The poems in False Nostalgia present possibilities, suggestions, and invite us to enter “otherness” while acknowledging and inhabiting a linear sense of time. Things, places, people arrive as symbols on flashcards, which has the effect of leaving a slow burn on the retina, and we’re never sure where the symbols lead to or what they mean. Aden Rolfe teases ideas from a sense of immediacy and loss, which creates tension, not only philosophically, but also in the way he breaks the lines:
In the meantime, the parts
come together, give the impression of
a continuous whole
everything set in a landscape
real and imagined encounters
with ourselves and others.
The poems focus on how circumstance plays with chance to create narratives on absence, intimacy, experience and forgetfulness. Part foray into phenomenology, part exploration into how the mind creates its own narratives in relation to, and at odds with, “actual” experience, these poems work like skeleton keys on our doors of recognition.
A number of poems in the first section, “Anamnesis”, set up glimpses of things as seen through travelling windows or while walking – a goat, lake, temple, shed – then align them with the variousness and inventiveness of imagination and philosophy. It’s a clever, strange sequence of poems that invites repeated readings, revealing itself slowly, in stages, and in various shiftings of light and shade. The fourth section, “Autoplagiarism”, continues our sense of being in and out of time.
“Meridian” is almost a twin of “Anamnesis” in the way it questions, expects no answers, yet summons strangeness from how vision works, or breaks down, when we rely on intuition to make sense of place and time. The finest poems in this section include “Mountainousness”, “Ravensburger”, and “We Watched the Waves”. The mini-essay “A note on We Watched the Waves” is out of place here.
This leads to major concerns over the decision to include long prose pieces. They are said to be “essays which read like extended prose poems”. This is not the case. Prose poems utilise narrative with intense imagery, and employ heightened, crafted language. Here they are essays only, and belong elsewhere, in another book. This is a pity, as the title poem reads more like notes for a philosophical essay than anything remotely resembling poetry, and diminishes the book’s overall impact. DL
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 18, 2016 as "Aden Rolfe, False Nostalgia". Subscribe here.