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Elizabeth Allen, Present

'The conflicted and unsure speaker of Allen’s Present, dealing with not only online disconnect, but dispassionate lovers, loneliness, gardens, memories, and shopping, heads ultimately towards the brilliantly dry final long prose poem, ‘Inpatient (Impatient)’, which is set in the wards of a psychiatric hospital. Despite this slow descent into the white-grey numbness of quotidian medical routine – standing in stark opposition to the hallucinatory terrors of Artaud and Nerval – the voice of Present maintains its approachability. It is an impressive accomplishment, reaching out to the reader to take them directly into the bright, sometimes shaded worlds of the poems. Present asks for understanding and in its elegance achieves a startling amount of page turning empathy. Rarely have I devoured a book of poetry with such manic appreciation and understanding of the speaker’s quibbles and problems with the world of love and life.' Australian Book Review

A collection of stand-alone poems, certain themes and preoccupations bind the poems of Present together – family, friendship, loss and acceptance, the attempt to gain meaning from the experiences of daily life. The conversational and plain-spoken, if not always reliable, "I" of these poems attempts to express that which can’t be conveyed by traditional autobiographical modes of writing through experiments with form as well as voice. Allen uses humour and lucid observation to explore dark subject matter and the persistent question of distance; how in all relationships (including that of narrator and reader) we constantly juggle intimacy and connection with what is unfamiliar and strange.

“Elizabeth Allen is clever with her construction of poetry, using vocabulary and descriptive lists from other specialist fields like fishing, art colour names and therapies, to connect her readers with recognisable hooks and poetry melodies. Look out for the ‘suicide hook’, Derwent pencils and yoga poses.” – The Australian Writer (Review of the award-winning Body Language).

"Elizabeth Allen explores dark territory with extraordinary deftness of touch, warmth and humour. Freestanding lyrics of precise and unusual observation find their place within and alongside delicately arranged prose sequences. A book not to miss. Read it as a whole and savor it poem by poem." Vivian Smith

"I haven’t laughed so much in a long while. It is as if these poems are the distilled memoir of a wit and a raconteur with heart. Elizabeth Allen’s Present is a luminous opening of the private world onto the public, through a voice that is at once modest and acerbic, sensitive and surprising. This book is a gift not only for poetry lovers, but for all thoughtful human beings attempting to navigate the contemporary world." Jessica L. Wilkinson

Elizabeth Allen writes in Sydney and works as a bookseller at Gleebooks. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in many major literary journals as well as in the Best Australian Poems 2012 and 2014. She is the author of a poetry chapbook, Forgetful Hands (Vagabond Press, 2005), and a full-length collection, Body Language (Vagabond Press, 2012), which won the Anne Elder Award. She is one of the judges of the Noel Rowe Poetry Award and carried out a writing residency at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland during 2016.

Elizabeth Allen, Present
2017. 112pp. ISBN 978-1-922181-84-8
Release date: August 15, 2017.


This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.


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