Books

 

What To Believe [paperback edition] 2017

What To Believe [digital edition, free] 2017

Jill Chan’s sixth book of poetry is a selection of her best work with the theme of faith and belief. The sequence “What To Believe,” an 18-part tour de force, is filled with uncanny precision and beautiful language. It asks more than answers, seeks more than finds:

how we steal

the most empty places

just to be sure

of our honesty

***

What We Give: a novella

[digital edition, free] 2017

This novella tells of a widow and her ruminations about life with her husband, her doubts and doubtfulness, his exactness and charm, and the consequences of death.

Let us remember our loved ones, our lovers who took us again and again without fail, without success, only with love, by love.

Let’s think about his presencethe one we miss, beside us in bed, beside us in the car, in front of us at the table, beside us walking arm in arm at the park.

Let’s feel his love, gone now, but still here. Still everywhere we are.”

***

Phone Call and Other Prose Writings

[digital edition, free] 2017

A collection of short stories, nonfiction pieces, and essays.

“I am picking up my pen at last. Somebody I didn’t know said to me once face to face. We were having lunch.  He had just decided to be told something.  I heard him say to me: You could write about your life and make a lot out of it. I didn’t write much after that. My life isn’t easily told being how silent everything is–I looked and looked at him, and he turned like a life about to be someone. And I turned again–as him and me–until both of us were nothing but the other, separate as two answers without a thinker.

Outside, there is a world attending to those who know they want. I am doubtful of everything lately: the colour of my eyes, now darkening. Then the light written by his eyes.”

***

On Love: a poem sequence [paperback edition] 2011

On Love: a poem sequence [digital edition, free] 2011

1

There was this sound
then nothing after;
a quickness
then what quickened you;
a style then
how we stood aside
like a generous condemnation,
like delight
at something gone,
never to be confused
again with coming.

Then there was this ache
and nowhere you’d rather be.

There was this murmur
and no heart
but a crowd of beats
and sorrow.

Where does it lead?
Where does ache follow
but where we couldn’t
satisfy?
And then you denounce
and I remove your pronouncements
like love.
How silent love is,
shaking us off.
We are tempted
and near;
we are slow
and desired.
What can happen in a day
but more day.
More heart to melt
the cold
like you could be
drowning.
And satisfaction
is set aside.
We are compassionate,
done with keeping time,
full of beauty
nearly loved.

22

This is the moment I remember:
How you change,
not everything,
but nearly nothing.
I still live.
You still love.
I find it fascinating
to be this alive
yet missing nothing.
Except the river
is there in my dream of us,
the black road
of our endless meandering.
I don’t know anymore
what love is.
Only that I am unable to live it
because it would be too much
like living in the world
with a heart
too willed,
too close to drowning.
For love is this
conscience
where we stop to think,
this waking
where we hesitate to rise.

***

The Art of It: Three Novellas [free ebook] 2011

Three novellas about the art of poetry and writing and how it affects the people who practise it. The book is written in enigmatic, complex, and uncompromising language.”The Art of It” is the story of a professor and her student–the various complexities of romance and love, set in a language of rapture. “Two for Every Boldness” is about two poets and how they survive in the strange environment they find themselves in. “Teacher” is about stalking and its unpredictable effects on a victim.

***

Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 [paperback edition] 2011

Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 [digital edition, free] 2011

Twelve Words Spoken by a Poem

If only I could
condense

and love like water
loves a vessel

In Which She Walks Away

I cannot know
as much as you say
you know me.

It is a renouncement
to be loved this long,
this sacredly
without my knowing.

I hope to want to follow
where you go
but already
you follow me,
else we go round in circles,
this never-ending
meeting in parts.

Forgive me those years
you’ve known me
without myself,
wherefore have they gone
except always arriving
in your steadfastness,
my failure.

We shall be opposites,
the first ships
to sail with the ocean
as their destination.

***

These Hands Are Not Ours (Paekakariki: ESAW, 2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize [paperback]

Claim

There’s so much we have yet to remember.
The first gesture,
what knowing does to it.

Perhaps we are never created
until we are brave enough
to be made.

Until these hands
are not ours
but the sky’s,

we claim too much
of the night,
the love,
its making.

There Are No Rules

You are still there,
wherever living takes you.
If these words reach out like hands,
I cannot guarantee
they know bread from the rising,
from touching to crossing into this arrival.
I am nearly
missing the rules.
How we used to follow them
like they mattered,
breaking them only
when they were beginning to teach.
Ours was a sloppy learning,
no gift of knowing,
no reasons for attending.

***

Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (Paekakariki: ESAW, 2007) [paperback edition] out of print

Becoming Someone Who Isn’t [digital edition] 2011

When It Is Nearly Afternoon

You are lying on the couch.
Black hair against the green-grey leather,
blanket corner pulled.

As is my habit, I guard the sleeping
as if to make myself useful,
staring, helpless as the guarded.

Under lines of cloth, you are soft fuse,
distance refusing arrest,
stripped down to substance.

Even so, I’m holding you now
with eye and heart
blankly swimming.

Myself, Falling

what can
unsteady a person

bring her falling
into the deepest sky?

she swims
inside dreaming

lets go
of possibility

makes dizzy the first
bone-dry second

then blueness…

*

her eyes let go
of every surface

resemble
every weather

she is everywhere
arms floating in blue

***

The Smell of Oranges (Paekakariki: ESAW, 2003) [paperback edition] out of print, debut poetry collection

The Smell of Oranges [digital edition] 2011

The Smell of Oranges

My mother would ask
if I wanted them cut or peeled.
I’d answer that I wanted them peeled
if only to see her fingers hold them
like clay to be molded.
After peeling their husk,
she would put her thumbs in the centre
and break each into halves;
Later separate the slices, one by one.

I marvel at the flexible skins
pulling away,
not ever breaking at the pressure.

Holding Up

An umbrella bought
at the Melbourne zoo–
a piece of confidence
tucked under the sky.

My hand tires.
I reach the bus stop, stand
and count my hair,
not knowing which bus to take.

The rain has stopped.
It too gets tired of its task
however big and varied the sky.

I close the umbrella.
The animals fold away,
afraid to walk
in this whole different jungle.