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This review is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

PIECES OF A WORLD EMMA LEW, Anything the Landlord Touches (Giramondo Publishing Company, Australia), £20.00

Who is the landlord? God? Australia? The colonialists? Man? Or is it Midas out of control with his touch, as in the title poem which repeats: `I break things because I am afraid and I spend my time repairing'? In my naïveté, I imagine Australia as a continent of huge vistas where `things' take on an importance they do not have here. Perhaps this explains Emma Lew's lack of articles. She plunges us into her poetry with almost unbearable speed: `Sky a tent immaculately pitched and moon's /ghosts are creeping across paddocks' (`Marshes'). She can be equally sparing with verbs, pronouns, plurals and even punctuation. The effect is to make what is unsaid urgently present, and to force us to read the lines at a rush, to gather us up into the poem's world. It also seems that Lew has a fondness for collective nouns. This gives the rare detail she allows extraordinary power: `as day throws down/ its berries and pearl' (`Falconer's Dawn').

A number of the poems - `Her Embroideries', `Rose Constructions', `The Tale of Dark Louise' and the heavily sex-coded `Honour-Bound' - conjure up Angela Carter's brooding unforgiving tone, and there is a Skriker-like presence in the witching `Clover Seed Hex' and `Loquax Ludi`, bringing Caryl Churchill's plays to mind.

In what for me is one of the most brilliant poems here, `Story of the Ornament', Lew gives us a terrifying glimpse into a world we do not know. Not all the ...


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