The Accidental Cage

The Accidental Cage explores the perceptual and emotional experience of entrapment in its many forms.

Exile, asylum, desire, love and motherhood all enter the speaker’s imagination, often transformed by the force of resistance.

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Winner, Best First Book, IP Picks 2006, Shortlisted for the 2007 Judith Wright Prize.

The Accidental Cage explores the perceptual and emotional experience of entrapment in its many forms.

Exile, asylum, desire, love and motherhood all enter the speaker’s imagination, often transformed by the force of resistance.

The poems are nuanced, balancing a dramatic tension between the beauty of the metaphor and the impact of the meaning.

The collection compiles longer meditations with shorter lyrical and imagistic poetry.

Michelle Cahill

Michelle (Carter) Cahill’s poems and reviews have appeared in journals like Cordite, Urthona (UK), Blue Dog, Verandah, Ulitarra, Imago, 4W, Poetrix, Vernacular, and Meusepress. More are forthcoming in Callaloo (USA), Divan, Journal of Australian Studies, and Going Down Swinging. With a Creative Writing Arts Major from Macquarie University (1999), Michelle attended the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont and the Catskill Poetry Conference in New York in 2004. One of three poets selected to tour southern NSW for the 2005 Poets On Wheels, she was also the recipient of a scholarship from the Poetry Australia Foundation for its 2006 Poetry Workshop. She works as a general practitioner in Sydney where she lives with her husband, David, and daughter, Tegan.

ISBN : 9781876819392
ISBN: 9781876819392
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Page Length: 63
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Customer Reviews

1-5 of 8 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Autobiographical experience shapes Michelle Cahill’s first collection, The Accidental Cage . Published in 2006 by Interactive Press, it was the winner of the IP Picks Best First Book award and is part of IP’s Emerging Author Series.

    The startling cover photograph of the author holding November lilies signals Cahill’s self referencing at the outset. Riddled with guilt about ‘not judging a book by its cover’ – I couldn’t help but worry ‘What did this photograph mean?’ In an interview on the publishers website, Cahill states that she wishes this first book to ‘introduce something about myself, who I am & where I come from’, surely, a reasonable intention in a first collection. Michelle Cahill demonstrates in The Accidental Cage just how complex that process is, indeed as mother, wife, lover, poet, doctor, and woman. She expresses a sense of fragmentation which relates to her experiences of living globally, of living outside the concept of knowing ‘home’.

    As I progressed through the collection I began (with some relief) to re-view the framework of autobiography as a lens for reading the poems: it seems possible Cahill is herself in ‘the accidental cage’. Impossibly bound by what Helene Cixous defines as a need to respond to ‘tension’, where the ‘ambient’ discourse forces a reconsideration of experience. Cahill’s writing might be viewed as ‘écriture féminine’: writing which is intimately concerned with exclusion, subjectivity and voicing women’s experience. Her themes express containment and simultaneous resistance, ways of perceiving beyond the cage. See the collection’s title poem:

    Perception is both bliss and indifference. I was drawn to kinematics,

    the arbitrary motion of the birds confined,

    their ruffled choreography. The empty barn’s largesse,

    its insulated walls held nothing else organic, but

    this kindred pair who shot tormented laps from beam to beam.

    (The Accidental Cage p.5)

    Cahill as poet impossibly caught in language’s cage; she writes ‘words are unreliable’:

    but I don’t tell her comma

    the words are slippery

    they do not love you

    (Writing Eva: a fantasy p.53)

    Cahill’s concern for revealing the duplicitous nature of things is manifest in several poems in the collection which explore the experience of refugees, human rights issues, the ways in which language can be used to marginalise experience and affect silence: ‘Tell us in your own language what happened'(‘Survival( in subtitles)’p.3). Cahill exploits the metaphor of the ‘cage’ throughout the collection, aware that just as she writes (the marginalised perspective); she is writing against (the oppressors) language and its constant limitations.

