Four Red Crescent Moons (Wolsak & Wynn, 72 pages, $12 paper) is Julie McNeill's first collection of poetry, and, for the most part, it demonstrates a dextrous handling of language registers.
The first poem, "Recalling my Love of a Crazy Man, Part I", for example, is an elliptical love story told in a brief image of fingernails pressing into a palm:
Four red crescent moons
in the sky of my palm.
This is the night you make for me.
Part 2 continues the story as the marks make the poet remember "white rooms that enclose you/like envelopes around torn letters". At the end, these scars lead us deeper into her grief, with white becoming "the colour of my loss".
McNeill is at her finest in poems where she provides detail that is concrete but not too explicit or overly specific, and allows the images to speak and to signify for themselves. Sometimes, however, she allows the details to take over the poem and she unnecessarily imposes an interpretation. This is the case in "Jars of Summer", where the narrator chooses to fill her pocket with rocks at the beach while some unidentified other (presumably a lover) looks for shells and squats in the foam. "This explains our differences", she claims obviously.
Where she is able to establish an equilibrium between the tangible and the intangible, McNeill has a deft touch with language. And when she opts for fewer words and trusts in their strength, McNeill's poetry is moving and quite elegant.