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Lip Verse: Magic Logic

When reading a poetry collection, if I’m lucky, there might be one or two moments that catch my breath—when a poet’s particular insight or phrasing is so profound that it invokes a special kind of magic—delivering a rush of emotion that makes me gasp. I might describe this sensation as a literary orgasm, and David Mortimer’s Magic Logic as linguistically arousing. It consistently surprised and delighted me. I was oohing and ahhing at almost every second page.

Mortimer says that this book “represents six years of starting poems, and nine years of finishing them”. The precision of language, the artfulness of each word choice and line break, is testament to the time that Mortimer has spent with these poems. The book contains pieces that have been shortlisted for the Blake Poetry Prize, the Newcastle Poetry Prize and the Montreal International Poetry Prize, while others have appeared in Best Australian Poems and prestigious literary journals.

In cold wet frozen, Mortimer describes seeing a father and daughter kicking a soccer ball around a drenched oval early one winter morning—she in her school uniform and he in a business suit:

And who cares if her socks will be wet all day?
If he gets a cold?
Here’s memory being made, laid up, forever
Brighter than rinsed sunlight

Male voices is a lovely tribute to the way that we adopt the expressions of our parents and grandparents and find ourselves voicing the same phrases they used to say, invoking their memory through language:

While the spirit of our grandmother
hovers in the darkening street
over our lives and everything we do
with short imperative sentences

Romantic passion is particularly visceral in practical aesthetics, which proves that writing can be highly erotic while also treating feminine sexuality and the female body with utter reverence and respect:

I kiss your intimate architecture
In a movement away and a moment returning
Relish and cherish the cleave of you
Where our babies came from

I believe that Society is also noteworthy from a feminist point of view, as a deceptively simple description of the patriarchy in which we live. Despite being just six-words long, it is as powerful as it is disturbing:

I hunt her
She gathers me

And I love the startling confluence of modern technology and mythology in not-being and somethingness. It serves as an amusing reminder of the timelessness of human drama, exposing the mythic elements of our domestic existence as well as the trivialities at play in the epic:


like Cordelia dealing with her dad or Guinevere with Lancelot
on a mobile phone in the corner texting for all she’s worth

In progress, flying ‘ten thousand metres above the ground’, Mortimer doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the strange product of mankind’s ingenuity:

We watch two separate films at once
On separate screens
In adjacent seats
With headphones on
Comedy with tragedy holding hands

My favourite lines in the book come from au fond du temple, within which Mortimer ponders the unlikely popularity of the duet that was voted ‘Australia’s favourite Opera moment’ on ABC Classic FM:

And we can hear the tragedy in the music from the first note
aching and incontestable
and still the whole world buys tickets for this
for some reason deeper than we can understand

I suspect it is the same inexplicable craving that draws us—seeking those miraculous moments of balance—to the tightrope between pleasure and pain, comedy and tragedy, which so many of the poems in this collection so delicately dare to tread.


Magic Logic is published by Puncher & Wattmann.

Bronwyn Lovell lives in Melbourne. Her poetry has been published in Australian Love Poems, Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review and the Global Poetry Anthology. She has been shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize and the Newcastle Poetry Prize.

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