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Dry Bones, by John Holland: #BookReview.

72 pages

Literary Anthologies and Collections/Poetry

An anthology of poetry set in, and describing, the Australian Outback, this collection embodies that dry, deserted, hostile, hopeful, barren place I know only from novels and films. That the poems evoke a sense of place, even for an Englishman with no experience of the location, says a lot about the quality of the verse.

There is pragmatism here, a determination to portray the reality of life, existence, in a natural landscape immune to humankind. This is a place buried deep in time, uninterested in the brief anomaly that is humanity. Geological time rules here, and those who invade the silence had better be prepared to be ignored.

John’s use of language is, as befits the poet encountering the indifference of nature on a grand scale, elegiac. There’s an unassuming elegance to his construction and a quiet acceptance of the inevitable in relationships tested by a harsh environment.

There is sadness, despair even, at times. But there is humour, too. And I found myself smiling and uttering that silent ‘Ah, of course!’ at the finish of a number of these poems.

This collection won’t uplift your spirit, but neither will it depress you. The simple honesty of experience and neutral observation engenders empathy for the poet and his subjects. A shared experience well worth tasting.

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