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Under Glass by Gregory Kan

An extraordinary book of poetry that takes you on a world of different journeys. Rather than simply a collection of poems, this is a series of prose poems that follow two distinct threads. As the reader we are disorientated, it takes time to find a thread on which to anchor ourselves.

Eventually, these distinct threads will emerge, helped by the way the text is set, the lines of some stories double spaced, while the others are single spaced and tightly boxed together. In the widely spaced narrative the writer explores their feelings and relationship, while in the other the writer is on a journey towards a distant lighthouse in a land with a second sun.

“The second sun is a house made of many doors. I disappear to reappear in many places at once.” None of these simple stories give up their meanings lightly, but need to be considered and re-read to absorb them as a whole. Because the layout makes the different stories easy to spot, you can go back and read the whole journey to the lighthouse as a single narrative. You can lose yourself in the imagery, the staircases that descend downwards into the rock, the trapdoor hidden beneath a rug that leads to a labyrinth below.

I try to find my way back to the trapdoor,

but there are passages leading in every

direction. At times the caverns seem larger,

and the few things in them further apart.

The Persian word for labyrinth, hezar-tu,

roughly translates as ‘a thousand insides’,

‘a thousand withins’.

And in the other narrative, in the relationship which is constantly seeking to makes sense of events, there is this wonderful passage:

Sometimes when you have your back turned

I have my back turned.

Sometimes when you have your back turned

I turn around

and look at your back.

Sometimes when I turn around and look at your back

you turn around

and then we look at each other.

I am reluctant to say much more than this, because it is hard to really describe what is happening in this book without either saying too much or trying to impose an interpretation which could spoil another readers experience. My suggestion; find a copy and a spare hour. Read it all, read it again, and then take a few moments to reflect on the journey you have taken. It will be an hour well spent.

Reviewer: Marcus Hobson

Auckland University Press, RRP $24.99