White Clouds Blue Rain

Oliver Driscoll

White Clouds Blue Rain
Recent Work Press
1 November 2021

White Clouds Blue Rain

Oliver Driscoll

Told through a series triptychs - each with a poem, a work of essayistic prose and a photographic image - White Clouds Blue Rain captures discrete moments of life with precise yet unpredictable detail.

Taking cues from artists, writers and architects, Driscoll gently binds the everyday to the abstract, moving from the dual vantage points of an apartment block in Melbourne and a former family home in North Queensland out to questions of form, shape and aesthetics as well as the act of making and our relationships with people, objects and physical space.

There’s a spaciousness and glasslike stillness to this work that carefully diffuses meaning, never allowing it to settle.


Having released his debut poetry title I Don’t Know How That Happened just last year, Oliver Driscoll returns with his second, White Clouds Blue Rain. This is an intriguing collection, told through a series of triptychs, each comprising a photo, a poem and a longer section of prose, typically short essays or memoir. This is a work of deep observation and noticing the habits of others, cataloguing memories and the small movements in life. The prose sections span several timeframes – some step back into Driscoll’s childhood and memories of camping with his father, while others observe the present: his mother caring for his niece, and conversations with his partner. Interspersed throughout are Driscoll’s musings on what he has been reading – sometimes biographies of artists and architects and sometimes autofiction.

In one passage, Driscoll describes a conversation with his mother, where she is upset that her grandchild has broken a handmade ceramic pot – it had a ‘lifefulness’ that her other ceramics did not. The passage is moving in its focus on the smallness of life and how creating art for ourselves can be so full of meaning. In fact, this entire collection is an intense study of the domestic and the ways in which we find such ‘lifefulness’. Later Driscoll quotes from architect Kengo Kuma – ‘endlessly reproducing the commonplace as commonplace’ – which is a fitting description for Driscoll’s goal of capturing the small beauties of our slow daily lives.

The writing style of Driscoll’s prose sections reminded me of Gerald Murnane, both in its careful consideration to the meaning and value of each word, and in its method of alternating an intense focus on different images and memories. White Clouds Blue Rain is a hearty read, but it is not a quick one. It calls for spare time to sit and read and reflect for a while.

Clare Millar is from Readings online.

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