Thursday, 4 December 2014

Book Review: Vagabondage, by Beth Spencer

The latest book of poetry by Beth Spencer, Vagabondage, is a verse memoir of a year spent travelling around Australia in a campervan.

This lovely collection of poems is at times hilarious and poignant, as Spencer takes us through memories of past trips as well as the challenges of living on the move for an extended period of time.

The poems are variously joyous, wryly observant, amusing and quite deep.  The book is rather like a good concept album - the poems stand alone well enough - but reading them as a collection (in order, as laid out in the book) adds a level of depth and connection that makes you feel as if you have travelled awhile with this person, and know them as a friend.

In many ways, the book is reminiscent of Ursula Bethell's From a Garden in the Antipodes (which, if you haven't read, is also well worth visiting).  Each poem is like a letter home or a note in a diary.   Reading the poems in these works give the feeling of checking in with an old friend and seeing how they are getting along.  Ursula's garden (and her cat, Michael) and Beth's road trip (and her van) become familiar parts of your own life, for a brief period of time.

And, in both of them, you come across the occasional poem that causes you to see something commonplace (like weeds or flowers) in a new light.

Some UWA students took one of the poems from Spencer's book, Wild Things 2, and animated it, showcasing one of the many layers that can be found in this collection:

You can find Vagabondage at 820A SPE(B) 1B VAG (or click here to see check its status in our catalogue).  You'll also find an earlier work by Spencer, Things in a Glass Box in the same area.

The collected poems of Ursula Bethell can be found at 820NZ BET 1B COL (click here to see them in the catalogue).

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