Beneath the Tree Line by Jane Gibian

Jane Gibian is the author of several poetry collections, and she returns with Beneath the Tree Line. I regret I haven’t previously read Gibian’s work, but I was thoroughly impressed with this latest collection.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve already written everything we can about nature, but perhaps I am too used to what I see everyday and forget to look away from my screens. I know that numerous species will adapt or disappear as the climate changes, but I forget too that we don’t know everything, and that there is always pleasure in simply observing nature. In Beneath the Tree Line, Gibian is grounded in this pleasure as she depicts the lands of the Eora Nation, focusing especially on the Cooks River. Though this area is so close to the city, her poems drew me into a feeling of seclusion. In this, she is a master at moving from the micro to the macro, and back again; ‘Russet leaves fall measuredly to join / uncountable thousands in the leaf litter’ and ‘Swallows dip & swerve / above the crowns of mature trees’ were some lines that especially made me feel this way.

I enjoyed Gibian’s ability to focus intently on each piece of nature that composes a scene. I was also surprised at how she demonstrated nature’s effect on people – sometimes quite subtly. Some of the later sections of the collection introduce more personal poems, which could have benefited from a stronger presence from the speaker of these poems. However, they were still captivating overall, and I can’t stop thinking about the line: ‘At this moment I try to catch the child growing.’ Beneath the Tree Line is a beautiful book not to be missed by nature poetry lovers. Readers who enjoy Mary Oliver and Judith Wright will find pleasure in these poems.


Clare Millar is from Readings online.

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Beneath the Tree Line

Beneath the Tree Line

Jane Gibian

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