Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry, published by Melbourne University Press in 2020, gives long-overdue recognition to the breadth and quality of Australian prose poetry. Alongside recognized practitioners of the form such as Anna Couani, Jordie Albiston and Pam Brown, the anthology offers a comprehensive selection of Australian prose poems of the past fifty years from what has been a neglected tradition in Australian publishing.
Cassie Lewis’s “Queenscliff” takes its title from a well known Sydney beach and is a welcome inclusion to the anthology. Some elusive dread looms over this poem as it mixes detail and feeling in the way memory does. Nothing sits quite right: just as in the speaker’s room “in Queenscliff’s solitary Bed and Breakfast”, the floor of the poem slopes. The speaker’s admissions are surprising and puzzling: “I don’t understand champagne”, “I must control the urge to be hesitant”; and while she declares to love only her companion, her absent father also labors “under the illusion that he of all people wasn’t loved.”
We can see the lighthouse from our window in Queenscliff's solitary
Bed and Breakfast. The floor of our room slopes and I don't understand
champagne. Later, from the pier, you catch an enormous, rare fish the
colour of coral and slowly let it go. It feels like summer. The fish swims
out into the deep water. I love only you. Misery is usually someone dead,
perfect: derision felt as the binding presence of grey, great books. I must
control the urge to be hesitant. And from memory, that bus shelter at
the edge of the world, with its wads of chewed invective, I see my
absent father: mourning, directing cranes over the skyline. Labouring
under the illusion that he of all people wasn't loved.