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The third poetry collection by Lisa Gorton, one of a small number of Australian writers who have won major literary awards for both poetry and fiction.
Lisa Gorton began writing Empirical when the Victorian Government of the time threatened to cut an eight-lane motorway through the heart of Royal Park in Melbourne. She walked repeatedly in the park, seeking to understand how the feeling for place originates, and how memory and landscape fold in and out of each other. The poems exploring this feeling for place are followed by a sequence which recreates the colonial history of Royal Park through the gathering of fragments from newspapers, maps and pictures, a different way of asserting its value, by demonstrating how a landscape can conceal the history of country beneath its layers of time. From this close-up study, in its second part the collection opens out into poems which meditate on ancient statues, Rimbaud’s imperial panoramas, the making of Coleridge’s poem ‘Kubla Khan’, the exhibition galleries of Crystal Palace — tracking, through chains of influence, and a phantasmagoric procession of images, the trade between empire, commodities and dreams of elsewhere. Empirical follows a deluxe promenade of thought, in which landscapes are mirrored and refracted in the contemporary Baroque style for which Gorton is renowned.