Letter to 'Oumuamua - James Norcliffe
James Norcliffe’s eleventh poetry collection, Letter to ‘Oumuamua, follows his recent receipt of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. In this wry and witty collection – addressed to the first interstellar object ever to be detected in our solar system – Norcliffe applies a cool, clear eye to human life on Earth. Our foibles and absurdities are laid bare, but so too is the human capacity for love, desire, sorrow and regret.
Norcliffe’s succinct observations traverse the personal and the political. Grounded in the local but encompassing the global, they range through subjects such as commuting, insomnia and faltering health to the contemplation of current events and issues such as gun violence and climate change. The landscapes and settings of these poems are vividly evoked, often in terms of human impact. Birds, ‘knowing what we are’, take flight at the approach of a person; a coal range is the acknowledged centre of a West Coast family’s survival.
Often very funny, and always deeply felt, Norcliffe’s Letter to ‘Oumuamua describes a world where every day is both everyday – gritty, material, bread-and-butter – and also luminous and precious: a ‘day like no other’.
The little ones bring us stories.
They want us to read to them,
to embroider the bright illustrations and make them even brighter.
How can we resist? Lying is in our blood.
From ‘Wolf Light’
'James Norcliffe's name on a book cover is the nearest you can get these days to a guarantee of quality. Letter to ʻOumuamua is full of Norcliffe's characteristic perspective-bending vignettes, yes, but late love poems, climate requiems, and elegiac looks back at a West Coast youth also demand our attention and make us feel. This is work that refuses to sugar-coat.' – Erik Kennedy
'As always, James Norcliffe has written poems that combine the wit of a movie pirate captain with the golden ear and silver tongue of a troubadour. But do not be deceived. While you laugh, Letter to ‘Oumuamua will slip a point as serious as a scalpel between your ribs, and leave you in stitches (minus a kidney). Moving, funny, dark in all the right ways, this brilliant collection will keep you awake at night.' – Joanna Preston