    Cahill is also a practicing doctor. Her ‘other’ professional life makes for some interesting imagery – ‘spines sutur(e) the sea’, while in the poem ‘Hardly Missing Enmore’ there are references to T4 counts and laryngitis, which intrude on the poet’s life. I enjoyed these traces of Cahill’s medical life in the poetry, much as I enjoy finding similar glimpses in Jennifer Harrison’s work.

    The poet works well with imagery. Lines such as ‘foam’s calligraphy’ and ‘your hand floats like a spell’ indicate Cahill’s attention to natural simple moments of beauty. A sequence of domestic poems, which include the pregnancy poem ‘Moonchild’ are refreshingly honest and heartfelt. This clarity of intent appears again in the poem ‘Platinum After Shining’, a poem about the death of a pet dog which triggers a meditation on happiness, death, and the experience of love:

    Not quite assassin, I felt a stranger to my own life

    here in this delicate crib of wattle, callistemon, ti-tree.

    More than a petrel’s wing drum in the platinum sky,

    more than a stunned wave falling synchronous to the wind,

    more than a startle when the king-parrots splash their red and green

    vials through the fish-scales of eucalypt.

    It’s like waiting for something big to happen, a young girl

    leaving memory to reinhabit these bones, this flesh.

    For the runaway puppy of childhood to return.

    His breath a fading smoke, his speed a lightning

    bright as the fascia that binds him from nothingness to nothing.

    So there are poems which ‘deliver’ the poet’s imagery as intent, and others which I felt failed to realise their potential – this was mostly related to instances where I thought the poet could have sharpened the image, perhaps simply shifting the weaker simile into metaphor:

    ‘A summer when lepers grew like seedlings in the garden of understanding.’, or ‘You hardly moved/lying like a sea slug/in sepia,/ dreaming of sky fluorescence./’.

    The Accidental Cage is host to a wide variety of poetic styles and concerns, the more noticeably experimental and ‘sassy’ voiced poems in the book commence with ‘Manhattan’. Cahill switches from reflective, meditative, lyric styled writing to deliver a pervading sense of dissatisfaction – the flipside of motherhood and marriage as constraint and entrapment: ‘Behind me the total sum of existence;/a half-fed baby, yesterday’s dishes,/ a nanny glued to daytime soaps./ This heat wave.'(Manhattan p23) and again:

    you dress me in brown suede boots

    & mini skirt

    say you’re bored of your husband

    of suburbia

    hand me half a pill

    promise me fun without misgiving

    (Girlfriend p.26)

    While Michelle Cahill is a Sydney poet, her poems reflect her global personal history. They trace her experience as a map attempting to make sense of fragmentation. Poems from Nepal, India, Thailand and Laos reflect Cahill’s interest in the world, the pleasure of exploring new words, translating experience for self knowledge and understanding:

    Home was a place I dreamed before that summer in Bombay

    when my stranger/cousin kissed me

    with unforced smiles. Her gift of jelabi pleased my foreign palate

    like the red salted berries from the bora tree.

    (The Garden of Understanding p 10)

    The Accidental Cage concludes with a tongue-in-cheek poem ‘Divorcing the Poem in Andalusia'(p 62). Cahill cracks open the fissure between what is lived, what is experienced, and the finite possibilities of rendering language as perception ‘It’s not emotion that’s poetry/ nor image merely, thoughts cross madly’. She wants to trigger response ‘And you, the audience, stirred/by the slow arousal, the bulerias ,/a spate of subordinate clauses./Split-tongue. Castanet. Sweat/ Hot silk burning the roses./’

    Cahill’s intent to develop her craft as a poet seem clear: she’s attended some well known American poetry workshops, toured with the Poets Union ‘Poets On Wheels’ program and is co-editor for the new online poetry journal Mascara . The Accidental Cage is a strong and interesting debut collection; readers will do well to explore its sensuous and emotive contents.

