‘Don’t tell us about the light. We already know
of the infinite and subtle array of ways it falls on this countryside’
In this, his fifth full-sized collection, Paul Cliff evokes the city of Canberra and surrounding region, where he has lived for the past 20 years. The poems work via characteristically wideranging moods and voice registers, from lyrical and elegiac to narrative and comic. They also deploy a variety of forms, from sonnets and odes to fables and epigrams, underlain by seductive rhythms and arresting metaphor. The capital’s festivals, institutions and monuments, everyday street life, suburbs, and lakescape are investigated, while the more distant terrains of Weereewa (Lake George), Namadgi, the Monaro, the Snowy Mountains, and the South Coast of New South Wales are also evoked in engaging and often striking terms.
The variety of subjects, strategies and accents in this long-anticipated collection is impossible to summarise neatly. The comedy ranges from unapologetic farce through to oblique and sophisticated wit; the drama from political protest, through unalloyed tenderness to historical irony… Cliff has a high degree of individuality, an egalitarian brand of compassion and a considerable wit…[The] poems are always as long as they need to be…
—Geoff Page, on A Constellation of Abnormalities