An iridescent debut: Anne Cassey launches ‘The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering’ by Linda Adair

Linda Adair: 6 poems

The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering by Linda Adair, Melbourne Poets Union 2020, was virtually launched by Anne Casey on 13 December 2020

‘Funnelling her stories to a pin-hole chink on a blank page’ – in her very own words from this book, Linda Adair recounts how since the age of eight she has been a weaver of words.

Linda is an internationally published poet, writer, artist and publisher who, alongside her husband, Mark Roberts has generously supported so many other writers in fulfilling their aspirations.

Despite her many literary accomplishments, this is Linda’s first book of poetry! This is surprising for several reasons – firstly, her clear love of language as embodied in this iridescent debut chapbook; secondly, her skill, which will arrest you from the first extraordinary poems (which you will be able to read over and over when you purchase your very own copy!); thirdly it is surprising because of Linda’s longstanding commitment and considerable generosity to other writers.

And so I am thoroughly delighted that Linda has finally come out of the closet (or maybe that should be ‘the garret’?) as a poet. I am profoundly honoured that she invited me to launch this beautiful book. And I wholeheartedly commend Tina Giannoukos and Melbourne Poets Union – Red-Bellied Poets for their foresight in nabbing Linda’s manuscript before anyone else had the chance!

This selection of poems is arresting from the first glimpse of its cover. The cover image manages to be both dynamic and static, simultaneously domestically grounded and ethereal. It is an artistic collaboration between Linda and her sister Narelle Adair. It artfully embodies the camera obscura impact of Linda’s poetic perspective.

The book’s title: The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering offers a window into Linda’s rich imagery, stunning syntax, surprising twists of language choices and striking turns of topic. This highly accomplished debut is a full-bodied and wide-ranging vista on Linda’s deeply empathic connection with our troubled world.

As the wonderful Amanda Joy so eloquently described it:

From the broken, the fragmented, the intentionally shattered, Linda Adair attends to the puzzling of those shards into a mosaic of poems. Not so much concerned with loss as to the way life moves on and through these spaces of trauma. Menace exists, not abstractly, not without cause but through design and ill-conceived human ideation.

Women’s bodies, unsheltered bodies, trees, rocks, domestic spaces and so many interrupted watercourses are explored and cradled in care-filled language. Language which sings like a brook through granite of

“The scattering which should come after death – when we are pale ash.”

How absolutely beautifully encapsulated!

And the honourable Les Wicks was quick to highlight both the urgency and the depth of social conscience embodied in Linda’s work:

‘So many of us meander into our calling. Adair shows a singular focus in her shift towards poetry. She paints an assailed world, often wrapped in loss. Elements of our flawed society are isolated, examined then balmed with an indefatigable empathy. Both deeply personal and universal, this book introduces us to an engaging voice.’

But you mustn’t just take our word for it! Here is a foretaste of the electrifying imagery that awaits you in this profoundly moving and engaging book:

This is from the opening poem, ‘The Topography of Us’:

‘Driving west through the plains childhood reawakened thoughts leap between stones crouched like islands of papier-mâché against the torrent of memory’

And here again later in the same poem is Linda’s same cinematic imagery at play:

‘the mountains black-green and hunched wood fire smoke thick in autumn evening sadness quickens in the quiet cold as I recall what I lost—paper bags full to bursting’

The tightly coiled spring of foreboding lurks throughout this magnificent opening poem – as here again:

‘I’d watch the sky to see the moon rise run away without moving a muscle know too soon so much of adult ways’

And then there is the seemingly effortless seduction of Linda’s clipped eloquence and finely honed observation – as here:

‘innocent icons furled inside a gram of sentiment like a riddle that takes the words out of a mute mouth’

This entire poem is absolutely enthralling and beautifully wrought. I sincerely hope it’s on Linda’s list to read for you this evening!

There is a suddenness of loss – at times approaching the visceral – throughout this book, which is powerfully articulated in Linda’s polished syntax and astute language choices. In the poem, ‘Once Upon a Blue Moon’:

‘early Tibuchina blooms outside my window became purple bruises of grief’ while: ‘an undignified howl lacerated the afternoon’

And later in the same poem, we find:

‘Within four days you were ash—’

Anguish wrestles with affront in the uncompromising final stanzas of this heart-wrenching poem. But I will leave you to read those for yourself when you race off to purchase your copy!