    – Kristin Hannaford, foam:e

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    These are very mature and well-realised poems for a first book; on first reading some of them seemed to me almost too subtle, too imagistic, losing their punch along the way.
    But, like a lot of good poetry, on subsequent readings many of them seemed to unfold, revealing depths and meanings that at first were not readily apparent.

    Cahill has a sure voice when evoking nature, but the nature poems almost always contain a further layer in which the described comes to represent not just itself but also the describer (the poet). This quality is particularly evident in ‘Liberty at Box Head’ (p.4): the poet observes the sea and its creatures – swallows, finches, banksias, and seagulls, all described with enough colour and detail to transport the reader to the shore. But the final lines reveal that this is more than a mere nature poem. These lines: ‘… I think of those seagulls / in salmon rich waters. One may lose a leg / through sheer play – the price of liberty’ imply that those of the human species who seek freedom also run the risk of injury, changing a descriptive piece about nature to a rumination on the nature of being human.

    This is a deft and subtle display of craft, making larger themes and issues emerge from the small and particular. A similar effect is achieved in ‘Platinum after Shining’ (p.37), a meditation on the drowning of a loved pet dog, and the poet’s own sense of waning youth, ‘waiting … for the runaway puppy of childhood to return’. This poem contains an intense sense of place in its descriptions of the sea, plants, relationships, and the slow decay that accompanies living. Similarly, also, ‘Black Bamboo’ (p.12) personifies a misplaced plant that has thrived despite the crush of development.

    ‘Biodiversity in the Colony’ (p.52) describes the loss of species and habitat to mining. There is tremendous irony in the final lines, ‘The island, once densely forested, moth-eaten with the best of intentions. / Enough silver was discovered to make it a worthwhile venture.’ when it is clear from the earlier descriptions of forest and animal species that much has been sacrificed in pursuit of these riches.
    The title poem, ‘The Accidental Cage’ (p.5) is also lovingly evocative of nature – a description of ‘the beauty of panic’ observed when two birds become trapped in a barn’s loft, its long rhythmic lines imitating the rhythm of flight. I did not, however, fully understand the intent of the line ‘Here the mosquitoes had been bred by dentists’. This kind of ambiguity occurs in several otherwise fine poems, creating a slippery nebulousness that leaves the reader with a vague impression rather than the solid pictures Cahill is capable of producing. ‘Chimera’ (p.14), an account of a dream, and ‘The Fourth Veil’, an account of a dawn, are also guilty of this vagueness. The overall meaning of ‘Mantra’ (p.16) is also open to interpretation, but it does contain the striking line, ‘laundry is the wind’s xylophone’.

    Other pieces are concerned with social justice, in particular as it applies to refugees, and survivors of war or torture. It seems implicit that some of this portraits are of people encountered in Cahill’s professional life as a General Practitioner. ‘Survival (in subtitles)’ (p.3) is a powerful paean to a ‘soft-mouthed girl’, a survivor of a recent war. Its three line stanzas demonstrate craft, control of both the language and the tone, and a facility for striking and original metaphor: ‘children / were floating tariff for an overcrowded junk’. In ‘Pacific Solution’ (p.7) we encounter a father and son separated by razor wire, one ‘scurry[ing] past the perimeter’ in a vain attempt to achieve release with wire cutters. It’s a spare, pathos-laden poem that expounds on the political from a humanistic rather than ideological perspective. ‘Valediction’ (p.36), a description of an afternoon spent with a woman whose son has suicided, also drips with pathos and empathy.

    Many of the poems are set in exotic or faraway places – Harlem, Manhattan, Thailand, Nepal, Laos, and India, as well as the poet’s native Sydney, which acquires its own exoticism in such company. ‘Ice’ (p.8) is about an encounter with a Nepalese glacier; in ‘The Garden of Understanding’ the poet experiences difference via the lives of relatives in Bombay. This geographical eclecticism paints Cahill as a citizen of the world, but these poems do not quite achieve the depth and strong evocation of place contained in the Sydney poems, instead appearing to at times skate across the surfaces of the visual experience.

