Extracts from Reviews

Comments on Diane Fahey’s Poetry


‘With the publication of her first volume of poetry, Voices from the Honeycomb, Diane Fahey should be immediately established among poets of solid reputation. These poems are perceptive, moving and accomplished: the book reads like a third or fourth volume.’
Chris Wallace-Crabbe, National Times

METAMORPHOSES (Dangaroo, 1988)

‘Fahey has altered our perspective. As Anne Sexton did in Transformations, (her rewriting of Grimm’s fairy tales) and as Margaret Atwood did in Circe/Mud Poems, Fahey insists on filling in the ellipses, hearing from the victim, examining the other side of the story, breathing contemporary life into myth, exposing the inadequacies of relations between the sexes then and now.’
Heather Cam, Sydney Morning Herald

Metamorphoses, the title of Diane Fahey’s recent book of poetry, is particularly apt. Not only do many of the characters in the stories she uses undergo transformation, the myths themselves change in shape as their underlying values are exposed and constructed by Fahey. … The changes which are effected in Metamorphoses are, in the end, changes in consciousness; they lead to an apprehension of the recurring cycles of life and death, intimacy and betrayal, repression and renascence. The “woman” of Fahey’s book is an entity who spans the millennia of Western culture.’
Meg Tasker, Australian Women’s Book Review


‘Diane Fahey’s Turning the Hourglass observes the balanced contours of its title. This is a most shapely and carefully constructed volume. In five parts, it tells of a necessary journey to freedom and self-discovery. … A recurring concern is the need to centre oneself, to maintain self-possession in the face of solitude, marital breakdown, the awesome human condition. A reserve and dignity restrain Fahey from presenting a purely confessional account of the facts inspiring the poems. Many poems bear a date and name a place, but much else is left to conjecture. Metaphors of light and darkness convey other truths.’
Heather Cam, Sydney Morning Herald

MAYFLIES IN AMBER (Angus Robertson/HarperCollins, 1993)

‘Like her “Dragonfly”, Fahey has always been a “cartographer of translucent maps”. The best poems in all her books are full of light and effects of light and of sound, the presence and resonance of water; transparency; flight; growth and change and time. In Mayflies there is a spinning-out of space and silence, in structures that are sparer, plainer, tighter for the most part, in this book: distichs and tercets with hardly a long line anywhere.’
Beverley Farmer, Voices

THE BODY IN TIME (Spinifex, 1995)

‘Fahey writes with a confident maturity that understates rather than flaunts itself. Her work in The Body in Time has an impressive, uncompromising integrity. It is so free of egotistical schedules and so quietly accomplished that it shows us that Diane Fahey is a poet who has a great amount to teach.’
Judith Beveridge, Cordite

‘Her poetry is so undemonstrative, that few people will be aware that Diane Fahey is now one of our major poets. It is difficult to characterise her voice in this new collection – “quiet assurance” is the obvious phrase that comes to mind, but it fails to capture the strength, and the determination of her poetic approach. Her honesty is most apparent when she turns her gaze upon herself – always the test of a good poet ­– and she does that repeatedly in this collection, in four major sequences focused on her childhood, her most intimate relationships, her own situation in “the middle of life”, and the death of her father. The fifth sequence, on places … though less personal in focus, nevertheless displays the same qualities of strength and determination – Fahey brings the same moral rigour to the profession of poetry as she does to laying bare of her feelings.’
Ivor Indyk, Heat

LISTENING TO A FAR SEA (Hale & Iremonger, 1998)

‘Fahey’s style is expansive and inventive. She runs off variations on the themes of myth with ease and fluency, rewriting them to fit our own cultural and personal psychologies. She also deals up witty changes on the old stories to satirise the present … Fahey’s volume is clever poetry, carrying its civilisation lightly, and chatting to us in entertaining tongues, but more importantly it has something very important to say: that the old Greek myths still live in us and mean something despite the problematics of dramatic cultural changes.’
Julian Croft, Ulitarra

‘The success of the poems in this collection derives from Fahey’s ability to imagine parallels and situations, both classical and contemporary, to fit various myths, and to give them a dramatic twist. There is great skill and assurance in this, as Fahey’s resonant voice – challenging, wry, breakaway – lays open paradoxes, not least the no-win madness of violence, war, random killing… Diane Fahey is a wide-ranging accomplished poet, highly deserving of her growing international reputation.’
Katherine Gallagher, The Poetry Review

THE SIXTH SWAN (Five Islands Press, 2001)

‘In The Sixth Swan … readers will detect nothing of the author’s private life. They will, however, form a strong sense of her personality: introspective, sardonic, drawn to the mystical, and with a love of language for its own sake … Many of the poems… are impressive feats of social observation or pure imagination.’
Geoff Page, Australian Book Review

SEA WALL AND RIVER LIGHT (Five Islands Press, 2006)

‘Sea Wall and River Light is a collection of seventy fourteen-line poems set in and around Barwon Heads in Victoria … The poems seem drawn gently out of the life of the place – they carry the energy of it within them … [The poet] watches and records simple events with a warmth and a gravity that actually inspires the reader to observe their own places in a similar spirit. Fahey is intensely aware of what she is doing with language, and confident within its domain… Her way with meter and the sound of words is breathtakingly adept.’
Andy Jackson, Cordite

THE MYSTERY OF ROSA MORLAND (Clouds of Magellan, 2008)

‘This verse novel is different from Diane Fahey’s earlier work, but the continuities are striking. What Fahey does best is immerse herself in a world and dialogue with it. This time the world is turn-of-the-century Britain, refracted through a genre – detective fiction – much-loved by the poet…

The verse novel articulates a very modern feminist take on sexual and actual violence within marriage and shows a number of steely women taking the action necessary to escape abuse.

