Book Notes: The Glass Violin

Australian poet P.S. Cottier truly does see the universe in a grain of sand–as well as in a tram ticket, a Caesarian scar, the names of Australian military operations, a shabby bear in the Soviet zoo, a wren visiting a dead friend’s garden, and myriad other small details of modern life that she turns into windows on the human condition, in verses both whimsical and profound. Her new collection The Glass Violin (Ginninderra Press, 2008) contains all this and more.

One of the pleasures of reading poetry is finding that someone else has experienced and expressed a precise emotion that you thought was peculiar to you. When Cottier writes, in a poem titled “Forlorn”, “The abandonment of teabags is absolute,” I feel less silly about my pangs of guilt for turning those neat, dry, nearly immortal little packets into wet lumps of trash. Elsewhere, in “Cutting on Laminex”, she reflects on how the scratches on a cutting board outlast the meals prepared there, which segues into awareness of the marks that time has left on her: “I can’t recall the accidents, the sharp slice/which scarified, but skin scratches speak/of that open cut, some day, grave of mine.” She has kindly given me permission to reprint a poem from this book below.


I didn’t want this, not at all.
The rock rolled back,
groaning, rasping,
birthing brightness.
It was meant to
make them free.
But a single breath,
in and out,
a teasing pause,
then they crucified others;
those who walked outside
their straitened view of me.
Labyrinthine irony,
to fill the sarcophagus
in my name.
Those chaotic echoes
darkening on deafness,
I hear them still.
I’d asked them to put down stones
and not to pound down sinners.
To understand, or at least,
not to irrevocably judge.
But when they built their church
on rock, of rock,
flesh was pushed aside,
Golgotha glorified.
A mortar and pestle,
hope ground against granite.
Sometimes when I watch, I wish
that boulder had not budged.
When my flesh was tortured
and my mother’s tears fell,
I believed
it would erode
the rocks in human minds.
But I hadn’t counted on their
thoughts like drowning pebbles,
sinking in a hard skull cave
just beneath the skin.
Love sealed within forever,
not knowing light.
The third day never comes.

16 comments on “Book Notes: The Glass Violin

  1. Alegria Imperial says:

    You’re right Jendi in that reading a poem makes pleasure possible when it sparks something within you. Thank you for this posting. I was following the lead of this poem below that was writing itself when I had thought of visiting your ‘bloc’. Serendipity! I got an answer to my plea–a silken poem that weaves a truth (‘Love sealed within forever, not knowing light.’) thus, covers one more hole in my punctured skull more than stuns and could render me paralyzed as the one I apparently hanker in this poem.

    Plea for a poem

    write me a poem
    words to breathe in
    even if only whispers
    as shouts have turned
    the air into a
    hail storm

    write me some rain
    my heart crackles
    in the draught longing
    for words drenched in
    thought to sip
    in the dark

    i yearn for verses
    snipped from flame tips
    words that dance
    the fire of fallen angels
    saved from their march
    on dying coals

    write me a song
    cadenced in sunsets
    tympanis of words
    rising off the hum
    of meanings
    drums have flattened

    give me back
    poems shredded spirits
    birth in caves midnights
    cleansed poems howling wolves
    hankering for stars

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