The Herring Lass
Arc Publications, 2016
Shortlisted Helen Anne Bell Poetry Prize 2013,
Nominated for Australian Book Review‘s Best Books 2016
Launch Speech by Tina Giannoukos in Rochford Street Review
Reviewed by Rose Lucas in Australian Book Review
Reviewed by Alex Wortley Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre
Reviewed by Nathanael O’Reilly Cordite Poetry Review
Reviewed by Simon West The Weekend Australian
Reviewed by Nadia Niaz Mascara Literary Review
Short Review by Nathanael OReilly TCU Reading Page
Michelle Cahill’s characteristically bold and restless poems in The Herring Lass migrate across continents and vast bodies of water, fearlessly interrogating dynamics of power and subjugation in both human and animal worlds, always striking against the tyranny and subjugation of the ‘desiccating colonies’ with a supple intellect and graceful musicality. Cahill fossicks through the detritus of language with a bowerbird’s gleaming eye, producing a powerful and muscular lexicon that is hers alone, while always guarding against language’s capacity to oppress and wound. The resulting poems are richly lyrical, intelligent and incisive. Cahill’s elegant and memorable critiques of the forces that impinge upon our freedoms have never felt more urgent or necessary.
~ Sarah Holland-Batt
Cahill moves effortlessly from ancient Orkney to modern-day Mumbai, and although the reader travels with Cahill, the sensation is of standing still, watching the whole of history and geography unfurl around you. Additionally, Cahill employs the voices of others powerfully, with the rough patter of all her characters whispering into your ear from the darkness.
~ Anna Cathenka Stride
Michelle Cahill’s The Herring Lass is a fine collection. Full of the unique flavours of region and trade, it is evocative of a world no longer wholly with us. Yet it eschews easy sentiment in a finely-tuned display of musical technique.
~ Fiona Sampson
The poet’s voice is the voice of the Pythia at Delphi – not cryptic as some traditions have it but rather speaking from the very heart of the earth, original and powerful. The book is worth reading – and re-reading.
~ Mary Cresswell
A superb and complex book, deeply intelligent, pluralistic, linguistically rich, political with a sophisticated way of seeing place and space, intense in its convictions. I have long admired the way Cahill can mix tonal registers in her poems, very different textures of word and line, building something new and generative out of these juxtapositions. The movement and negotiation of cultural difference, cultural sharing, and cultural diminishing by oppressive power-hungry forces is multi-layered and powerful. It is necessary, startling and even invigorating – because there is no other way to confront the complexities of invasiveness, colonisation (on many levels – this is not a pat rendition of tropes), trauma, loss… and also convey appropriate celebration, conviction and healing. Cahill offers us a guide to unpicking the opacity of this damage; her poems are a lens to understanding and comprehension. They are, actually, ‘miracles’ with a sense of irony and grit and the baggage of reality. Honed to a point of necessity and declaration she stands up to be counted. I have world travelled with Cahill in this book, but not as a tourist – as a human observing the impacts humans have on each other, and on some of their many places.
~ John Kinsella