Monday, December 18, 2017

Review - Lost Rocks

Basalt by Ross Gibson
Conglomerate by Ben Walter
Crystal Bone by Greg Lehman
Marble by Ally Bishop
Lost Rocks

Review – Rachel Edwards

“Suddenly a gray rock becomes ashen or clouded with dream. A ring around a rock is luck. To find a red rock is to discover earthblood”, writes Lidia Yuknavitch in her eviscerating memoir The Chronology of Water. Yuknavitch seeks to wade through her grief by surrounding herself with rocks.
Rocks, despite their profound variety are often used as a symbol of heaviness and lack of movement and, outside of geology and childlike wonder, their poetry can be lost or ignored.

Rocks, despite their profound variety are often used as a symbol of heaviness and lack of movement and, outside of geology and childlike wonder, their poetry can be lost or ignored.

Lost Rocks, created by A Published Event (Justy Phillips and Margaret Woodward) ignites a creative fascination with a series of rocks and minerals and, in their own words “is an accumulative event of mineralogical, metaphysical and metallurgical telling.”

Lost Rocks is also a collection of forty books that are being published, slowly, over four years. The project was conceptually inspired when Phillips and Woodward found a discarded rock board at the Tip Shop in Glenorchy. They have commissioned forty books in response to these rocks. The latest four books (of eight released so far) are Crystal Bone by Greg Lehman, Marble by Ally Bisshop, Conglomerate by Ben Walter, and Basalt by Ross Gibson. The books share a clean and simple design; white paperbacks with red silhouettes of the rock on the cover. They are small in stature, have delicate newsprint pages and they wear the process of publishing almost literally on their sleeves, bringing the formal structure of a book to the fore, including a page titled ‘colophon’. The colophon is a publisher’s device to either provide a decorative reference to the publisher, or simply the information legally required when publishing a book.

Prominent Tasmanian writer and thinker Greg Lehman’s Crystal Bone is both a deeply personal story as well as a devastating austere account of this rock and the almost centrifugal importance of it for this island’s first people. It includes diverse writing styles and a poetic recounting of a story of a tyrelore, an island wife. The images that accompany the ‘Crystal’ chapter - simple line drawings of flints, sculpted for blade and palms and annotated with the name of the place from where they have been removed is quietly devastating. The illustrations provide a desolate contrast to the lost stories of these rocks.

Ross Gibson’s Basalt describes the motion and movement of lava which then becomes basalt. In the text he returns to the paradoxical movement of this rock; the pulses of a lava flow still evident where it is found in nature. Gibson is an academic and a poet and while Basalt is a fascinating read, it has a didactic tone and there is something about the melding of poetry and geological process that did not mesh well for this reader.

Ben Walter, whose continuously transcendental writing tackles the rock conglomerate. He uses his element elegantly, as a literary device. A walker falls and hits his head on a “fist of conglomerate”. It is a raw story of a death in the Tasmanian wilderness, an inadvertent tragedy that occurs during a walk with mates. Walter writes the bush like few others down here, his words lithe and with little sentimentality, poetically descriptive.

Ally Bisshop has sculpted a tale from marble – its history, magic and the the numinous space it inhabits for gods and men. She talks about its mining and like Lehman utilises a range of stories of styles to capture this heavy rock.

These books are part of a beautiful publishing work of art, one that travels through geological and human time – a slow burn, drip feed of small, versatile publications. There is something about the Lost Rocks collection seems to inspire writers to enter new territory; cross genres and enter exciting literary spaces. It is a brilliant concept and I anticipate the forthcoming books with a sense of exhilaration


Versions of this review have been published in The Mercury and Warp.

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