His most personal poetry to date, Adam Aitken’s Archipelago is entirely preoccupied with the experience of living and marrying in France. Much of it written while resident at the Keesing Studio in Paris, and then in the south during a seriously cold spring, many of the poems deal with art, Romantic and Modernist writing and writers, and concepts of nostalgia, spirituality, revolution and resistance. One key question is what France (and Europe generally) mean to an Australian writer, which leads the poet to consider the ‘French inspired’ work of other Australian writers. At a simpler level, the collection attempts to weigh cosmopolitan culture against that of its fictive alternative: semi-rural France, where the poet asks how we might reconcile isolation with social engagement, conservative values with more outward looking perspectives? Adopting the lens of those who live there, Aitken reflects on the region’s Gallo-Roman history, its myths, its communal virtues and constraints, its weather, and on the threats to its ecology.
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