Across the Line by Fransesca Sasnaitis. RATAS Editions 2015
Fransesca Sasnaitis’s Across the Line is a collection of six poems, inspired by improv and musicians, leaping from her experiences at Bennets Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne. It’s short and vibrant, and takes you into her head as she pulls together music, love, daydreams and loss.
We’re in the laneways of Melbourne, on the edge of heaven and leaning over the railings of hell, and the author brings us the sounds around her. Not just the music, that would be too easy, but the noise, the honks, the farts of the low trombone and the clean, clear blasts of the trumpet, the soft hiss of wool as you pull it over cold arms. Cities are staccato noise machines, even when the good working people have caught the 5:15 home and left the city to musicians, artists and cleaners. Capturing this needs a steady hand, a tight vocabulary and a resolve to let the lines fall where they may. This is a tight collection, a city soundscape cut into pieces to drive your pulse to a beat that the author has bottled in a flask. Let’s pull out the stopper and look at the first three pieces.
“Band of Five Names” takes us into the reality of working musicians; the deep commitment to working together and the back and forth that must be there for good improv. Those moments that you don’t dare to breathe until the music lets you and it all started because you were down a Melbourne laneway at night.
“Raw Materials”, a call/reply built from memories of love and love lost, weaves words to build a braid that says “goodbye”. Sound, light, jewellery and tattoos all capture another Melbourne night and the slow journey forward. But this is a lull in the tempo, deliberately letting us settle back into our seats so that the next piece can bring us up and thrust us forward, arms raised towards the stage.
“Planet Greeting” opens with the brash and brassy breath of the farting trombone and throws us to trumpet, drums and back, as good Jazz does. Some editorial sense comes through (noodling guitar?) and I think I can hear an echo of Tom Waites in “trombone/silverfish” but it’s a good homage (or mirage, if I am wrong).
The rest of the collection captures the emphatic blast of the Jazz winds, even as the characters collide and fall apart, in a virtual Broadway, where you can hear the sweet and desperate voice of Blanche Dubois on a quiet night. Then the horns blow and blow, sweeping us along Melbourne laneways that you can feel underfoot and that echo your steps as you dance. It’s a long, fun night, captured in six pieces
To finish on a line I borrowed from “Rabid Hawk”, “how sweet the sound”.
– Nickolas Falkner
Nickolas Falkner lives in South Australia and works in education. In his spare time, he writes and does print-making, often in combination.
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