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A Gentle Outward Breath

A Gentle Outward Breath

Author: Fran Graham

Publisher: WA Poets Publishing

Published: October 2023

Fran Graham’s is a poetry of particularities and the present. But A Gentle Outward Breath, her second collection and first in over 10 years, the period during which these poems were written, is also a book of universals and the past.

Love’s banner flutters over all: “(The poems) deal mainly with love: for my children and grandchildren, for travel, for art, for nature, and for the many people with whom I’ve fallen in love over a lifetime.”

There are four sections: An Indifferent Wind, A Gentle Inward Breath, A Gentle Outward Breath, and A Constellation of Colours.

In the first, we meet a person living with dementia, “fallen into quicksand rank and raw against his cheek like a slap” And a veteran who has “done two tours of duty in Iraq./Now he’s doing a tour of the local clinic.”

In the second, we find ourselves in an old house whose “walls still keep my secrets./I hear them whispered as I walk.” And on Maria Island, where “Life here moves in single syllables, night falls,/stars crowd the sky, the air and land breathe…”

In the third, we feel “a flowing torrent of perfection/and intoxicating mystery/gliding out from the cloister to your music room” And “her frequent touches./She’s dancing on the edge/of a moving boundary.”

In the fourth, we hear “the artist breathe every brushstroke,/sway to the excitement of hanging every piece.” And “Breaking waves contribute their own brand/of music, scent and whisper-soft inflections: love casts a single shadow on the sand.”

Throughout, registers and tonalities follow the breath as closely as the forms (as Fran writes in the introduction, “I had already written Sonnets and Villanelles but later discoveries such as the Rondel, Pantoum and Sestina all had to be attempted and conquered.”) and rhythms of the flexible lines.

In One Sloping Meadow, Fran writes of a “vast acreage of longing” between her and another, and of how “We have each done our share of tending and caring/for the crop and relishing the yield.” Repurposing the metaphor, one can see how, in these beautiful fruits of over a decade’s labour in poesy’s fields, Fran has also done more than her share.


Reviewed by Will Yeoman

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