PRAISE FOR EVENT (2007)
‘Here is a remarkable poet, in whom delicacy of language equals fineness of perception. She sings “as if”, as though all barriers had vanished between self and the shimmering world. Lightness and modern pastoral pervade her cities, animated by birds, creatures of the spirit.’ —Chris Wallace-Crabbe
‘Judith Bishop is a poet of unusual delicacy, yet she can phrase aphoristic, even proverbial, knowledge with complete authority. Accordingly, she writes ‘if the gods weaken, we’ll be left alone on earth’ and ‘Don’t cough,…: only listen. This is how the gods speak.’ She is entitled to speak both for the gods and about them: her mind is extraordinarily refined. The coarsenesses of the world are confronted by clear-eyed analysis. Cortés’s conquest of Mexico, as seen by his Aztec amanuensis, Doña Marina, shares lyric presence with a strangely quiet pantheism elsewhere in the collection. Throughout, a wholly original voice makes itself heard.’ —Peter Porter
‘‘We attend frail breakings. Hymn/to insufficiency,’ says Judith Bishop in her dazzling debut, Event, a book that argues for an almost prayer-like attention to the details of a world that seems both our own and newly – thrillingly – strange: ‘error orbits error,’ the sacred routinely turns to ash, we betray ourselves and others equally. Against this backdrop, Bishop speaks to and for the human impulse to strive anyway, to ‘[search] for tenderness,’ for transformation if not transcendence – and yes, for joy: ‘joy, which meant a life, which meant/its ending, soon or later; which emboldened both of us —’ These are splendid poems indeed, whose intelligence, vision, and sheer beauty at every turn persuade.’ —Carl Phillips
"[Bishop's] poetry's quiet humility counts as one of its foremost attractions. An authentic and unsentimental belief in the capacity for tenderness between creatures lies at the heart of Bishop's writing." —Oliver Dennis, Times Literary Supplement.
This collection is an absorbing read, multi-layered and affecting. It contains poetry full of ideas but never strays from human experience. The desperate search for hope, joy and truth in the face of indifference and death is played out within recognisable landscapes, which Judith Bishop's language transforms and renews. Her poetic method is similar to what the human voice does at the end of 'Desert Wind': it 'knows how to bind whatever's still,/ and for long enough to touch.' If her poems bind, they do so temporarily. They don't freeze reality into settled meaning like a snapshot. They pause fleetingly, just long enough to touch. —Rob McKenzie, Stride Magazine.