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Author: Tim Kinsella

Publisher: WA Poets Publishing

Published: May 2024

In the introduction to his debut collection which gathers poems written between 2016 and 2023, Tim Kinsella writes that he was ‘surrounded by poetry from a very young age.’ Indeed: his parents are Tracy Ryan and John Kinsella, both of whom have been known to pen the odd poem or two.

But these poems reveal additional poetic relatives. Tim mentions Chinese poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu. The bird-haunted poems of Keats, Barry Hill, Marianne Moore, Ted Hughes, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens and no doubt many others evoke secular convocations, too.

Whilst not quite twitcher-level, Tim’s birdwatching became somewhat of an obsession, and he kept a bird journal while travelling across Australia. He writes that his other inspirations are different locations and landscapes (Jam Tree Gully, York, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland), music of all kinds, and the visual arts: painting (Howard Taylor, Paul Klee), photography (in the short cycle Plumage, he collaborates with his grandmother Wendy Kinsella, whose photographs are reproduced here in colour), and film (directors David Lynch, Hitchcock and FW Murnau).

Wingbeat is organised into five sections, the subjects of which include nature and birds, personal observations and experiences, art and music, and cinema; the themes of which include the riven world (the spoliation of nature) and the interconnectedness of artforms; the qualities of which include diversity of form, strong imagery and sensory engagement, elliptical expression and generous passages of variegated rhythm, rhyme and lineation.

Two things are however most remarkable about this remarkable collection: the tension between assuredness and uncertainty; and the networks of connections between the poems which form a kind of jerky, polyphonic palimpsest.

As an example of both, is taken aback when the image of ‘the teary face of a Corsini Saint/with bullet hole in place of paint’ (Brutality Exhibition 1) resurfaces unbidden in Bullet Holes: ‘Makes you lose your sense of direction,/bullet holes shot through sign posts.’

Intentional or not, the religious iconography is hard to escape.

As previously alluded to, such violence against art and nature is a common theme throughout. In The View, Tim observes ‘scattering of birds as sole antidote/to scattered paraphernalia under the bus shelter.’ And in the very next poem, The Walk: ‘This contaminated/land hangs on thinly as,/development brings about/further setbacks.’ And in Light fades at Madurah Pass: ‘Blue brush blankets the trills/ of finches & scrubwrens,/Wary of littered asbestos,/1080, strychnine, bull bars,/those contributions to/a roadside graveyard.’

But there is so much beauty in Wingbeat, usually bird-borne:

Booragoon Lake

Under the boardwalk wet with lichen
pink-eared ducks pull dark clouds
along another surface.

Purple swamphens,
several steps ahead of them,
stir drenched grass, the deluge
prompting unfamiliar shelter.

This haiku, too, after a photograph by Wendy Kinsella: ‘The egret is reflecting/testing the sky’s rotation/mirror of sound waters.’ Egret both reflecting and reflecting. Love it.

And the moon, a popular subject in Chinese poetry! ‘The moon, a waning lantern,/is the only thing revealing/what’s adjacent–skeletons/of trees among the cold,/difficult to navigate’ (Staring at the Moon).

Even if one wants to extend the networks and play games with one’s own memories and proclivities, there are also dazzling poems such as Super-chess and Clavichord, which for me resonates with Stevens’ poem Peter Quince at the Clavier and Vermeer’s painting The Music Lesson: ‘In my dream or something similar,/I played super-chess with Paul Klee/While Jacob Stirnemann’s clavichord/played away in the background.’

Wingbeat is an auspicious (yes, I know) debut from a young poet still spreading his wings and undoubtedly set to soar to yet greater heights. Always, in Tim’s poetry – to quote his contre-jour poem The Encroaching Mast (thinking of Hans Heysen’s Droving into the Light) – ‘So much is going on outside the image.’


Reviewed by Will Yeoman

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