Shortlisted for Judith Wright Calanthe Prize 2007. Judges’ comments:
‘This is a stunning first book by a poet who has bypassed the usual hallmarks of a “young writer” and emerged with a fully formed voice and startling ease of style. Petra White’s book eschews the seductions of self-referentiality and language games. She is present in all her poems, but deeply integrated, her concern being to connect with others and the environment with unfailing intelligence, ironic humour, originality of image and acute observation.’
From Martin Duwell, http://www.australianpoetryreview.com.au/0709white.htm
‘This is a very accomplished and very complex first book by a poet who can be said to be, already, of considerable importance.’
From Andrew Sant, Australian Book Review, October 2007, p.47:
‘ “Munich” is a poem of considerable poise, dignity, tenderness and technical accomplishment. . . . Surprises and pleasures abound. It is not attention-seeking poetry that endeavours to collar the reader; rather, it elicits attention via its radiant intelligence and unpredictable wit.’
From Geoff Page, The Canberra Times, October 13 2007:
‘[The Incoming Tide] ranges widely in subject matter and style. . . . all distinguished by a feeling of necessity, a sense that this particular poem could not be left unwritten. . . . There really isn’t an unsuccessful poem in the book – which, for a first book, is saying something.’
From Lyn McCredden, The Age, Saturday July 5, 2008:
‘One way to describe the cumulative effect of her poems is to say that you learn, as you read, to trust deeply this voice and the emotional richness that reveals itself to you slowly, steadily and uncompromisingly.
In ‘Kangaroos’ we have absolutely the right words to capture the presence of these iconic animals . . . ‘Grave’, sitting in the middle of the collection, begins with a headstone and an ageing photograph of a colonial child, ‘finished or not’ at the Melbourne General Cemetery. The poem becomes the occasion for a poetic meditation on history, a past of faithful believers. . . . Belief and doubt stand beside each other, made to ponder the odds of a divine “thought, barely formed” ever being pronounced.’
From Heather Taylor Johnson, Wet Ink, Issue 11, 2008:
‘The twelve part ‘Highway’ is nothing short of brilliant. The poems inside the larger poem map a trail of the Eyre Highway and the outcome is a collage of stark images, lingering sensations and arresting memories. Again this feels like an other world shaped by the poet and so it seems almost mythical, entirely imagined. Yet what I ultimately got out ‘Highway’ was a strong sense of appreciation that could only have been lived and felt.
This is an exciting new poet; certainly one to watch. For me, The Incoming Tide left footprints.’
From Jen Webb, Review essay: Poetry in Australia and the John Leonard Press,http://www.textjournal.com.au/oct08/webb.htm , 2008:
This is a lovely collection of poems: alive in every line, finely honed, full of close observations. Listen to these lines (from ‘Bunda cliffs’):
The shelved-in sea hived with diagonals,
verticals, horizontals, slabs of sleek water
ferrying hazes of air in its crystal,
vapouring the desert’s tongue.
You need to say the lines out loud, feel the words and their patterns of vowel and consonant on your tongue. This is a poet who is not afraid: she uses words like ‘diagonals’ without turning a hair; she uses ‘axolotl’, such an awkward term, in a poem that is a paean to sisterhood; and though there is no sense of the sibling relationship through most of the poem, at the end it falls into place:
than the ailing tabby, the timorous
and watchful high-heeled dog, or the rented
fireprone house, he guards our dangerous
childhood pledge to never change
And see, in that last phrase: she’s not afraid of splitting an infinitive either. Poetic licence.
I am captivated by these poems, by their clanging internal sounds, by their unexpected stories, by their attention to embodiment. Much of it shouldn’t work; but it does. The poems to her grandmothers, for instance, evoke worlds, call up relationships, are full of tenderness and rejection. In the poem ‘Munich’, her grandmother continues to haunt the poetic persona: she has not gone gentle into that good night:
… she – just-vanished – seems everywhere.
She didn’t entirely want to be remembered,
no grave, no plaque.
Her memories, freed from her head,
swarming in mine, or some of them:
and this continual haunting is perhaps because:
She died alive, her last words on waking,
It’s not a dream, is it?
The lack of a certain space between here and there, self and other, appears and reappears throughout the collection: the being-there/being absent while in the workplace, the synthetic community produced by the electronic bulletin board in ‘Southbank’ (actually, I think I used to work there; it certainly rings some bells). Then there’s the lost and found child in ‘Bunda Cliff’; the fact that ‘death looks momentary’ in ‘Kangaroos’: nothing is stable, nothing is as it seems, and the walls between here and there are always permeable.’