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Fiona Kidman’s latest collection of poems, This Change in the Light, feels like a documentation, and exploration, of the past. The present is there in the voice, but the past occupies the words. Separated into four parts, each section looks at a different part of Kidman’s life, interspersed with a mixture of images, from black and white photos of a wedding, to colourful tiled mosaics.
This sharing of a life is made to seem very intimate in this collection, realised through the exact descriptions given by Kidman. She creates vivid images, scenes, and characters in her poetry, allowing the reader a visual way into the subject. Like the mosaic pictures scattered through the book, her poems are put together with many different pieces, coming together to create a singular beautiful image.
We are invited to a festive dinner in the poem Christmas, both before and after the passing of Kidman’s father, the contrast inviting our sympathy. In her poem The Town we are taken to her childhood town, hearing not only about a railway / station and an avenue of green trees, but also about a wild girl who used to live there. These poems are reflections of the past, a crystal ball giving us a view of these people and places, while the voice of the poet stays with us in the present.
This clever use of the past tense mixing with the past serves to not alienate the reader, but helps to ease us into Kidman’s past, allowing a comfortable experience to unfold. But it is not only this journey into the past that Kidman presents us. Part three of this collection, titled Abroad, takes us over oceans to Canada and France. The physical distance is neither alienating or strange, much like the use of the past and present. Kidman begins this section with the poem Rooster on a Window Sill, and this sets up the closeness of these faraway places. ‘[M]y friend, / who is going ‘back home’ / to Canada’. The distance is broken down and shown as a home from the start, allowing us to comfortably journey around the world with Kidman.
Her poetry is a lot about comfort, or about feeling comfortable, in that it never feels strange or out of place, but rather there is an inviting nature in the words. The collection has a calmer ending, the short fourth section, titled So far, for now, seemingly more cemented in the present. It is short, but does not feel abrupt. Rather, it is a quiet, fading goodbye. ‘Oh, you know / that you are going, that / you have already gone’. Just as throughout This Change in the Light Fiona Kidman makes the reader comfortable in her poetry, so too does she make the ending continue this, leaving us with a pleasant feeling as we close the book.
Reviewed by Matthias Metzler
This Change in the Light
by Fiona Kidman
Published by Godwit