Emma Lee Reviews ‘Song of Globule’ by Stephen Oliver

Reviewed ByEmma Lee

‘Song of Globule’ Stephen Oliver

Greywacke Press

ISBN 9780646812144

‘Song of Globule’ is a sequence of 80 sonnets where a Sydney-dwelling young woman takes us on a tour of her dreams and search for love, initially in contemporary times and then looking to Ovid’s heroines for answers. Her name comes from a D H Lawrence quote from his poem ‘Peach’, ‘Why, from silvery peach-bloom,/  From that shallow-silvery wine-glass on a short stem/  This rolling, dropping, heavy globule?’ and the poems are loosely inspired by John Gallas’ ‘The Story of Molecule’ (Carcanet). Sonnet 1 ‘escape from Eden’ starts ‘We could not leave the garden, we only/ dreamed sin and so we came to believe it.’ It ends,

‘God stomped and snorted in heavenly halls,
I condemn them to life without pardon.

Did Globule sprout seraphic wings for flight?
not beneath this bumpy sky—not tonight.’

Readers are introduced to Globule, an unreliable narrator stuck in her Eden yet escaping through her dreams. She grows up quickly though, in sonnet 2 ‘life’s a dirty job’

‘Back of a Ford, Brad popped her cherry—O
Yay! to dumb girlhood she bid cheerio.
She quickly sussed that boys fancy a bonk,
so—safe-guarded her ‘private property.’
She learnt. She grew up. But what did she fish
for from life’s prickly pond, was she happy?
Life doesn’t give a rat’s arse how we feel.
We nose-balance our hopes much like a seal;
dreams may be free but some turn out crappy.
So Globule learnt that life is a mixed dish.

She found it best to live for the moment,
what could anyone gain from postponement?’

Globule isn’t a dumb, passive victim but relishes in her own agency and carves out her own personality. Brad may have been a harsh lesson, but she lacks parental guidance and is willing to meet whatever life throws at her head-on. Like most young people, life is to be lived and experienced, the future can wait. Globule lives for the present embracing what life offers, but what does it offer? Sonnet 6, ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’ is a moment of self-reflection, as she gazes into the bathroom mirror,

‘hoping for—some sort of revelation—
(not likely) the word meant one fat zero.
A face stared back impassive. Goat-grey eyes,
half-surprised at, whatever, nothing much.
Her face, friendly as—in the mirror’s clutch,
hungered for a grip on life, love and lies.
Just one more girl in search of some hero.

She sat on the stoop by the old wood shed,
then painted her toenails a fire truck red.’

Here is where her search for something, a hero, starts. Happily, she rejects the idea of celebrity and instant fame. She’s figured that’s fleeting and reliant on sustaining the myth of publicity. The ‘fire truck red’ suggests a rebel, someone who isn’t going to sit around and wait for her hero but is going to go out and get him. Red is the colour of passion, of seduction, of warning and anger. So, Globule seduces the reader into wanting to see what happens to her next. The next few sonnets suggest the unsatisfactory temporary hook-ups and one night stands are disappointing. Sonnet 20 ends, ‘Yet deep within Globule’s murkiest dreams,/ Lilith whispered, ‘All is not what it seems.’’ Sonnet 28 ‘scattered husks’ offers a brief glimpse of self-reflection,

‘She concluded that beauty lay in mime;
no sooner done than lost as afterthought.
You cannot step twice into the same stream,
everything begins and ends in a dream.
The scattered husks of history are naught,
or whatever else shifts the hands of time.

If life proved to be nothing but a farce,
on balance—she didn’t give a rat’s arse.’

This is Globule’s rebellious streak urging her to stay in the moment. Sonnet 40 ends ‘The heartbeat repeats its troubled motif,/ loneliness is another name for grief.’ She’s still searching for meaning. Sonnet 60 ‘slow blur’ finds her trapped in a lift with two men, one of whom is

‘Bragging to his even more stupid mate
about muscle cars, piss ups, backseat screws,
though his loud rant was directed at her.
Floor buttons counted down in a slow blur—
then she pushed past him muttering, ‘excuse’,
it felt like some weird dream and no escape.

Just another westie, yeehaw, redneck,
steel cap boots, navy singlet, trackies (check).’

Not finding a suitable man in the present, sonnets 64-78 look to Ovid for guidance through imagined conversations initiated by Penelope, Ariadne, Medea, Sappho, etc, sonnet 79 ‘no oracles’, considers what she’s learnt,

‘These hero women, imagined—real,
believed that to betray love was obscene;
a heart so treated will settle the score.
Social media. Instagram. Textspeak.
Alas—no oracles might be found there—
momentarily, time ceased, then silence;
all her senses sharpened to prescience.
She saw calmness assume the guise of fear
as the world slowly turned under her feet.’

Globule, however, has come too far to give up her quest. She has reached a cross-roads though: stick with Sydney’s continuing disappointment or start afresh? The last sonnet is a return to Globule’s defiance and rebellious streak.

‘Song of Globule’ is an engaging journey through a young women’s search for a hero, for the meaning of her life. Without parental guidance, she has to make her own mistakes and learn from them by herself. She blurs fantasy with reality, but dismisses the idea of instant fame, seeking something deeper and lasting. Globule herself may be an unreliable narrator, but she can spin a tale and her spunk, her rebellious streak and determination to make life interesting hooks the reader. The sonnets can be read both individually and as part of the longer narrative arc, to which they give structure and a rhythm that keeps the story flowing.

Emma Lee