Reviewed by Christine Edwards
Walk in the Forest is the first solo collection of poems by Meryl Brown Tobin. It brings together poetry that has been anthologised in a diverse range of magazines, broadsheets and journals; some have won awards, others broadcast on radio.
Many poems give voice to the poet’s concerns about world peace and justice. She ensures the reader’s discomfort by questioning morality and the condoning of conflict through silence. Tobin’s message is powerfully evoked through keen irony in ‘Tripping the New Millenium’, where following the ‘Killing, killing, killing’ on a global scale comes the question: ‘How about a trip around Australia?’. Western apathy to the plight of human suffering is evident in ‘East Timor’. ‘Rag Dolls’ is a simple but haunting epiphany of the Kurd slaughters. Tobin always comments with deep compassion about contemporary conflicts, highlighting the permanent scars of war where there are no victors.
Her work equally reflects on the importance of everyday relationships, of achieving personal harmony and a fulfilling existence. Hence sections under ‘People’ and ‘Reflection’ evoke the beauty and gentleness of humanity: ‘I drink riches / from others’ thoughts / pour what I have to share / Open to the world’. Inspiring words from ‘Cup’.
In her concern for the environment, Tobin’s poetry brings to mind the phrase ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints’. She teases readers with the mysteries of Big Cats and Thylacines (‘Sestina: Striped Mystery’) and impresses on us the need to be responsible caretakers of nature: ‘We return as hordes surge in / a babble in a multitude of tongues / St. Kilda Beach transposed / … / Katatjuta’s sunset approaches/’.
Perhaps her three-lined poem ‘Principle of Life’ best sums up the beauty and thoughtfulness, and ultimately uplifting sentiments of this collection: ‘With love and truth your guides / leading through good and evil / take on the world’.
A 120 page A5 paperback with a full-colour laminated cover, Walk in the Forest is available from Readings and selected bookstores and newsagents for RRP $17.50 or direct from the publisher, Ningan Publishing, c/- P0, Grantville, 3984 (P&H incl in price).
Reviewed by Melbourne writer, Christine Edwards, whose latest novel is On Board the Boussole (My Story Series, Scholastic Press, 2002).