    There are four lovely domestic poems (pp 18-21) on pregnancy, marriage and the early days of motherhood; these are loving but also realistic and unsentimental – the adored child leaves ‘puddles of wee’ and a ‘warm, sudden piss in my lap over dinner’. On another tack, ‘Writing Eva: a fantasy’ (p.53) is an ambitious and unusual poem that examines the relationship between the writer and her invented character. Eva’s voice seems completely apposite to the author’s, leading her to draw the conclusion, ‘I write to invent myself / as someone else / and forget what I am’.
    Regrettably, a few grammatical and typographical errors have slipped through the net. In ‘Riding the Tube’ (p.51), for example, the opening words, ‘A gunfire’ clearly should be either ‘Gunfire’ or ‘A gunshot’; later, in the same poem, ‘The natives, / tied (tired?) of bureaucracy’ has slipped by the editor’s eye.

    ‘Narcolepsy’ (p.43) contains the following oddity: ‘Here there’re no factories’ in a piece that nowhere else relies on colloquialism, and ‘Songkhan’ (p46) refers to ‘bucketfuls of water’, which probably should read less clumsily as ‘buckets full’. But these are minor criticisms. Overall, The Accidental Cage is an accomplished debut from a poet with an eagle eye, a keen ear, and an empathetic heart. I have no doubt this is just the beginning of a poetic career that promises further pleasures and surprises.

    – Liz Hall-Downs, Thylazine

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Michelle Cahill’s spirit, projected through her first collection, is that of a specialist doctor, one who is Western-trained to be scrupulously detached from the bodies she diagnoses and treats, but who realises that detachment and objectivity are only necessary fictions that enable us to cope with death and suffering: ‘Perception is both bliss and indifference’; the perceiver cannot be unmoved by any living creature’s suffering, whether it is a bird caught in a room, or the memory of speaking to a mother whose son is an addict. The poet writes of her shamanistic duty and need:

    wanting to enter
    the spirit
    of all these forms.

    But that’s where the tension in her post-Platonic language and thought lies: in the disjunctive relations between things as dead form, and stuff as living matter. A postmodern pessimism about mimesis as a guarantee of experience perhaps, or a kind of Buddhist mysticism tempered by science, means that these poems do not close the gap between real things and their perceived forms. Dead form haunts the landscapes of this book — ice in the Himalayas, dead birds, deceased pets, missing persons, scars on skin. There’s always the danger that poetry about death leads to the dead place of nihilism, but I think most of the poems turn away, deftly, at the right moments, to meditate on living as the goal and experiential ground for poetic meditation. In the book’s title poem, ‘The Accidental Cage’, the poet witnesses birds flying trapped in a room, and although the poet has been trained to think that birds don’t feel, she is struck by the paradoxical nature of their suffering — their death-defying movements are lethal yet aesthetically beautiful, even seductive. The poem is both a cage and a protective space of the dirt-smudged glass that saves the birds from final collision and destruction.

    The poet’s job is to describe and interrogate how what we see affects how we feel in our cages, or to expose those others who see and feeling nothing in their cages, if only to ask why they have lost the power to feel:

    perception is both bliss and indifference. I was drawn to kinematics,
    the arbitrary motion of the birds confined,
    their ruffled choreography. The empty barn’s largesse,
    its insulated walls held nothing else organic, but
    this kindred pair who shot tormented laps from beam to beam.

    Thus, a poetic that celebrates the indifferent way of seeing things can be beautiful, but empty. Doctors who arrive at the scene of a car accident can cope by depersonalising the victims and by reducing the field of their perceptions down to an image of “dressings” applied to torn flesh. By turning to poetic metaphors the poet and reader is also one move away from reality, which enables a coping with reality, and this somehow offers the possibility that we “understand” the crisis more deeply.

