A review of Amy's poetry by Warwick Wynne
Australia, My Home - Amy MacGrath. Towerhouse Publications, 1991.
(ISBN 0 9591879 5 2, pb., 142 pp. $ - )
"What first struck me about these very different books is how their titles both exhibit a strong sense of positioning; in place and in public declarations of allegiance. ....... while McGrath's, 'Australia, My Home', positions the poet emotionally with a more public announcement of significances.
As the grand titles of her poems suggest ; 'Europe's vision of Australia', 'The Giant Pacific', 'The Desert Explorers', 'Sydney', 'Bicentennial of Australia's Discovery', MacGrath is interested in the larger picture. She leaves the reader no doubts as to where she stands in a book dedicated often to explorers like Giles, Cook and Sturt, eulogised here as 'men beyond the ordinary man', or as she writes of Giles:
The careless schoolroom should resound your fame
the lonely gravestone boast your proper legend -
'here lies a man who dared the fearful desert,
remember him, do homage to his fame.'
In fact, much of MacGrath's work here is a homage to people and places and history. There is homage too, to the language and rhythms of another time: 'O Noble Land'. The collection's sub-headings, 'Australia', 'Sydney, My City', 'Centennial Park' 'Australian Pilgrim' and 'The Lost Continent Found' sum up the kind of journey we encounter. We often meet the original inhabitants of this continent but they are mostly seen through guilt, 'I know the shame of my pillaging profit', or dismissed as already finished: 'We have extinguished black men who stood proud'. MacGrath's poems are often too wide-ranging for me. I prefer her more episodic and observational work. Nevertheless, the language and structures remain somewhat inflexible".
Copyright - Warrick Wynne. This review originally appeared in The Australian Book Review.