Now You Can Look by Julia Bird
Like an oil painting, Now You Can Look is a work built up of layers. The colourful subject of its narrative is a woman who takes one glance at what the early twentieth century has set out for her, and throws in her lot with art instead. On the surface, Julia Bird's poems are beautifully textured, conjuring a life rich with 'whispering pelts' in theatre cloakrooms, a yellow kimono with its hem 'like cut/butter from an icebox', and the intricacies of an artistic practice where 'the fern's already in the wood.' Look closer, and the underpainting starts to show. The poems subtly evoke life's peaks and crisis points, the complexities of work and marriage. Bird also playfully exploits the conventions of biography: fact and fiction blend, as the present work of recreation picks, magpie-like, from true-life tales. Gaps and white space in the narrative are filled with exquisite counterpointing illustrations. Covering dust-ups, heart-aches and hair-cuts, Now You Can Look communicates across the decades how women have attempted to make sense of it all by making art.