Water Over Stone

Winner, IP Picks 2011, Best Poetry.

Like water spilling over stones, these poems seem to bubble up from the depths. These are luminous reflections on the complex and sometimes fraught relationships between society and the natural world.

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Winner, IP Picks 2011, Best Poetry.

Like water spilling over stones, these poems seem to bubble up from the depths.

“Uncaged by calendars and watches”, one character retreats into rainforests, another explores the world barefoot seeking “life’s wild handful of quiver and piss.” A twelve-year-old shoots a rattlesnake, an octogenarian pulls vines in the public park. Wolves travel in a van inspiring dreams of “the boundless rush and yap of belonging” and a whale offers solace on a balmy night on the Coral Sea.

These are luminous reflections on the complex and sometimes fraught relationships between society and the natural world.

Laura Jan Shore

Born in the UK of American parents, Laura learnt to climb stairs on the ocean liner to the States. From Minneapolis to Laramie to Chicago to New York, she moved frequently as a child and has never stayed in one home for more than ten years. While raising two sons, she taught composition, literature and poetry at several colleges as well as offering creative writing courses privately. Her YA novel, The Sacred Moon Tree, Bradbury Press, NY, 1986, was nominated for the Washington Irving Children's Book Award. Laura's poetry has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Australia and overseas. In 1996, she immigrated to the Byron Shire where she initiated the Dangerously Poetic reading series. Her collection, Breathworks, was launched at the Byron Writers Festival in 2002 by Dorothy Porter and at the Sydney Poetry Festival by Ron Pretty. She won the 2009 FAW John Shaw Nielson Award and the 2006 CJ Dennis "Open Poetry" Literary Award. She was chosen by the Poets' Union for the 2003 Poets on Wheels Tour, which she counts as a poetry highlight. Her poems have twice been broadcast on Radio National's Poetica.



We stumble out
into thick blue air
and sink,
ankle deep into brine.

The water forest reflects itself
in a shimmer of olive and sage.
Mud oozes like greasy chocolate
between our toes.
The path is pricked
with mangrove knobs and twisted roots.

Your words are lost
in the sizzle of cicadas.
I splash ahead
through sea grass and darting minnows,
then slump
into the cool depths.

in the cradle of the river,
high tide laps my upper lip.
Gold sparks across the rippled surface.
A mullet arcs into air and for an instant,
we’ve exchanged elements.

Immersed, I float above speckled oysters
bedded in rock, glimpse the flutter
of a stingray in a cloud of sand,
then bob up
sleek as a cormorant with a long slow blink.
Your bulk is buoyant in this medium.
Wearing goggles, your hat tied beneath your chin,
you duck under and nose the shallows,
hunting for wildlife.
Nudging up close
we soak, heads lolling,
adrift in the sway of current.

It’s nearly evening when we scramble
back onto the bank. Prune fingered,
hair matted with seaweed.
Slime-black feet tentative on land.
Knees quiver,
pulse of the river
in our veins.

Proclaiming my love to a stone

Rest in my palm, dense one,
for you were created to fit just so.

Your oblong
curves into my lifeline,
cradled from fingers to fleshy pads.

Cool at first, you gently warm to me.
The rough arc scaring one side
contrasts with the rest of your smooth egg surface.

Held to my ear, I listen to the clink, clink
of your history, the rhythmic roll
against a dozen others, liquid grey in the tide pool.

Seaweed has tumbled with you
smearing a sheen of green.

About the weight and shape of my heart,
in another age, you would have been my daily
companion, my precious tool.

A pestle to crush open pipi shells or crack nuts.
Cast into the fire until glowing,
I would have slipped you close
on winter evenings to toast my icy feet.

Just the hint of a head and body –
as a child, I would have cradled you
crooning the lullabies of my kin.

Clapping you against another
to punctuate my thoughts, I choose you
to tote home. I make an altar
to your endurance.

Held each morning between both hands,
you pulsate my life back to me.

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Customer Reviews

1-5 of 4 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “Laura Jan Shore’s collection, Water over Stone, is also assured but for different reasons. Shore was born in 1950 in Manchester, England, and soon travelled to the United States with her American parents. In 1996, she emigrated to the Byron Shire, where she became involved with Dangerously Poetic, a community group seeking to encourage, publish and promote quality poetry from the Northern Rivers region of NSW. Some of Shore’s poetry is set in this area, some in the US.

    Shore is at her best when she is dealing with her family in the US. She writes with a seeming authenticity and a sense of fun. In ”Ungloved”, an upper-class woman dismisses her gardener, takes off her gardening gloves and plunges her palm ”into the damp, black soil”. Shore knows what to do with the last line of the poem here; she knows not to go for too much, and lets the action speak for itself.

    Last lines are not the only aspect of her craft at which Shore excels. She also has a touch of the imagist (a necessity if a poet wants to create a sense of atmosphere). In ”Wilderness, untouched”, she often lets her images do the talking, for example, ”A canopy quivering with foliage//snakes through our fantasies./Hidden gullies, pockets of primeval ferns”. This poem proves to be lush and exotic, like others in the collection.

    Water over Stone is also a collection with point and purpose. In ”Hospice”, Shore makes some observations of an artist obsessed with the sky. Her final reflection is the most poignant. She writes, ”In the mirrored black tonight/lie a few pricks of light and the thin moon/of your pillowed cheek/wells upward”. Again, there is the low-key ending – she lets the observation speak for itself.

    There are a number of other instances where Shore is equally clever. But unlike Edge Music, the most interesting aspect is not the intellect of the poet; rather, it is Shore’s impressive aesthetic. Water over Stone proves to have clarity, a wide range of subject matter and variation of form. The poems contain humour, grace and beauty. All these aspects of Shore’s aesthetic go a long way in the process of winning the reader over.”
    – Michael Byrne, Canberra Times

    July 26, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “Shore’s mind is awake, always, to the lyrical potential of an ordinary moment and the consolations of memory and old friendships, awake to the satisfactions and losses that stop us in our tracks. The diverse poems in this collection are meditative and thoughtful, full of the layered details of a life richly lived.”
    – Cate Kennedy, author, The World Beneath (People’s Choice Award in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards)

    July 26, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “Throughout this book there’s a tactile empathy. The joy of loss, hands in the soil and the reckless flight of salt into matzo-ball soup. Beasts and feasts, heart in dialogue with mind. This is a rich empathic exploration across five generations and a lifetime of lives. Shore paints her portraits with style and vitality.”
    – Les Wicks, poet, publisher, editor

    July 26, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “Water Over Stone takes the reader right to the depths of the rainforests and seas, guiding them through a fantastical journey of vivid and detailed description.”
    – Trove record

    July 26, 2023

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