Love Regardless, by Barbara Kamler

Barbara Kamler’s Love, Regardless is a collection of poetry with an unusual focus.  It’s a collection of ‘poetic portraits’ celebrating love that lasts, a phenomenon which has fascinated the author for a long time.  All of the couples she portrays have been together for twenty years or more, these couples in configurations that defy the impression that diversity is something new.  The couples come from all walks of life and ethnicity, including three from the Jewish community; long-established marriages; couples surprised by love after failed relationships; gays who before marriage equality could only have a civil union; couples who’ve had to negotiate disability and illness, and people who’ve had to make a choice about which part of the world they’ll live when each partner is drawn to somewhere else. This is how the author introduces the collection: As a culture we are inundated by romantic narratives which dramatise the passionate beginnings of young love and/or details its devastating endings.  But what about couples who survive the years together, remaining committed and true to each other, and to love? What do we know of such stories outside stereotypes of the unimaginative, stale or stuck? These are the stories I explore and celebrate in Love, Regardless—delving into the intimacy of connecting as well as negotiating the complications that inevitably arise, and the solidity that ultimately emerges.  (p.xii) The format is interesting.  Fourteen couples are featured, each fictionalised somewhat to provide anonymity, but it is a compromised kind of concealment: friends, family, acquaintances, workmates in their worlds will undoubtedly recognise some of them for who they are.  I read this not expecting it to apply to me, but I think I do recognise one of them — our family dentist who operated a surgery from her home in East St Kilda. There is a brief sketch of each couple, and then the couple speak alternately in syllabic verse. Following the initial interview conversation, I transcribed each couple’s words into poems.  Words on the page and voices in my head, I tuned into their rhythms of speech, tone of voice, pacing and manner of interacting—who speaks first, longest, more definitely, with what emphasis and attention to detail.  (p.xiii) You can see how this plays out on the page. Here are Rosie and Saul, together for over 52 years: Rosie We marry in synagogue December eighth, nineteen sixty-eight.The reception at The Stanmark in St Kilda—a popularvenue at the time, but it has nothing to do with us. It’s more a celebration for our Polish parents building their lives inAustralia.  Our marriage—their glory! They don’t even allowus to invite our close friends to the dinner—only to supper after. The most heart-warming part is Saul’s speech, organising hisseven nieces and nephews to march into the hall holding upplacards saying—We love Auntie Rosie.  (p.58) After five more verses from Rosie, Saul responds with just two: We share a similar Jewish heritage, yet out familypatterns of interaction couldn’t be more different.  For mePEACE AT ALL COSTS.  I’m desperate to please others, avoid conflict while you suffer because I seem more concerned with other people’sfeelings than yours—which is absolutely CORRECT. It’s agonyfor me when you behave in ways I PERCEIVE as brash or not polite. (p.59) Rosie speaks of the histories they bring to the marriage—her depressed parents grieving for family extinguished by war while he was a child who’d had little mothering.  Saul speaks of how they resolved their differences fairly late in life.   The glue that binds us is not about being soul mates, it’s making achoice to commit absolutely—no matter how we provoke oraggravate.  For fifty-two years we’ve resided together, fought together, forgiven together.  I love you Rosie so muchMORE than I was capable of as a young man.  You hold my heart,carefully. How could I ever find such grace with anyone else. (p.62) Phoebe and Patrick are interviewed on the cusp of a great change in their lives.  Both have suffered terrible trauma, Patrick as a victim of clerical abuse and Phoebe estranged from her family. A serious medical diagnosis prompts them to waste not a minute of their lives together, and they have a wonderful impulsively romantic marriage and then abandon home, friends, family, careers and the stress —to live an idyllic life in Bali, living the dream. Kerry and Will’s story is a departure from the format because Will has had a stroke, and Kerry must speak for them both.  It’s easy to see how she relishes the memories of how they met in a pub in Cardiff: It’s complicated.  I’m fifty-five and Will is fifty-ninewhen we meet.  I have not long arrived in Cardiff to take upa research chair at the university when we collide. Literally.  I rush into a pub for dinner with astack of papers to read and crash into this man-mountain inthe doorway holding a pint of beer, which I spill all over him.  He asks if I’d like a drink! We talk non-

Love Regardless, by Barbara Kamler

Barbara Kamler’s Love, Regardless is a collection of poetry with an unusual focus.  It’s a collection of ‘poetic portraits’ celebrating love that lasts, a phenomenon which has fascinated the author for a long time.  All of the couples she portrays have been together for twenty years or more, these couples in configurations that defy the impression that diversity is something new.  The couples come from all walks of life and ethnicity, including three from the Jewish community; long-established marriages; couples surprised by love after failed relationships; gays who before marriage equality could only have a civil union; couples who’ve had to negotiate disability and illness, and people who’ve had to make a choice about which part of the world they’ll live when each partner is drawn to somewhere else.

