The Herring Lass

The Herring Lass

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Highly Commended Poem, The Forward Prizes for Poetry, Shortlisted Helen Anne Bell Poetry Prize, 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 Caitlin Mailing in Southerly

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

Reviewed by Mary Cresswell for Plumwood Mountain

Reviewed by Anna Cathenka in Stride

Reviewed by Ben Hession in Verity La

Short Review by Nathanael OReilly TCU Reading Page


What is unusual and worth celebrating—in addition to Cahill’s aforementioned investment in the skilful manipulation of form—is the way in which Cahill’s  concern and poetics challenge dominant understandings of placeness…..
The Herring Lass
excels at an ecopoetics of deterritorialisation or eco-cosmopolitanism. ….. Humorous, political, lush, and never compromising in lyric quality, The Herring Lass darts and weaves like a school of fish through existing traditions and narratives, compelling readers to read and to look and listen to the obscured human and other-than-human voices of our history and our present.

~ Caitlin Maling

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

In The Herring Lass, Australian poet Michelle Cahill’s lyrical writing and vast purview cover the creatures, coves, and distant cries of many places. With one eye on the specters of colonization that linger in so many landscapes, Cahill poses pictures like questions, slices of stories laid out in briny detail for readers to enter into and then take into themselves to find answers.

~ World Literature Today