This volume opens with a full-length book of new poems by Petra White, A Hunger. Bound-in with it are her two prior books, The Simplified World and The Incoming Tide. The new poems of A Hunger are as lucid as they are mysterious, crafted for the ear, and for an emotional tone that slips delicately between mischievous irony and a cut-through bleakness or joy.
A strong theme, in parts, is depression, where White presses beyond personal response into examining darkness itself, in a fierce art that deliberately gives and asks for no indulgence. The same goes for her love poems, in a sequence that plunges into the wild contradictions and poignancy of new love, with glances to Renaissance poets.
Contemporary worlds – people and place – are foundation for this poetry, which is haunted by inscrutable time. Her well-known ‘Southbank’ from her first book is given a further turn in a new sequence, ‘The Sound of Work’ – this is one of the few contemporary poets to write convincingly of office work. In all, White’s poems inhabit life’s fragility with a light-footed constancy.
By adding her prior two books, the Press intends not only to keep them in print, but to lay out for readers the fullness of the growth of an oeuvre. The poet has taken the opportunity to make a handful of excisions and revisions.
Here is a selection of poems from A Hunger
Lisa Gorton’s Launch Speech, 15 August 2014, University of Melbourne.