From Geoff Page, The Canberra Times, February 13, 2010:
As a poet [Bateson] has a novelist’s eye for character and narrative development … she is never less than accessible. Her subjects are taken directly from everyday experience and then energised with metaphorical language. Marriage for Beginners is most memorable perhaps for its half-dozen or so love poems … here Bateson manages to combine the intensity of a sometimes reckless sexual desire with a certain ‘recollected in tranquility’ feeling which serves to generate both perspective and memorability.
From Bronwyn Lea, Westerly, 2010
Speaking of luck, Catherine Bateson takes up the theme and spins it on its head… Feeling distinctly unlucky – the speaker in the unlikely guise of ‘a day’ – shows, as do many of Bateson’s poems, that poetry and comedy are good bedfellows.
From Heather Taylor Johnson, Wet Ink, 2010
Every review of Catherine Bateson should begin with Catherine Bateson grew up in a second hand bookstore because that just might get the point across that this woman really knows writing. Her latest collection of poetry, Marriage for Beginners, is her third in as many decades, and though she’s put out a number of novels for children and young adults (some winning major awards), fans of Bateson’s poetry should be cheering aloud for the end of the eleven-year wait.
Marriage is heavily scented with everything female: position as daughter, reactions to motherhood, memories of a mother, a daughter and lovers. The poems for lovers are my favorites. The opening poem ‘Learning to Swim’ captures the rapture of a woman’s first experience with ‘good’ sex:
I’d always had boys before, stumbling through their paces
lights off and everything, even their knees, strange in the dark.
This was so different, like learning to swim
after years of walking your hands in the shallows
While ‘Love poem’ manages to find a bablance between the rhapsody and comfort of an enduring partnership. Perhaps the success of these poems, and so many others in the collection, can be attributed to the personal nature of the narrative and thus the emotion captured, both raw and pulsing. . . Marriage for beginners is a gift. If I read ‘Sailing on the grey’ after breakfast, lunch and dinner, it wouldn’t be enough.