    But if these are epiphanies, can we go on staring at the wreck? And at what cost to ourselves? Cahill turns to the question of the indifference people feel about a refugee camp — the human cages sanctioned by the state? Cahill’s unease with Australia’s border protection goes beyond the political problem and focuses on the deeper effects of indifference; to dehumanise refugees for instance, the free citizen chooses not to contemplate the stranger as a total human being. Refugees survive the sea, pirates and hostile navies and governments. But above all, they survive the language of dehumanisation:

    Famines are forgotten, your husband beheaded.
    (Was it for war crimes? Electronic adultery?)
    Cities burn. Crazed bloggers and cross-eyed robots.
    Tell us in your own language what happened.

    The second person address to the victim reveals Cahill’s disconnection from that world and language-experience of the refugee, but also from her own roots as an Indian migrant. I really had a complete personal empathy with Cahill’s poem of returning to Bombay, a city of her distant relatives: in this narrative of partial return, the prodigal daughter begins to know who she is, but only in terms of her difference and obvious inability to become “native” again. The migrant returning “home” begins to understand that homeliness contains its dark side — aporia and estrangement.

    returning to Bombay — the visceral experience I’ve had of being in the right place, a movement from feeling foreign to feeling at home. (‘The Garden Of Understanding’)

    Also close to my concerns are the themes and images of the exotic, of taking root, and of floating, vertiginously uprooted. Take for instance the marvellous lines of ‘Black Bamboo’:

    There was no written contract;
    I arrived by circumstance,

    It is a cliché to call this a book of “migrant experience”: as if “ethno poets” were invented to serve this ready made subject. For Cahill’s book goes beyond the limits of a genre of migrant confession or biography. It does not attempt to give us the fact of Michelle’s life or how she ended up in Australia, but it gives us the feelings of a more universal subject who is possibly at home anywhere, or no-where.

    The book is rich in rhizomic beings, invoking hybridity, as the poem about bamboo illustrates — parts of ourselves shoot up everywhere. There are other voices, also, that Cahill speaks through: the oracle of the moon, the lesbian lover, Hindu and Buddhist avatars of the supernatural, hybrid forms of the half-reptilian, half-bird, and other cross-species types. In one poem she compares her unborn daughter to a snake.

    This is a dystopic collection, elegiac and valedictory in tone. The tragic early Russian Symbolists come to mind — Ahkmatova and Marina Tvetayeva in particular; there are traces of the politically focussed dystopia of Gig Ryan, the red-light demi-monde of Vicki Viidikas, and the suburban gothic of Gwen Harwood. Inevitably, comparisons will be made to Plath and Sexton, but a better comparison would be to Denise Levertov’s anti-war poetry. Of an obvious later generation, Cahill takes into her stride the high priest of the postmodern media theory Jean Baudrillard:

    The mass and the media are one single process.
    — Jean Baudrillard

    Last night I dreamt I was captured on screen
    by covert forces armed in the sprawling city.
    Driftwood limbs were floating signatures,
    blood the currency in the tenement, corridors

    stale with rumour. Pornography was kept
    by the merchants of munitions, the living dead.
    Last night, I was taken at breakneck speed,
    drugged and gagged. Punched by flash-backs.

    In the evocative Sydney poem ‘Fourth Veil’ ‘a cocos palm seems artifactual’ in a view of Sydney painter Brett Whiteley’s Lavender Bay view, now a clichéd trope of modern Sydney itself. The picture

    …renders thought,
    granting to perception what is made new:
    a skiff’s metronome, the audacious blue.