However, it is not for the plot that one reads such a work. It is the texture of the pastiche, the understated poetry, the elegantly handled argument, the exotic characterisation and the refractions of particular characters through other characters’ perspectives …

“A study in grey-garbed propriety”, it’s cunning, subversive work, not unlike Diane Fahey’s public persona: sweet, self-erasing and ladylike to all appearances, but laughing, subversive, non-conformist, and passionate on the other side of her face. Her free spirit is most fully encountered in her poetry.’
Frances Devlin-Glass, Eureka Street

‘Diane Fahey is a talented poet. She creates a chorus of vivid, distinctive voices, and her language is lush and lyrical.’
Cameron Woodfall, The Age

‘Diane Fahey’ s The Mystery of Rosa Morland is a tour de force, a brooding, postmodern Gothic poem cum novella that provides a happy ending of sorts for characters who deserve one. The poetry, capturing individual voices, is at once accomplished, sensuous and serviceable.

On one level, the work echoes classic mystery tales… What Fahey accomplishes here, however, is a re-conception of the Gothic, which makes The Mystery of Rosa Morland more a tale about emancipation and future redemption rather than one about revenge and punishment. Here, the mystery is human character, the mystery we are to ourselves until, if we are lucky, something or someone helps to clear our vision…
The Mystery of Rosa Morland, overall, is a substantial achievement by a writer who demonstrates her mastery of complex themes and the styles necessary to embody them.’
Jeri Kroll, Australian Book Review


‘Over nearly thirty years and ten books, Diane Fahey has made a significant contribution to Australian poetry. The Wing Collection, from Puncher & Wattmann, showcases a wonderful array of her work. This generous collection offers a rich journey through Fahey’s key images and the recurring preoccupations that have made her work so distinctive. The six sections of this book have been grouped in order to highlight poems of similar style or intent, drawn from a number of published collections or introducing new work. However, the central image of the ‘wing’ pervades all six sections; whether it is the wings of birds or angels, or the uplift of wind on a beach, or the imagination’s trajectory of flight, Fahey’s work takes the reader into a sphere of in-betweenness, a potentially ecstatic space which offers passage between the known and the unknown, from the finitude of the image to the limitless sky.’
Rose Lucas, Australian Book Review

‘Fahey is one of our significant feminist poets, but The Wing Collection is a reminder that she has also established deep and sustained inquiries into what she calls ‘the tremendous drift of things’ – notably, birds and the environment of Barwon Heads in Victoria. … The book’s sequence is inspired: grouping new poems and generous selections from her books into broad themes rather than chronological order. This refreshes her oeuvre by inviting the reader (and, presumably, the poet) to draw lines of exchange between the preoccupations of her early and later poems. The book arcs from Fahey’s poems about birds, to spiritual art and mythology, and alights in the final two sections on the domestic and marine sites of her life and writing.’
Bonny Cassidy, The Australian

‘Over many years, I have watched Fahey’s poetry evolve to include richly diverse interests and she effortlessly casts her voice for the poem at hand. Her distinctly narrative stance can be varyingly hard and resolute, compassionate and ironic, or it can delicately hover over its subject. … The many facets in Fahey’s poetry range from ecological observation to ekphrastic, to reflections on travel, place and landscape, to meditations on family and relationships, to an engagement with writers and the act of writing, to feminist questionings. Across all these, the language keeps illuminating the particularities of the human and the natural world.’
Michelle Borzi, Southerly

THE STONE GARDEN: POEMS FROM CLARE (Clouds of Magellan, 2013)

‘These poems from Clare unfold in six sections and Fahey’s craft is evident in the way she can break registers of imagery with engaging shifts and turns. … If it is a kind of ‘landscape poetry’, then it is also a poetry that situates humans in relation to other humans, and their histories. Whether it is strictly tanka in terms of its uses of imagery, as distinct from the discipline of its syllabic structure, the five line form works well in The Stone Garden to create its own six part garden.’
Anne Elvey, Cordite

‘Although Fahey, like many Irish Australians, feels at home in Ireland, I really enjoy her sense of reserve and respect for difference… In a suite of 15 tanka called ‘Encounters’, Diane Fahey demonstrates the same naturalist’s acuteness of observation as she had applied to the natural landscape, and simultaneously shows how flexible the form can be applied to human beings. … The New Ireland with its guest-workers and tourists from around the world is sharply observed – ‘the Polish girl wiping / glass with her unhappiness’; the internet cafes with Chileans and Moroccans ‘maintaining the connections’.  The anthropologist gives us the B&B proprietor who is inured to being suspicious but capable of change; the curious bakery shop assistant who ‘knows everything’ by dint of ‘blunt questions’ that are not without feeling; the charity shop worker ‘who lives / to fill cold, needy spaces’. It is a knowing but compassionate eye, and a generous spirit, that turns these evanescent experiences into poetry, and Ireland a place one would want to be. Serendipity is the keynote of this collection and the wonder of being caught by surprise and joy.’
Frances Devlin-Glass, Tinteán