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All Suspicions Have Been Confirmed

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Disquieting and deeply moving, Shane Strange’s debut collection inhabits a space that is somehow both intimate, and remote. All Suspicions Have Been Confirmed is marked by precise, pared back language, and immediate, hauntingly resonant imagery: we move through the space and places, the cities, the landscapes of these poems almost as we might move through a film, or a vividly remembered dream.

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9780648834373 50 September 2020 RWP 58 , , ,
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Awake since midnight, he had already reported in: eggs, orange juice, a decaffeinated coffee substitute, a cantilever, a butterfly.

Disquieting and deeply moving, Shane Strange’s debut collection inhabits a space that is somehow both intimate, and remote. All Suspicions Have Been Confirmed is marked by precise, pared back language, and immediate, hauntingly resonant imagery: we move through the space and places, the cities, the landscapes of these poems almost as we might move through a film, or a vividly remembered dream.

1 review for All Suspicions Have Been Confirmed

  1. K A Nelson

    Poems whose genesis originates in difficulty
    A (first) review of ALL SUSPICIONS HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED

    Shane Strange’s debut collection is short—a mere thirty-one poems—but each poem is deeply felt and carefully crafted. Readers are not short-changed.

    Anne Casey has already lauded the work as ‘stunning’ for its originality, dexterity and precision of language; brilliant imagery; its piercing wit and grief. I have never reviewed a poetry collection before. After a close reading (three times in the last three weeks) I decided to give it a shot.

    The title, ‘All Suspicions Have Been Confirmed’, denotes poems whose genesis originates in difficulty. This often relates to familial or parental love. In ‘Eight ways to make fire’ on page 3, Strange maps the relationship between father and son from the son’s perspective, in all its permutations—from the hero worship of childhood to adult alienation. The relationship holds through the rituals of rural life and work; everyday found objects or relics; and everyday needs, like lunch or a glass of wine by firelight. The mystery of such relationships, like the connection between fire and smoke, highlights the potential of both to hurt and to heal.

    In the last poem of the collection the hard edge of a father’s impotence to fix a son’s particular problems leads to a plea to no one in particular, certainly not to a Christian God. Like every parent, the narrator is unable to rescue his child from the dangers inherent in simple existence. This is one of the hardest challenges of being a parent, but it comes with the territory. That territory is the very thin line between life and death, joy and despair. ‘The chapel astronomer’ is the final poem in the book, a short prose poem. Some might say its plea is a prayer to the universe:

    … Please. Please. Put eyelets in the sky/
    for his stars.

    A more direct plea is found in ‘Andachstbilder’ on page 31. Here, five seemingly random images bear no relationship to the devotional images the title suggests. Instead they relate to unasked for interruptions to normal life—an earthquake, a hospital—unpredictable events out of our control. The narrator’s plea is more direct:

    ‘Please don’t let my son die.’

    Those who know Strange, know that humour and repartee is part and parcel of his public persona as an MC at That Poetry Thing at Smith’s, in the way he introduces other poets, or when he launches a new collection Recent Work Press has published. Here, though, there is only a ‘hint’ of humour. In these poems humour is more likely to show itself as dark or a little dangerous—the red handkerchief and a nearby bull in ‘The order of things’ on page 8, and Yuri Gugarin’s double dealing in ‘Flight’ on page 36 are two examples.

    There is the thump of injustice too, particularly in ‘Portrait of the Queensland police officer as a young man’ on page 27, a poem that resonates not just because it remembers a vicious black death in custody, but because it demonstrates the ongoing challenges we face as a nation when it comes to race relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The technique Strange utilises ‘undoes time’ by mapping backwards the events that culminated in the death of Mr Doomadgee in the Palm Island lockup in 2004. The poem brings the event back to life, and brings the man who committed the atrocity into sharp relief for contemporary readers. It is a ‘lest we forget’ poem, a poem that underscores the need for the Black Lives Matter movement here and elsewhere, and calls for further radical reforms—forinformation on deaths in custody from 2008-2020 see [email protected]

    Many of the poems epitomise Strange’s imaginative and intellectual life and his strong affiliation for and expertise with the prose poem form. Three examples of this are ‘Navigation’ on page 30, ‘Abstraction on page 24, and ‘Other Universes’ on page 6, from which the title of the collection is drawn.

    It is worthwhile reading Strange’s afterword for an insight into his thoughts on this, his first ‘collection’; on poetry in general; and the publishing culture in Australia in particular. His final words on following the rules of that culture are, ‘fuck that’, a phrase that undercuts the care he takes with his work as a poet and publisher.

    K A Nelson

    K A Nelson is a Canberra poet. This is her first poetry review. Recent Work Press published her first collection, ‘Inlandia’, in 2018.

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