Displaced

Subtitled 'a rural life', readers could be excused for thinking that this memoir will be the folksy, country-living ramblings of an old man.

Nothing could be further from the reality of this thought-provoking book.

For starters: John Kinsella is not old, although his body of work to date would suggest he is decades beyond his actual birth in 1963.

Nor is this book centred in Jam Tree Gully, a property buried deep in Western Australia's south-west, where it seems the name of every township or railway siding ends in '-up', which means (some say) 'place of water', although even that is not very evident in this part of the bush.

Instead it moves in a conversational way between Australia and Ohio in USA's Midwest, Schull in County Cork, Ireland, and Cambridge, UK - where he now teaches, often dipping back to memories of his early life in Western Australia, when relevant.

However while all of this is interesting, making the book well worth reading, there is more to it again. Kinsella is passionate about human rights (especially Australia's indigenous people) and, by extension, how all peoples should respect the world's land and its flora and fauna. His epicentre, if you like, is Jam Tree Gully, or JTG, where he channels 'the hope and spiritual strength of the land', acknowledging it as the place that shaped his personal credo and future studies and writings.

Although he has written novels, non-fiction books, and plays, John Kinsella is a poet at his core, and this book's poetic descriptions will pique readers' imaginations. There is a selection of his poems at the end of the book as well. His writing style does not follow a straight line, veering sometimes between prose, resembling notes in his daily journal, and other times becoming rich and descriptive, so lush you feel encouraged to step out into the damp grass and climb that hill he has evoked on the page.

The book opens with this: 'It is too easy to begin with photographs taken before you were aware of what was happening...'. He then proceeds to flip through the family album's virtual memories of growing up on Jam Tree Gully, then Kinsella's poetic and philosophical remembrances of other places where he has lived.

Almost prophetically in the Epilogue, written pre-Covid19, as he was about to return to Australia, he writes: 'Air travel is a fait accompli for the planet. Cause and effect. Consequence. We need to recognise this and act to thwart the closure, to repair, and yes, to heal. To step back in our stepping out'.

Perhaps this might make us all feel less displaced. 

~~~

Displaced - a rural life, by John Kinsella, paperback, March, 2020, published by Transit Loungerrp AUD$29.99, NZD$34.99, | 9781925760477  

 

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