A review by Myron Lysenko
The poems in this book are accessible yet deep, serious yet subtly funny. They contain fearful and lonely thoughts in juxtaposition with domestic imagery. Music and the garden are recurring motifs. There are windows through which the poet looks both outwards at scenes going past his life and within as he recollects dead relatives and loved ones who have enriched his life or bullied him into a man who has difficulty in expressing his love.
It’s always a struggle to see out;
To turn oneself into a window;
To become an empty room, a glass wall
Facing out into the foreign flowers
There is wisdom and craft in these brave, isolated meditations full of pain and regret as the poet searches for his identity and wonders where to find his place in a world where everything is strange and foreign. Christopher Race is not afraid to make himself vulnerable as he documents his feelings, fears and insecurities within family and social situations.
The main highlight amongst many highlights is the title poem, a long narrative which captures the personality of a grandmother who was forced to leave England and come to a strange and hot country full of people who she couldn’t feel comfortable with; a woman who spoke her mind and spoke it harshly, a woman who made life hard for her family except the grandchildren who were able to see a softer, more compassionate side. A person who expressed her love for things rather than people; somebody who painted still lives because her own life had stilled when she was still young and free and full of promise.
This is a sophisticated and assured debut. Christopher Race’s distinctive and calm voice is a welcome harmony to the chorus of Australian poets.