Reading Notes:

Curving My Eyes to Almonds

Fierce, tender, delicate poems that combine the sensuous and the spiritual to simultaneously journey us through human interiority and the exterior landscape. They also allow access to an identity emerging in stages as if from a cocoon.
Raghid Nahhas sees the poetry as a combination of the sensual and the ultimately abstract, ‘poems of fire and water. The words chosen’, he writes in Kalimat No 9, March 2002, ‘are each by itself so concrete and familiar, yet the combination is so abstract and ethereal.
For Deb Westbury the poems sing with the music of stone, flower, skin and moon, revelling ‘in the rhythms of history and the life of the body’. Jordie Albiston believes the poems quietly navigate a rare dialogue between words and silence, showing us that all things are connected—the huge desert, a single hibiscus. The poems explore contours of memory and longing, the twilight valleys that haunt our dreams, and the hidden promptings of a destiny shadowing us whether we know it or not (Alex Skovron). The collection, writes David McCooey, is marked by prayer and lamentation, celebration and ululation which coalesce into an almost obsessive interest in two things: identity—especially its frailty in the face of erotic love and death—and oppression (Australian Book Review, Feb. 2002).

About the Poet

Liat Kirby holds a BA from La Trobe University (Victoria) with major studies in English and Art History. She currently studies the Hebrew language, enjoys Israeli folk dancing and has the stirrings of a next book. Born and educated in Melbourne, Kirby has been writing ever since she could form letters on the page. Hospitalised for 2 ½ years at the age of 5 ½, reading and writing became all-consuming and would go on to provide her with her main form of communication and sustenance for many years to come. Although her parents were born in Australia she grew up with a sense of displacement and fragmentation. Her father's roots were Scottish, her mother's Jewish, and she was instructed at the age of 12 years to be proud of her Jewish heritage but not to speak of it to anybody. In other ways a rebellious child, she kept this particular command and it was not until mid-life that she broke it. The transformation that occurred is evident in the poetry which has been published in many journals and translated to Chinese, Arabic and Hebrew.
Kirby is a freelance reviewer and currently administers her own business, Lynk Manuscript Assessment Service, which was formerly the National Book Council Ms. Assessment Service. She is available for interviews, attending book club or writing group meetings or discussing her book at schools.

Questions Raised by the Book

Extract from the Poetry

Oppression (p.50)

the white wall smooth-
   tongued over timber struts
an insect splay-
   legged on the wall
my limbs contorted
   in unnatural bent
the clock ticks
   each second elongated
my eyes burn green
   and would eat you
the seconds fall over—
you would screw me
   to the wall.

Redemption (pp.22/23)
I am myrrh and frankincense.
I am an almond and an olive.
I am the myrtle and the Oyle tree.
I am the stone that sings of
   life and death.
I am a grain of sand.
I am desert silk.
I shift with the desert wind
and I stand beneath the full moon.
My skin is gentled and
   my eyes light the moon.