Two Girls in a Boat and Glass Wings are two works recently published by Victoria University Press (VUP) and are reviewed for Victorious by Briony Pentecost.
Details of forthcoming publications can be read on the VUP website.
Two Girls in a Boat
By Emma Martin
Two Girls in a Boat is Emma Martin’s debut collection. The opening story, Two Girls in a Boat, with which Martin won the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story prize, sets the tone for a collection that explores the lives of individuals and families. It is a collection that straddles continents and generations, venturing into often difficult social and personal spheres in stories peopled by characters finding their place and their way in the world.
There is a brittleness, a fragility to some of the characters, and some of the stories. Martin captures each interpersonal dynamic, each moment of interaction or thought with care and warmth, resulting in a collection finely tuned to the ways people express themselves. The characters are complex, each so different, and brought to the page in prose that gives them space to breathe, so that they come alive—uncertain, sometimes ill-prepared, just trying to figure it out.
The prose is light, nuanced, and the stories themselves contain great emotional depth, creating an elegant play between the evocative weight of the narratives and the weightlessness of the prose. The collection is carefully crafted, opening the lives and minds of the characters to the reader with narratives that are beautiful both in their prose and in the quiet ache that resonates through the collection.
By Fleur Adcock
Fleur Adcock’s Glass Wings might be viewed as a recollection, as it sifts through her life and times, wryly celebrating (and sometimes mourning the loss of) people, experiences and insects. It is a volume in four parts.
The first, untitled, perhaps a record of ageing, wanders a little through the years, settling finally upon walking sticks, poor eyesight, memory and its failings, the weighty but witty Charon (when we’ve forgotten how to keep afloat,/scoop us up, Doctor, in your kindly boat,/and carry us across the final moat), and ending with the strangely unsettling but calm Having Sex with the Dead.
‘Testators’ is comprised of a series of poems examining the wills of Adcock’s ancestors, dating from the 16th century. ‘Campbells’ opens with Elegy for Alastair, followed by snapshots of Adcock’s marriage, pregnancy and student days, and completed by poems celebrating a wedding and the birth of a great-grandson. Finally, ‘My Life With Arthropods’ looks at life, relationships and the passage of time through the lens of encounters with insects.
Adcock’s tone is conversational, with ironic twists and the occasional wink to the reader. Glass Wings centres on connections and family, drawing lines between people and memory, at times turning over the mundane to reveal something marvellous or dark. These are poems of honest recall and reflection, an open invitation to pause and savour small moments of interaction.