Of Silence and Truth

Poetry Review - Louise Waller

a bud - Claire Gaskin

John Leonard Press
ISBN 0 9775787 0 4


Claire Gaskin is one of the few poets published, so far, by John Leonard Press; a new poetry publisher in the market place. Many of the poems in this collection have been developed over a period ranging from two to twenty years. Some of the work in this collection previously appeared in Gaskin's chapbook, A Snail in the Ear of the Buddha (SOUP Publications, 1998). This collection was completed with the assistance of a New Work grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council and versions of some poems have appeared in; The Age, Blue Dog, Famous Reporter, foam:e , Going Down Swinging as well as other journals.

Gaskin's poetry is very suggestive and she incorporates her interest in imagism and surrealism to great advantage. Individual poems explore the fragile and brittle places of interior sensations without any coy pulling back from whatever is to be found there.

Two poems near the beginning of her collection offer a trace of the focus and content in poems to come;

Arms ache.
Roots around the heart.
A tree that won't lose its memory in autumn.
The child glowing outside the door.



the heart beat of the wipers
keeping clouds of her hair
off the screen
the arrhythmia of stifled silence
the enlarged sadness of a sudden weight
for the next beat

(two coffees awake on a sea of dead horses)


This is not easy poetry to read, in one sitting. The collection, although unified, does not relent in its directness. On almost every page, there is a deep wellspring of experience and emotional content, skillfully crafted with very little excess language contained in any of the poems. From 'I story my hands to the walls' the following leaves the reader in no doubt about the state of play here; 'the meaning is the wind not anything said // the ruin of ants in her skull / the birds of silence and truth / a land of hands under the fallen leaves'. Gaskin crystallizes sadness with a moody edge. She traverses death and loss throwing cut glass behind, it is wise to step carefully through the poems. Many of these poems are spare, yet have surprising strength. They hold a mesmerizing potency.


in her hands
staring into the flame patting the castrated dog
learn to sleep in the middle of the bed he is not coming back
is the touch of tenor on fingertips
the bare ribs of words the wind blows through
a knife under the pillow for cutting memory
falling off the edge of the page

(in her hands)


The back cover comments are not accredited to anyone, but suggest Gaskin is a poet who works with logic and illogic and with an artist's instinct not to hurry. "The words seem incised on the page for a long term." There is a uniqueness in this collection, and it does not read like the poetry of other contemporary poets. I imagine Gaskin will continue to produce poetry which is well crafted and precise. Spare and delicate, unyielding. From 'Tyre tread and rose' towards the end of her collection; 'The bud is closed, / a grip, / one petal beginning its flight.'