Interwoven between expertly etched interior and exterior landscapes, is Linda’s compelling story-telling. I am aware that Linda has some Irish genes and there is no doubt that she has inherited the ‘gift of the gab’.

In a few words, she paints a vivid caricature of her grandmother:

‘… an indomitable woman, who’d peddled her way through The Great Depression on a treadle Singer sewing machine’.

Consider also this tenderly wrought portrait from the same poem, entitled ‘Madonna in Shadow’:

‘I see her in my mind’s eye a maternal silhouette against thinly gauzed high Victorian sash windows’.

And in this same poem again, within a delicately woven domestic vignette, there is an illuminating self-portrait which portends how the child Linda would one day find her literary calling:

‘unnaturally pale, shy and taller than all the boys comfortable only in the middle of stories or when hurtling downhill on a (borrowed) bike’

Again and again, we are gifted with Linda’s adeptness with depiction, as she daubs each scene in light and shadow on the page:

‘I see that dour vertical space with its fourteen-foot-high ceilings and dark olive walls the afternoon light rippling through float glass haloes her shadowed face like a Gothic stained-glass Madonna’.

While she ‘presses the door-lock button’ ‘as the road dwindles into bush’ and ‘a woman of about 40’ ‘looks up / fear wide in her eyes’ (those lines are from the poem, “Pulpit Hill Road”), Linda never locks us out of her interior world or her fervent protests with the exterior one:

‘In the grand hall disease has a bassline exuberance fuelled by substance abuse’.

She is uncompromising in detailing society’s failings – particularly to the marginalised – railing powerfully against domestic abuse, governmental misguidance, environmental degradation, political polarisation, media misappropriation and the many victims of the glorification of war.

But everywhere, there is love and compassion. No more so, perhaps, than in the poignant almost-love-story entitled ‘The Southerly Never Arrived’.

With her characteristic flair for portraiture, Linda etches this dashing figure:

‘You sat in the February sun, olive skin flawless, flicking cigarette ash from a white cheesecloth shirt with an elegance at odds with such physical power, brown eyes tempting me’

– intriguing us with her gripping narrative:

‘The last time you waved at me and smiled you were speeding by in a red Alpha, police cars struggling in pursuit.’

– and captivating us with her skilful allusions of looming tragedy:

‘Some say disaster comes in threes, and we had our fair share divorce, death, and dispossession.’

But if you want to know what happens next in that particular star-crossed romance, you will have to buy the book so you can savour it for yourself!

Elsewhere, you will find a tribute to the love of her life, Mark as well as Linda’s maternal love nestling alongside admiration for the sweeping landscapes of her motherland:

‘Up here, darkness and fog swaddle the dividing range. Night will take two hours more to blanket the bare plains, silvered scrub and salt lakes’.

Her quick wit ranges to black humour at times – as in this sketch of a down-at-heel farmer in the poem ‘Enough Rope to Hang Us All’ – a lament for an Australian landscape ravaged by ill-conceived pastoral colonisation:

‘he is the fraying end of a thin white rope that’s tied this land to practices at odds with its capacity’.

And a final word before I hand you over to the maestro herself, may I just pay homage to Linda’s glorious poem titles. I am so tempted to create a cento from them – but I should leave that to their creator. Here is an amuse bouche of a few:

‘Between the Morphined Silences’, ‘The Southerly Never Arrived’, ‘ Once Upon a Blue Moon’, ‘Madonna in Shadow’, ‘A Refugee of the War Indoors’, ‘Navigating the Rim of Fire’ and ‘The Topography of Us’.

If I haven’t dropped enough hints already, you will be doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t buy this beautiful book … in fact, you could probably tick off a whole list of Christmas pressies by ordering several copies!

Without further ado, I take great pleasure in declaring The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering officially launched! And I will hand you over to Linda Adair to weave her poetic spell on you in person.

 – Anne Casey

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Originally from the west of Ireland, Anne Casey is author of two critically acclaimed collections, with two books forthcoming in 2021. A journalist, magazine editor, legal author and media communications director for 30 years, her work ranks in The Irish Times’ Most Read and is widely published internationally. Anne has won/shortlisted for prizes in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Technology Sydney with the support of an Australian Government scholarship.

The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering is available from tinagiannoukos@gmail.com

Linda Adair: 6 poems

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