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Adam Aitken: a note on Revenants

Revenants is a collection of poems about haunted geographies, and extends my earlier work on archival sources, photos and letters, both personal and public. I see myself as an amateur archaeologist exploring the strata of local histories. The book ranges through diverse locations, but there is a clear narrative, beginning with my father’s description of his flat in Hong Kong in the 1950s. I then explore my own experiences in Hawai’i and Malaysia, where I worked in 2010. A few poems recall inner city Sydney in the eighties. By the end of the book the reader enters the world of a village in France where I have lived recently. In Revenants ghosts appear in dreams. In a village priest’s sacristy the coat hanger invokes a missing robe, and in a curtained window something uncanny is about to appear. In a poem about Monet’s garden I reflect on colonial subjection, and on what art can create as timeless and transcendent. I want the reader to appreciate the delicate balance between memory and the present reality, and to feel at home as I did with the uniqueness and strangeness of each place. In a simple way the book gathers together the wonder and beauty to be found in travel and reading. I look for meaning in fragments from a translation from a colonial era phrasebook, or in a newspaper report. I combine a collage of observations on a tropical town with scientific descriptions of Cambodian fish and this creates an ecological map’ of the Mekong river. Other poems are portraits, one is an aerial sketch of the view of the Central Desert of Australia from a hot air balloon. I hope the reader enjoys this moving map of time and place.

Photo: Neela Griffiths

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