Nothing to Declare
About the book
A collection of poetry by Western Australian-based poet Mags Webster, 'nothing to declare' contains poems ranging 'through worlds of wide reading, inner and outer journeying, through both the historic and the personal past and present, the fleshly and the vegetal ... subtle and confronting at the same time, these are the fruits of a startling talent' (Tracy Ryan, poet). Sometimes set in Australia or Hong Kong, sometimes in the imagined worlds of literary figures or in the life of the mind, these poems probe myriad interstices between words and silences, poetry and language, attraction and despair.
About the author
Mags Webster is a poet, researcher, freelance writer and editor, whose poems, essays and reviews have appeared in various journals and anthologies in Australia, Asia and America. In 2020 she completed a PhD in creative writing at Murdoch University in Western Australia. Mags' most recent poetry collection is called 'nothing to declare'. Her first book, 'The Weather of Tongues' won Australia's 2011 Anne Elder Award for best debut collection of poetry. Mags moved to Australia in 2003. From 2011 to 2014, Mags lived, worked and studied in Hong Kong.
Mags Webster is a seriously exciting and excitable poet who can flip from sensual lyricism to sudden confrontation. In the title-poem 'nothing to declare' she sees herself as 'in love with countries' and driven by 'nomadic need'. She values when 'we're still naked and unshelled, yet to strike / out of our night-selves. It's when I'm likely to be truthful'. In her pitch-perfect poem 'Bonnard beauty reveals all', the model tells us 'I must be / the cleanest muse in Christendom'. She describes her pose: 'my legs / so decorously crossed' in the 'lapping tongues' of the bath water from which 'the steam has quite / died down'. At the end of the session, Bonnard whispers'it's time to cover yourself up'. She imagines how he will 'work on me // until late at night' long after the bath has cooled and she has left. He'll be dabbing 'at my breasts / and thighs' and she will 'recede into / a wash of stipple and blur'. She rises from the bath and as she takes the towel 'from his outstretched hand, / it's the only time his eyes / can meet mine.' 'Pauses in transit' is another pitch-perfect poem, described as 'after Octavio Paz'. But the final brilliant image is Webster's, as she describes a butterfly alighting on the 'concrete cliff' thirty-nine stories high of a Hong Kong building, where it 'spreads / a tiny book / of papery wings'. With this second volume, she is well on the way to becoming a significant new voice in Australian poetry.