Reviews

Leah Domanski - SCG Museum Curator
The SCG Museum is delighted to feature Mr Langston's poem "When Dougie Did The Double" in the milestone exhibition 100 Not Out: A Century of SCG Tests.

Told through one of the Sydney Cricket Ground's most memorable batting innings, Langston's words impress upon the reader the sensory delights so familiar to lovers of cricket, that mere memories stir passions developed over a life time of enjoyment in the game. (29/07/12)

Sally-Anne Whitten, Singer/Songwriter
As a self professed woman of words and a fan of masters of language and the written word such as Stephen Fry and Ben Elton, I devoured Peter's "Head Full Of Whispers" in one sitting.

No wasted words, or clever phrases for the sake of being clever, just a keen eye for detail... honest observations on things we each take for granted or fail to see the beauty in.

His poems flow effortlessly- before you know it you are at the end of the book wondering what Mangrove Mick is up to and what HE would think of Peter's Byron Bay. 

Top shelf reading. (23/6/12)

Kelly Fuller, ABC Radio New England North West, Morning Show Presenter
I first encountered Peter live on air. The gorgeous Emilia Rixon, now Saban, was producing the Morning Show and it was the 11th November, 2008 and we were talking about what Remembrance Day meant ... the phone calls dribbled in ... during a song or possibly a promo, Emelia said in my headphones, "We have to take this caller. He has a beautiful poem." I wasn't too keen. "How long is it?" I asked. "How do you know it's okay?"

She just said she knew and put Peter through to me.

It was the first time I'd had live poetry on the air and it left me unable to speak. The eyes welled, the breathing was gulped and I had no words to express how beautiful, intimate and devastating Peter's words were. Since, his words always have the same affect and since then I've had the joy and fortune of being able to weave Peter into the show.

How someone seems to effortlessly capture the human experience constantly astounds me. This unassuming, country bloke walks into the studio and shares with us these powerful stories or strikingly well thought out and articulated cricketing arguments.

Some of the deepest emotions he has stirred have been the poems about war and out veterans - for a pacifist, it's a beautiful sharing of thoughts. His consideration of the men who have fallen, the guilt of those who have returned, the sadness as time captures up with them ... but also thoughts for the women who have lost just as much. I'm always drawn in by how gently those stories are told and how reassuring it is to read someone putting into words the feelings I have for the sacrifices made in the service of a nation.

It is those quiet and gentle words that genuinely summarise what I find so appealing about Peter's words. For so much these days consuming information is easy, but are we consuming or merely absorbing the loud words, the rehearsed grabs, the contrived lyrics. In the end, we are not really challenged, not really considering and not really contemplating.

But if you are willing to sit a while longer, turn down the other noise and tune into the quiet and gentle words of Peter, he asks little questions of you as he talks about the love he has for Sue, the pride he has in his children or memories that simple moments present.

Now his voice is another attractive element of his work and I know this launch is about his written work but he will be reading some in a moment and those gentle words I was just talking about come self-contained in a soft, warm, Australia voice ... just perfect for radio.

Outside of the studio I've often seen him, sitting out the front of his favourite cafe and now I'm not on air I can safely say Cafe 2340. He has a note pad or iPhone on the table, Hawaiian shirt, sometime a hat ... contemplating, thinking, writing ... sometimes when I've been going for a coffee I've been too sacred to interrupt his deep thought. He's clearly been so engaged with a concept or idea and his mind is exploring that I've decided the best idea is to just quietly walk by.

I have not had the fortune to spend much time with Sue or the family but I feel like I know them intimately because of Peter's words. You must be very proud of this man and his achievements. In an interview this week, Peter told me he is much happier with this second collection and feels they are a little more seasoned and more relaxed.

He is a treasured part of the New England North West and I'm touched that he has asked me to play a part in this important day, to stand beside so many of the important people in his life. So if its not too much of a cliché - I hope - it give me great pleasure to officially launch Peter Langston's new book of poetry, "Head Full Of Whispers". (27/5/12)

Hear Kelly Fuller's interview with Peter on ABC New England North West.


Annette Greenhall, a listener to ABC New England North West,
reviewed "Six Nines" by Peter Langston in a discussion with
Morning Show presenter, Kelly Fuller. (19/2/10)




Merle Goldsmith, Poetzinc, Armidale
At a meeting of Armidale’s Poetzinc on 2nd February, Peter Langston performed spirited readings of several poems from his published collection ‘Six Nines’ (Kardoorair Press, 2009).
Most of the pieces are personal and emotional recollections of the people and events that are close to his heart. In fact this is often poetry in which the poet reveals as much about himself as about his subject matter. ‘Love’ and ‘tears’ are words that he uses frequently., and many of the family pieces have a narrative appeal

An exception to his poems of tender sentiment is ‘When Dougie Made the Double’, which re-creates a vivid scene at Sydney Cricket Ground, a Test Match translated from his original childhood view of it on the old TV:

‘Summer blazed in grainy black & white,
until I walked through a TV window
past stands of old corrugated iron and older wood,
into the vivid colours of my youth
and found a new home between
the Randwick and Paddington ends.’

The appeal of his poetry, for me, is in its authenticity, the honest exposure of what he feels. In ‘Waiting’ his love of nature is blended with memories of his mother and a sense of her presence:

Sitting in this wild place,
waiting for the news,
your spirit sings to me,
new lullabies for old fears.
I hear your mothering at water’s edge
lap, lap, lapping a patient rhythm.
Comfort like a heartbeat.
Nearly gone, always there.

‘When Grandma Plays the Piano’ reveals his eye for significant detail. He finds verbs, similes and rhythm to describe aged fingers on ivory keys:

'Like bones dancing in a spectral ballet
your fingers jitter and skip.’


