Not Finding Wittgenstein: Peter Henry Lepus Poems
Published by Bloodaxe Books
The poems in Not Finding Wittgenstein feature Peter Henry Lepus, a rabbit who searches the world for philosophers, conversing with Ludwig Wittgenstein in Antarctica, Bertrand Russell in Japan, and with A.J. Ayer and J.L. Austin in Iraq before and after the invasion.
J.S. Harry is one of Australia’s leading poets, renowned for her cool wit and sharp intellect, and for her seemingly whimsical irony, which is unerringly accurate in piercing pretension. Peter’s innocent but quizzical rabbit perspective is perfect for her questioning of the nature of perception and the limits of philosophical enquiry, of the ways in which language constructs our world, and of how poetry may reconstruct it again, in strange and surreal ways. But there’s also a humble, human concern expressed through Peter's innocence and vulnerability, about the beauty of simple things and the delicacy of the natural order – and the ease with which both may be poisoned by pride, or politics, or war.
"'The further Harry seems from taking horror and extremity seriously, the more the poem insists that, while language can never intercept an incoming missile, it can light up a moral scene as nothing else can… For me she is the most arresting poet working in Australia today."
"Written in a plain and direct language, the poems take their strength from an extraordinary complexity of tone…For all their involvement in the contemporary world, the poems keep this sense of folktales and children's books. Peter Henry Lepus maintains a generous curiosity. Even in war zones, he treats impossible, terrible and prosaic occurrences with the same unassuming interest. The sharp satirical work of the poems depends upon this gentle questioning, this practical innocence. At the end of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophical, Wittgenstein warns: "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognises them as nonsensical." J.S. Harry's poems about Peter Henry Lepus work with that kind of suspension between teasing intimacy and absolute seriousness."
Lisa Gorton, The Age