she begins
after the fairy tale childhood

she begins
in the humdrum quotidian middle

from ‘The swan maiden writes her memoir’

A Game of Swans
Janet Wainscott

Available from 18 May 2023
ISBN: 9781738582402
paperback; 92 p.
rrp $25

What do you do when you find yourself trapped? By circumstance, by other’s expectations? 

From the finger bone of an ancestor to a Leonardo da Vinci portrait, from the dining room of a rural pub to the real life of folk-tales, A Game of Swans weaves myth and modernity seamlessly through each other, asking what it means to be restrained, and what it might take to be free. Janet Wainscott’s debut collection stares out from the undergrowth, claws hidden in plain sight. 

Behind me you have painted
the Tuscan rocks and water 
that so absorb you. I see my face 
a pale moon above a lake
that stretches to the distant
mountains. I would swim that lake
to reach those mountains.

from ‘Ginevra views her portrait’

There is a limpid transparency about Janet Wainscott’s poems. They are full of lovely moments and sly glances, and then just when you least expect it, an unfamiliar footstep in the hall –  behind the door – to ever so slightly disconcert. A Game of Swans is a fine debut collection from a poet easy and confident in her voice and completely assured in her art.


The child who runs 
from the commotion
of the birthday party into a summer 
downpour, turns face to sky, 
listens to the rain
and stares in open-mouthed astonishment

from ‘How to recognise another introvert

In her wide-ranging explorations of time and place, of history and story, Janet Wainscott reminds us that we are not the only ones here. And that the movement from entrapment to flight, like that of ‘a game of swans’ taking off from a hidden lagoon, is one of resolution and a commitment to life. A dream of possibilities and beauty.


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