His protective love for Grandma is plainly shown as she gropes ‘unable to continue, unable to stop’. He interprets her determination as ‘a long lost little girl’s need for love’.

In ‘Four Nice Girls’ there is nostalgia for a lost generation: ‘chatterboxed innocence/long bled from this place.’ He rejoices in the girls’ wholesomeness:
‘Where they ran, the grass turned green’ and ‘rain washed their smiles’.

Langston’s struggles with depression are presented in convincing and courageous poetry. ‘Safe Harbour’ about the intimate security he finds in his beloved’s arms is one of his best poems I believe. He leaves imaginative work for the reader to do in

‘It’s here I have hidden from storms
protected from one point agendas
with my name on them.
Meeting closed. I’m hiding still.’


The poem ’Chocos’ presents strong satire against the injustice and horror of war, with a pun on the name of General Blamey (Blame Me) who sent the hastily trained militia unit, the 39th Battalion, to fight against the highly trained Japanese in 1942. – a victorious operation for Australia, dismissed by Blamey who had dubbed the militia ‘chocolate soldiers’. Peter Langston, 67 years later, here strikes forth a powerful metaphor : ‘Six hundred wooden boxes of chocolate/the price of freedom in 1942.’

The poet exhibited his dramatic ability when reading ‘The Coorong Mate’, a protest about the dwindling waters of the Murray at the Coorong end.

The tone of the poetry itself changes from a gentle and almost wistful one in the love and memorial poems to a stronger affirmative voice in those about mates and war. A few pieces in the collection are quite light-hearted, such as ‘Ask Any Dancer’ and ‘Losing Weight By Proxy’.

Altogether they reveal the poet’s versatility and honesty. His stated aim to blend observation and emotion is often achieved in this collection. (2/2/10)

John Rummery, Teacher & Lecturer ACAE & UNE
Good poems, like all good art, are inexhaustible: always new despite many readings; always able to surprise, delight and satisfy.

One could paraphrase Norman Lindsay’s statement about the magic pudding when looking across Peter Langston’s poetry: “the more you read, the more you get.” Cut and come again is its nature! This is true for the content of this first publication of Peter’s poems.

No common experience is ordinary when transmuted through Peter’s imaginative insight and then refined by surprisingly inventive language and inescapable imagery and metaphor. Peter’s art is the alchemical philosopher’s stone and what he touches he adorns with epiphanic brilliance.

Peter’s muse is a modern one and yet his muse is like Ariadne with her clew, by which he, the poet, explores the labyrinth of memory and brings light to the deep resounding minotaur from the depths of his mental labyrinth.

It is not a common experience to accidentally discover a poet of such mature depth, who promises so much and will surely deliver much more.

For me, in particular, I recall the comment on John Donne’s poetry: “For Donne a thought was an experience, which transmuted into poetry, modified his sensibility.”

Reading Peter’s poetry has had much the same effect on me. (Sept 2009)

Barry Richardson - B.A., B. Leg.S, M.Litt, M.A. Solicitor of the  Supreme Court of N.S.W., Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies, ACAE and UNE
It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to come to know Peter Langston and his remarkable poetry. Peter’s is a poetic voice which is unique in the freshness of the language, the creativity of the imagery and the bold architectonic of structure, which gives well-worn themes rejuvenated expression, so transformational as to suggest the arrival of a new apocalyptic vision on the horizon.

Authentically new voices in poetry are always rare but Peter Langston produces inspiring innovation: this is exemplified in “That Coldest Hour”, a magnificently crafted poem which is an incisive analysis of how he carved the world view out of exploring the dialectic of his marriage;
Lying there at your cold shoulder,
Both of us safely behind shields -
Me in the wake of my Lithium droop
And you walled in by feminine hygiene,
I’m suddenly glad it is Friday.
Saturday’s are always happier.

The power of the poetry is in the recognition that compassionate understanding must go beyond personal suffering to extend to the realization that emotional trauma is reciprocal and must be accepted as both a grace and a burden.

This is one of the most moving and technically accomplished poems I have read in the last decade.
But apart from his intensely personal poetry, which is nakedly confessional, Peter also writes what one might call “public poetry” in which he comments, sometimes satirically but always incisively on the human condition at large.

To give two examples, in “His Favourite Chair”, the emptying of a dwelling’s furniture records:
Carefully, they hid his medals
Beneath his parent’s gold framed wedding,
Beneath a drawer from her craft room,
Beneath three toilet rolls and a work jumper.
Their life recorded by a stranger’s priorities
and vouched safe to ribbed cardboard
and screaming tape.
Each yelp a newly-stabbed pain.
and finally raises the epistemological question: “what, at its end, is a life worth?” The answer seems to be: “It’s all about sanitizing—everything can be packed into a box and disposed of, except perhaps the widow’s grief which screams with the tape, although being subdued by middle-class conventions is, paradoxically, almost silent.”

In “Chocos”, there is a sharp and acerbic black humoured comment:
General Blame-Me
Of firm footing and starched uniform,
both testicles in Macarthur’s hand
and kicking own goals with his mouth,
dismissed their effort.

It is my view that the private and public poems of Peter Langston are inseparably integrated: Peter’s observation creates his poetry and reciprocally, his poetry creates a world in which he can find, if not paradise, then secular sanctuary in which he can resolve his existential angst and come to terms with both his personal life and his relationship to the world at large.

The final comment which needs to be made about Peter’s poetry is that it never meanders into saccharine whimsy: it always and sometimes aggressively, embraces stark imaginative truth.
Finally, Peter’s poetry is elemental: an intellectual and emotional verbal display, which stretches as far back as when the first hominids learned to differentiate between vowels and consonants and dared to unleash the crafted passion of raw emotion.

I look forward to many more volumes of Peter’s poetry.