This is how the author introduces the collection:

As a culture we are inundated by romantic narratives which dramatise the passionate beginnings of young love and/or details its devastating endings.  But what about couples who survive the years together, remaining committed and true to each other, and to love? What do we know of such stories outside stereotypes of the unimaginative, stale or stuck? These are the stories I explore and celebrate in Love, Regardless—delving into the intimacy of connecting as well as negotiating the complications that inevitably arise, and the solidity that ultimately emerges.  (p.xii)

The format is interesting.  Fourteen couples are featured, each fictionalised somewhat to provide anonymity, but it is a compromised kind of concealment: friends, family, acquaintances, workmates in their worlds will undoubtedly recognise some of them for who they are.  I read this not expecting it to apply to me, but I think I do recognise one of them — our family dentist who operated a surgery from her home in East St Kilda.

There is a brief sketch of each couple, and then the couple speak alternately in syllabic verse.

Following the initial interview conversation, I transcribed each couple’s words into poems.  Words on the page and voices in my head, I tuned into their rhythms of speech, tone of voice, pacing and manner of interacting—who speaks first, longest, more definitely, with what emphasis and attention to detail.  (p.xiii)

You can see how this plays out on the page. Here are Rosie and Saul, together for over 52 years:

Rosie

We marry in synagogue December eighth, nineteen sixty-eight.
The reception at The Stanmark in St Kilda—a popular
venue at the time, but it has nothing to do with us. It’s more

a celebration for our Polish parents building their lives in
Australia.  Our marriage—their glory! They don’t even allow
us to invite our close friends to the dinner—only to supper

after. The most heart-warming part is Saul’s speech, organising his
seven nieces and nephews to march into the hall holding up
placards saying—We love Auntie Rosie.  (p.58)

After five more verses from Rosie, Saul responds with just two:

We share a similar Jewish heritage, yet out family
patterns of interaction couldn’t be more different.  For me
PEACE AT ALL COSTS.  I’m desperate to please others, avoid conflict

while you suffer because I seem more concerned with other people’s
feelings than yours—which is absolutely CORRECT. It’s agony
for me when you behave in ways I PERCEIVE as brash or not polite. (p.59)

Rosie speaks of the histories they bring to the marriage—her depressed parents grieving for family extinguished by war while he was a child who’d had little mothering.  Saul speaks of how they resolved their differences fairly late in life.  

The glue that binds us is not about being soul mates, it’s making a
choice to commit absolutely—no matter how we provoke or
aggravate.  For fifty-two years we’ve resided together, fought

together, forgiven together.  I love you Rosie so much
MORE than I was capable of as a young man.  You hold my heart,
carefully. How could I ever find such grace with anyone else. (p.62)

Phoebe and Patrick are interviewed on the cusp of a great change in their lives.  Both have suffered terrible trauma, Patrick as a victim of clerical abuse and Phoebe estranged from her family. A serious medical diagnosis prompts them to waste not a minute of their lives together, and they have a wonderful impulsively romantic marriage and then abandon home, friends, family, careers and the stress —to live an idyllic life in Bali, living the dream.

Kerry and Will’s story is a departure from the format because Will has had a stroke, and Kerry must speak for them both.  It’s easy to see how she relishes the memories of how they met in a pub in Cardiff:

It’s complicated.  I’m fifty-five and Will is fifty-nine
when we meet.  I have not long arrived in Cardiff to take up
a research chair at the university when we collide.

Literally.  I rush into a pub for dinner with a
stack of papers to read and crash into this man-mountain in
the doorway holding a pint of beer, which I spill all over

him.  He asks if I’d like a drink! We talk non-stop all night. By
eleven we still haven’t eaten. We catch up again the
next day.  That’s how it begins.  Will’s lovely—standing at the bar

ordering drinks and I think—I like him—I really like the
look of him, there may be something here. And that’s within the first
two hours! Saturday he takes me to dinner, Sunday to… (p,90)

Whether you have memories like this or not, this is a gorgeous anthology, uplifting and sincere, and it renews the hope that love and companionship is possible, even if previous relationships have failed.

About the author, from the publisher’s website:

Barbara Kamler is a Melbourne poet and Emeritus Professor of Education at Deakin University. She is the author or editor of nine academic books and over sixty journal articles and book chapters on literacy, writing pedagogy and identity. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as ‘The Age’, ‘The Australian’, ‘Australian Poetry Journal’, ‘Poetrix’, ‘Poetry New Zealand’, as well as various anthologies.

Author: Barbara Kamler
Title: Love, Regardless
Cover design:  Marchese Design
Publisher: Hybrid Publishers, 2022
ISBN: 9781925736489, pbk., 149 pages
Review copy courtesy of Hybrid Publishers