The Ladder by Simon West
About the author
Simon West is a poet and honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of First Names (Puncher & Wattmann 2006), shortlisted for the 2007 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards— the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize—and winner of the William Baylebridge Memorial Prize. The Selected Poetry of Guido Cavalcanti (Troubador Publishing, 2009) and The Yellow Gum’s Conversion (Puncher & Wattmann 2011) were shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards. Other awards include the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship, BR Whiting Residency and the Poetry Australia Tour of Ireland 2014. He is represented in anthologies including Thirty Australian Poets (UQP) and Young Poets: An Australian Anthology (John Leonard Press).
About the book
The Ladder is Simon West's third collection of poetry, and his first in four years. Many earlier preoccupations return—the natural environment, Italian art and the dimensions of place. There is a new focus on worldly and artistic responsibility and a fascination with the certain poise of being in between. At the collection's heart are the building blocks of language, along with the more literal ones of Rome, where some of these poems were written during a residency at the Whiting studio in 2012.
Puncher & Wattmann
In Simon West’s third collection of poems, The Ladder, language, and “speech itself”, have an almost physical presence. The “names of trees” having the same effect as the “effigies the eye now saw”. Thus there are a number of poems in this collection that explore “the elusive charity of words”, and derive from the poet’s experience of art and literature, particularly in his work as a translator. Watching “with pen poised, mind and will alert”, the poet is a witty, yet profound, guide to the suggestions implicit in language, sculpture and painting, though he also recognizes a “duty/ to the world in whose reality/ we cannot disbelieve”. He writes about “pylons towering over empty ground”, a “silver birch tossed silently in wind” and an empty sports oval. But “the grace in holding gravity at bay”, achieved by the ancient Romans in their bridges, lies behind all his meditations, which can at first seem opaque and mysterious even while one has a sense of their intensely contemplated meaning.