    OK, yet another poem about the harbour, the water-view icon that underwrites Sydney’s glamour-status. But Sydney’s beautiful harbour is only the façade that masks the vast suburbs (the harbour now fast becoming a massive car park for boats). Cahill contrasts the Whiteley romance with the frustrations of working as a suburban doctor and doing housework:

    I sidestep
    puddles of wee,
    they’re crying out for surgeons in Cowra

    What’s the way out then? Reminiscing about old love affairs in New York perhaps,

    drinking beer
    with Delores, our bladders brimming,
    the long crisp whistle of our pissing,
    and everybody laughing.

    Or worse: the evils of self-medication: ‘ a slip of prozac’, or a cigarette, or perhaps writing as a meditative escape:

    The air’s heavy with a daft silence
    broken by the tapping of a keyboard.
    It’s the kind of silence you find in the suburbs.

    Part 2 opens with a note of hope by Sharon Olds, ‘under the thick trap door of ice, / the water moves’, and Cahill’s strategy is familiar to the lyrical project: to expurgate despair by invoking optimism or hope; the reader is variously reminded of the spiritual solutions to suffering a grief — atonement, baptism, Buddhist and Hindu practices from prayer to yoga. Another familiar lyrical strategy is to establish a lyrical response to nature — the sea or moon. But for Cahill the diction of organic Romanticism fails to satisfy:

    In my solitude, what had brought me to the headland?
    I was a coward hiding behind bracken, burrawang,
    watched by a curious wallaby. And I said:
    tell me about love, the price you pay for being loved?
    How it’s impossible to retrieve the ephemera lost to distraction.
    Bell-bird. Dragonfly. Bluetongue.
    How the search for happiness somehow becomes warped.
    In my solitude, what had brought me to the headland?

    And this a kind of epiphany whose intensity fades

    While the ‘epiphany that fades’ is left behind (after all, so much Australian lyric/modernist poetry is fading with it) Cahill finds interesting alternatives to the sadness of the poète maudit. She writes in a man’s voice about a seduction in ‘Writing Eva: a fantasy’. For me, the poem’s turn is when the poet’s lover Eva can say to the poet do you miss me in a Czech accent. Later in the poem she actually speaks Czech (Cahill as cunning linguist?) The moral of the poem is that ‘I write to invent myself / ‘as someone else’. This is on the whole a successful rescue, with poetry’s popular “confessional” function pulled from the gutter of self-pity. In a time when poets need more medical facilities than publishers, Cahill is fortunate to be both a doctor AND a poet of consequence.

    This is a book for our time and place — a time and place of melancholy. But Cahill gets on with living. A Sydney poetic preoccupied with hedonism, sensuality and decadence pervades the book. Cahill explores the stunned wreckage of history and morality piling in the form of media imagery, but the real victims know what is real, real in the sense of what is organically present — what lives and dies — in this space.

    Ingenuous fictions are spun in city
    drizzle, its grey romance.

    – Adam Aitken (Jacket number 33 : July 2007)

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    That poem, “Narcolepsy”, is reasonably typical of the imagery and the exoticism in Michelle Cahill’s first book, The Accidental Cage. As with many, but not all, of her other poems we are not exactly sure of the narrator’s location or her exact mental state. It’s some kind of “dreamscape”; a place where there are “no factories” but rather “madrigals” and “organza veils // of ice blue mist”. In this poem, at least, the vocabulary is reminiscent of the late-Victorian flourishes of the late Michael Dransfield: “Uncanny” mornings; “madrigals”; a “brocade” of soil; “mossy velvet paws” etc. It’s a poem of echoes. In Cahill’s phrase “Sleep is a dying art” we hear Sylvia Plath’s “Dying is an art” and so on. There is a conscious playing with ambiguity too. Near the end the word “intrepidly”, placed by itself on the line may refer backwards to the stars pausing “intrepidly” or forwards to the narrator’s being “intrepidly” buried in sand. You can take your pick. Either way it’s an extraordinary image. It’s typical of Cahill, too, that the poem’s final line should involve personification, a description of the sea as “slumbering”.

