with greater competence, your own: is not under-mined by self-doubt. Boomerangs attest to risk-taking endeavours the spirits oversee; and your own has been cast, in the act of living. It is not me then, in the foreground of scorched earth and billabongs but her, this dark blue cotton sundress a woman’s; but she has my eyes. Looking for eternity the gaze trusts the simplest knowledge, call it a gem; and bare-footed has been grounded, fixed on the uprightness of daylight gravity. It will stay until night, the proper figure, later reeling with her new lover under stars, a navy sky. I, personally, cannot forget the red kangaroo on a cliff-face promising the world. The next step is her first and already there is confidence about her frame. Yes, he is her home, as portable as tents. What shall she give him? Just love? The native plants are exotic and there is never lilac but the light is fair & the scents heighten her senses. The Southern Cross guides her, the three wise kings just ahead. For sound, my recorder she’s left for harmonica. Lovely, really, the small notes and soprano resonance. I feel proud, happy, ridiculous. In rain, hazy summers and autumn half-lights, her image here, in an outdoor mirror, is weathered. The question beauty now asking if life could be more so; and the gem answering, always. They hold hands, hers in his, and live each year for the harvest. She has confided, in the image born of its imago, no greater love. Ocean tides rise and fall across the shores at sunrise and freighters dock into the port at half the hour of eight. The rooster crows often and the dehydrated ravens move on…They wake to the song of magpies, sleep to the piping of crickets; and are married to kill the Magdalene or Ishtar of her rumoured status. Their prophecies became the whisper of winds told to the outback: the elders chanting, the dreamtime of their kisses. And they were integrated in the image. She will never be more beautiful. Some day greed will rear its animal head, the lion mane bejewelled; and the age-weary union will stand at the threshold of temptation. But the gem will glow and save her; and her love for him will save this man’s life. In drought, famine and flood, they will endure. Scarlet fires and black smoke cannot diminish this fighting spirit. Civil war could not be less important for its tendency to end. In sickness, they will comfort the other. In poverty, they will find warmth in the other’s arms. Like a cicada shell, the transparency of her heart will surmount the ugliness of poisoned bait. Whistling, they will be wild as rain to survive time. People will challenge their values; and the story will be written more than once. They will have children and their children, children. Their passing will be shrewd. Already her blonde hair has been inch-shortened from the full-length of the girl. It is clipped back in the image but the mess of wavy tresses betray her soul. She is a young woman. They eat fruit, drink wine, boil vegetables and break bread. They eat meat for communion with the slaughter. They eat beneath a stained-glass lantern. A lace curtain divides their bedroom from the kitchen. She owns a computer. He plays the guitar. He is a young man. They leave words on pieces of paper on tables and bench-tops. Thoughts, diagrams, kisses. She washes his clothes with a tablespoon of suds. He buys her beer. The air is salted. She hears seagulls from the porch. She brought with her, a star. He had acquired, previously, clear skies. She works in a university. He writes in a study. They have anxieties about the future and collect lilies, gardenias and wild roses for their rooms, their hearts. Just the one moon shines above them, opalescent, punctual and bright in its sulk. She is, by birth-time, virginal, he, darkly, wise. Mid-summer evening, fly-wired in before a storm, they lie in each other’s arms. Yellow light flashes electric across the plains, thunder breaks a cloud; and rain like satin, floods their roads and mountains. And afterwards, a rainbow from North to South. The tree outside the kitchen window grows lemons and the fruit is ripe. Inside, a blue Arab Stallion figurine poised centaur against the winds. This is the apocalyptic dream love; and changes the world. Rubble settles, reconstructs in its wake; become the new architectures of other cities, other lives, other loves. Time moves forward to the end. They do not look back. The young woman with eucalyptus eyes has erased her past with her present futures. She has seen and engaged promise. He sang for her, the lyrebird in the dew, knew the pains of her heart. Gentle, patient, she wandered near his country; and now has turned toward life. Companions night and day the young woman and man walk back into their lives; and she, he, moving quietly, side by side, have found, with uncertainty and no impatience, no greater love captured in the image


Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?

I am reading Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo and Paul Eluard because I am interested in the surreal, the symbolic and the sublime as romantic concepts that displace and liberate the word from a human preoccupation with living and dying. Contemporary French authors such as Michel Deguy, Philippe Beck and Jude Stefan transcend these concepts a little further and ‘follow’ language, allowing the word to ‘say’ rather than be ‘said’. If read beside Australian poets such as Peter Porter and Peter Steele, the liberation of allowing the language to speak means we are existing rather than questioning the premise. Chris Wallace-Crabbe here brings language down to earth by attending to the same assumption without ‘god’ in the word followed. There are still stars. From here I read Philip Larkin often, finding language is still followed despite his misgivings about a rousing ‘present’. Of interest here is his willingness to follow language in the hope it tells him something his human condition cannot … he surmises, by following the word, what would happen if he just loved. There is then Judith Rodriguez, insisting crimes happen regularly and language must say so, Kenneth Slessor following the word through a battlefield ‘all drowns in night. Even the lazor drowns/ In earth at last, and rises up afresh…’ and coming out the other side untrammelled, and always the less experienced poets falling in love, the dead poets, Rilke, Shelley, Donne, O’Hara, Yeats and most favourably, at present, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?

I write every weekday and if this routine escapes me, compensate for lost time over a weekend. The hours I spend writing vary but I never spend less than an hour and rarely more than five in one sitting. This time is not always writing, sometimes thinking, reading and closing my eyes occupies that hour or five. I do have a writing practice. I believe in beginning every session with some vague notion of what my next challenge should be (if I wrote a short poem yesterday, I should write a longer piece today and various interpretations of this ideal). I will not commence writing until I have read a poem, it doesn’t matter whose or what the theme is. Having just completed my first book I am writing my second, which I have outlined in a two-page working document with a working title. Amongst this, I write poems for particular submissions, competitions and Melbourne reading groups. When writing for a competition with line requirements, I use dot points in the side margin.

When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?

I have never heard this expression before and was so perplexed that I started to believe it was very important to say ‘yes’, thinking perhaps it was a reference to the ‘wild’, that even, perhaps, Africa had something to do with my (our) poetry. But no, in all seriousness, I do not see an elephant in the room because Australian Poetry is so multifarious and is approached from a wide range of perspectives. Still confused by this question, I wonder if you are asking me about weight, to which I would answer, Australian Poetry is not ‘heavy’. An Italian sonnet is heavy but again, not an elephant. Australian poetry is missing nothing. There is no elephant I am particularly aware of and really, this would be most untenable (cute as they are): ‘it is a very good thing to be an elephant, still, the life of an elephant is dangerous, wild, and painful. It is therefore a safer thing to be an elephant in a house near a park.’ Adam Gopnik.

Other work online:
Best Poem Journal
Nothing. No one. Nowhere.
Nocturnal Submissions
RRR interview

Peter Minter

Peter Minter is a leading Australian poet and writer on poetry and poetics, and Overland’s outgoing poetry editor.

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