Christine V Courtney’s first career was as a professional dancer. She went to England and danced with the Ballet Rambert. Touring in Europe sparked her passion for the art and architecture of its cities but it wasn’t until the 1980s, when working as a tour guide, that she first visited Venice, describing it as a ‘fairytale stage set’. She now lives in Port Adelaide and runs Sea-Witch Images.
University of Venice Associate Professor Valerio de Scarpis writes in the foreword that Courtney has captured the atmosphere of the city ‘with the confident brushstroke of a master painter’ and I would agree. I, too, prefer the shorter poems and welcome the inclusion of other authors such as Shakespeare.
The poems are paired with images which serve to bring the words to life. I especially enjoyed the Rialto Bridge which encourages us to:
Stop on the Rialto Bridge
Stand and stare;
absorb the atmosphere,
of the timeless tides
that ebb and flow below.
And these words appear printed over the sky of the brilliant painting Capriccio of the Rialto Bridge by Canaletto, the quintessential Venetian artist.
The book traverses Venice from ancient times to the present day, from an image of a 7th century carving to a photograph of a massive cruise ship in the Lagoon, appropriately accompanied by a poem entitled Paying the Piper. Even as the book wonderfully celebrates the art, architecture and history of Venice through words and images, the author reminds us of the fragility of all those things that make up the very essence of the city and how mass tourism is destroying the very things people have come to see – frequently only through a camera lens.
Venetian Voices is a book to linger over, to savour the writing and see how the poems and images are reflected in each other. I highly recommend it. I would also like to acknowledge Wakefield Press for their continuing support of the work of local authors without which books such as this would not be available.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Wakefield Press
Release Date: June 2017
RRP: $49.95 hardback