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Swallow by Claire Potter


by Claire Potter

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What distinguishes Potter’s aviary – full of swallows, quails and cranes, as well as associated flora – from pre-existing, nature poetry (such as Ted Hughes’s owls and crows) is that Potter’s birds are fundamentally and at times perplexingly opaque and anti-expressive. They are neither metaphors, nor symbols, nor – despite the poet’s obvious erudition – allusions to other literary birds. Potter’s birds are profoundly ephemeral yet energetic traces of a crucial, unknowable truth; a truth brought to life in language, but never merely represented or shown by language. To state the obvious, Potter’s poetry is, if one must, complex and possibly inaccessible; but it can be more appropriately described as tantalisingly complex and profoundly, unashamedly inaccessible.
Potter is West Australian born, Sydney educated and sometimes European located - both physically and through kinship. She straddles all these places with ease, her poems slipping between Australia and Europe, the differences noted but barely noticed because what matters is nature; animals, landscapes, atmospheric moments of light and shadow, keenly observed and full of gorgeous imagery
Not so much Bahktinian as echoing Blanchot’s conception of literature, Potter states that her poetry is “completely dialogic”, forming a conversation with the work of other poets, writers, artists and film-makers. Each book she writes follows an architecture aimed at creating a space in which this conversation might evolve. While her basic approach to poetry – shape over form, sound over lyric – often leaves her work less than ‘immediate’ in the way of Romantic or Modernist forms of lyricism, strains of European and Australian lyricism are apparent parts of the conversation she has entered into.
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Where I could not follow    With wing of swallow.    Thomas Hardy, 'The Going'
For my mother, Diana
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If not for oneself, leave me a glass-house   (or a garland that holds
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