From Maria Takolander, Australian Book Review, May 2008:
‘Elizabeth Campbell’s Letters to the Tremulous Hand is a very different first collection from Holt’s, but it is similarly uniquely and confidently voiced. Campbell’s poems are marked precisely by a spirit of melancholy, providing meditations on the worldly things that arouse desire, such as loss and literature. While she writes in free verse, the poems, with their emphasis on the metaphysical and their frequently archaic subject matter, often seem to belong to another time. The poems are distinguished by a lightness and discipline in their composition.
Excellent is the sequence called ‘Passengers’, which reflects on the frailty of life and human certainties, on transience and transition. . . . The eponymous sequence is also worthy, demonstrating Campbell’s careful approach to writing and to what it might represent.
Could it be time for young Australian women to shine? Are these two poets [Campbell and LK Holt] among the bright young things of a Generation of ’08?’
From Gus Goswell, Cordite Poetry Review, June 2008:
‘These latest releases from John Leonard Press are further evidence of this newish publisher’s determination to make room for new poetic voices in Australia. . . Campbell is an excellent exponent of free verse. She understands its limitations and potential, and so exploits it to great effect in many of her stronger poems. . . Campbell’s best free verse, on display in ‘Asthma’, ‘Recurring’, ‘Forget’ and elsewhere, is free verse that guides the reader through each stanza, elucidating intended meanings and soundings; her punctuation and use of enjambment (which, both within and between stanzas, often replaces formal punctuation) acts as a guide to the ear and mouth as well as the eye.
The ten poems that comprise the title sequence that closes the book distil many of themes and ideas found in the earlier pages of the collection. In these poems we recognise the echo of her epigraphs as Campbell explores another past – not as historian, although her subject is historical, but as the poet she has shown us she is capable of being.
Campbell and Holt are both capable of great insight. Both books prove that their authors have the special capacity for speaking authentically about themselves, their subjects and their readers. It’s a pity that first collections struggle to get enough coverage outside poetry circles to draw many new readers towards poetry because, in different ways, both Man Wolf Man andLetters to the Tremulous Hand give something new to Australian poetry. There is in both an undeniable determination to say something about the world we live in now, however hidden beneath layers of the past. Their next books, if they choose to share their words with us again, may well be books that inspire a change in how our poets are received and read.’
From Robert Adamson, The Age, ‘Favourite Literary Encounters of the Year’. December 13 2008:
Elizabeth Campbell, in Letters to the Tremulous Hand (John Leonard Press), writes of a 13th-century monk who was a copyist in Worcester and wrote with a tremor in his hand. It was enchanting to be taken back by a brilliant illuminator such as Campbell to the point of these ancient illuminations.
From Jen Webb, Review essay: Poetry in Australia and the John Leonard Press, http://www.textjournal.com.au/oct08/webb.htm, 2008:
‘The book [contains] intelligent, observant pieces that make me think of one of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s definitions of the form: ‘Poetry should still be an insurgent knock on the door of the unknown’ (Ferlinghetti 2000). Her many horse poems gesture in this direction, such as these lines:
Horses are never wrong.
She sucks the world in through her eyes.
She is Yes or
In these small lines Campbell conjures up the essential otherness of the horse who, unlike us, lives outside representation and ethics, right or wrong, yes or no.
The Tremulous Hand himself doesn’t appear until page 48 (of 64 pages), and comprises a sequence of poems that weaves in and out of sensation, history, concept and story. . . . the poetic person is very present in these pieces – an insistent voice, one that does not become obscured by language and poetic structure but remains in the images, the tone, the accent and the sense.’
From Sandra Burr, Text Journal, October 2008, www.textjournal.com.au:
[In] Campbell’s horse poems there is something much darker, deeper, more confronting and appalling here than conventional horse love. Horses seem to be a locus of loss and longing for Campbell. Her grief at what she sees as the unbridgeable divide between humans and horses is expressed in ‘Recurring’ when she says of her runaway mare: ‘she doesn’t need that love/ and you couldn’t take her weight.
Each word has been selected and placed on the page with infinite care . . . [this is] her great strength as a poet.