Published by the University of Western Australia, Six Different Windows is my first exposure to Paul Hetherington, but his eighth collection of poetry. The collection is organised into six similarly themed selections.
The first section, Corrugations, really hit the sweet spot for the kind of poetry that I enjoy. I don’t know if it’s middle age but I love pieces that riff off nostalgia and present a solid narrative. Hetherington gives us 16 poems that focus on an Australia that’s immediately tangible for someone like me who grew up on the edge of suburbia. My favourite is Chicken, which tells the tale of revenge enacted on a bastard of a History teacher.
…It hadn’t been his bossy irritation
or the murder of his dull monotone—
these, and other crimes, we had forgiven.
It was what he did to noisy Amy (who
had Down syndrome and adored her chickens),
bringing a dead bantam into class,
hanging it from the ceiling: ‘This a lesson
for girls who should not talk unless they’re asked.
Next are seven poems corralled under the title of the first poem in this section, Five Abstractions of Blue. Here Hetherington becomes a little less direct and the poetry becomes strongly focussed on imagery. As in Double Scull
A scull planes
on this early morning stretch
of silver-foiled water.
The sun’s upturning lip
the horizon’s down-turned scoop;
The poetry from here becomes a little more observational, in the present moment. The titular poem Six Different Windows, headlines a section of the same name and here we a treated to Hetherington’s experiences travelling, in this instance to Ireland, England and Europe. It’s beautiful language and imagery and despite it’s deviation from the first section I do find I like it.
The section I liked the least was Afterlight: Icarus and Ariadne, which contained only four poems. The poetry here is clever and funny especially The Muse Drafts Her Business Card but I while I could enjoy the poems it didn’t effect me on an emotional level.
The Vanished Villages heralds a section on well, vanished habitations or peoples, from Pompeii to mining at Coober Pedy, an Inca Sacrifice to a 15th Century Greenlander.
The Vanished Villages
Here were undistinguished villages
of wood and freckled bricks, and in between
a straggling remnant of forest hinting at
border raiders and ancient Saxon legend,
where women gathered washing into baskets,
granting the landscape a practised scrutiny.
I like the speculative storytelling Hetherington engages in here, building a reality from museum piece, a landscape. The collection finishes strongly with the section Findings,Keepings which sees a return to what I feel is an Australian context. The poems here are varied in subject matter and approach. We are treated to the poet’s childhood or past memories but there’s also speculative elements that featured in the previous section.
Six Different Windows as you would expect from a poet with 7 previous collections, is a solid and enjoyable poetry experience. I love the nostalgia fix he dishes out and am jealous of his skill with evocative imagery. I’ll be chasing down more of his work.