2020 - Shortlisted
Empirical’s first section focuses on Melbourne’s Royal Park, which has been ear-marked for a motorway. In mesmerising fashion, Gorton unfolds and re-folds the landscape with the repetition of minutiae. The long central poem combines memory fragments into a bricolage of historical observations, government utterances, and other reportage about the park. The book’s second section is a daring and ornate leap into the European worlds of ancient statuary, the Crystal Palace, and the creative lives of Coleridge and Rimbaud.
Empirical is an ambitious and accomplished work that gains cohesion through its concerns with perception, fragmentation, memory and place. Light is a central motif, falling on weeds or piles of rubble with the same equanimity as it does the walls of the Crystal Palace or a statue of the Venus de Milo. Gorton challenges us to question our hierarchy of perceptions and acknowledge that place could be ‘forever inventing a centre elsewhere’.