    Like most first collections, The Accidental Cage, ranges widely in subject and technique, reflecting the inevitable youthful experiments attempted in the years leading up to its publication. There are quite a few erotic poems, there are also some with a political edge, others (like “Narcolepsy”) seem to be interior landscapes. A few deal with the tensions of working and being a young mother at the same time. There is also a considerable Asian and sub-continental flavour (or aroma) throughout the book. Although the biographical note says simply that Cahill is a part-time general practitioner in Sydney where she lives with her husband and daughter, it’s clear from several of the book’s key poems (such as “The Garden of Understanding”) and from its cover photographs that Cahill has Indian family connections and has also traveled in Thailand and other parts of South East Asia. In “The Garden of Understanding”, for instance, she talks of

    ” Women in sarees like a field of flowers at the sprawling edge of estates/protected by Vishnu and Sai Baba/with their vitriol of sewerage and refuse….”

    She remembers

    ” A summer when lepers grew like seedlings in the garden of understanding.
    The universe altered — it blushed and dilated.”

    The poem clearly sounds as if a trip back to Bombay turned out to be more than she bargained for.
    Fortunately, not all Cahill’s work depends on spicy and perfumed exoticism. There are quite a few other poems where the situations are clearly Australian and relatively plainly described. “Blue Room”, for instance, contrasts two sisters. One has recently given birth and has “a scar in her belly, / an apron of loose skin and breasts that sag.” The other, “still slender”, is quietly painting a room blue as she “imagine(s) her sister scream” “giving birth”. The poem works by implication. We sense what the “slender” girl is holding off from but also how she is being ineluctably drawn to it as well.

    Similarly, in the poem, “Our Cardboard House”, Cahill evokes the isolation of a young family’s coastal holiday. “Our cardboard house speaks the language / of wind, a hammering atonement.” The “Wind screaming outside the empty kiosk,” is “like a woman giving birth in a paddock.” It’s not your standard happy fortnight. The young parents “eat fatigue, / the sun’s glare, a child’s endless chatter.”
    As several of the generous imprimaturs on the back of The Accidental Cage suggest, Michelle Cahill is clearly a poet who loves language. The only complaint one could reasonably make about this first volume is that sometimes her love of it runs away with her. The intellectual direction of the poem can be submerged by its imagery and/or the exoticism of its vocabulary. This is certainly not the case in the book’s best poems, some of which I’ve mentioned, but it happens often enough for one to want her second book to somehow solve this problem. Hopefully, she will do so in the way a poet such as Judith Beveridge has, by ensuring that the imagery always serves to reinforce the poem’s moral or psychological implications rather than fly free for its own sake.

    Essentially, however, The Accidental Cage, is yet another of what seems, by now, a long string of remarkably strong first books by Australian women poets in the past five years or so. Clive James, claimed a year or two ago from the safety of London, that we are now living in a “golden age” of Australian poetry. If so, it looks as if, from the evidence of books like The Accidental Cage, that it has quite a few years to run yet.

    -Geoff Page (ABC bookshow)

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    A contained dynamism infuses Cahill’s taut, muscular poems.

    – Luke Davies

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    A strong book. Her images are surprising and spiritual.

    – Susan Hampton

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Elegant meditations on freedom and entrapment, desire and restriction. They canvass a broad geographical, intellectual and emotional range, and are memorable for their resonant combinations of words. Cahill is clearly in love with language. Her poems demonstrate acute awareness of its power to bring people together or to keep them apart.

    – Michael Sharkey

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Spectacular, imagistic, important, subtle. Cahill’s book connects the lights, roots, lilies, gulls and bamboo shoots of the self (inner space) with those of nature. It’s interesting to see how the gnarled chaos of the speakers of the poems confronts the qualities within herself mirrored in the outside world. The poems become, then, a kind of metronomic dialogue between self and comment, when the important questions are revealed. This act of concealing and revealing is most interesting.

    – Sean Singer (winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets)

    July 20, 2023

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