Caddy's earliest collection, Singing at Night (1981) revolves around her family biography, notably the lyric sequences about her farming grandparents. Her next two books, Letters from the North (1985) and Beach Plastic (1989, range over the Western Australian landscape, people and place, from the harsh emergent mining towns of the North West Pilbara to the dynamic coastlines and forests of the Great Southern.
Her next book, Conquistadors, thoroughly explores the inner landscape of human emotions and predicaments often using the metaphor of landforms and sometimes mathematics as in the poem 'Equation' with its 'and instantly/with the logic of numbers/ I like her/as if she had balanced something/ I couldn't.'
In 1991 Caddy approached the Antarctic Division with a proposal to visit there to gather material for a new book of poems. In 1992 she was offered a passage on the icebreaker Aurora Australis on a voyage to service the bases of Mawson and Davis. The result was her book Antarctica: Poems; as described by Wendy Jenkins, 'Interested always in ideas and processes, people and their histories in action, she is here at full stretch in the exploration of an extreme landscape, the experiencing 'self', and the resources of language and poetry.'
Increasingly Caddy's next two collection; Working Temple and Editing the Moon have centre around cross cultural themes between Australia and China. Working Temple provides a vivid capturing of place and time through an intense focus and rich survey of everyday culture; objects, urban landscapes and of people at work. Set during the early to mid 1990's, Caddy says, things have changed so quickly that the descriptions, of Shanghai in particular, are now historical documents.
The depth of Caddy's engagement with China, and in this environment being mostly 'outside of the language' can be seen in poems like Persimmon, of which she says, "These are poems of observation. I wanted to be able to watch what was going on without being told, without moving the impression of the senses too quickly into words." What Jaya Savige describes this by saying "Caddy is writing at the threshold of ingestion - both actual, and, by extension, cultural - where the initial strangeness of the Eastern languages on the Western tongue gives way to an appreciation of difference, and ultimately, emergent understanding."
Caroline Caddy's work has built up both finesse and momentum, and her most recent book Esperance - new and selected poems documents this development, with new work and poems selected from the previous collections. Her next book, Burning Bright, will be published in July 2010.
In these recordings the spoken word echoes and is integrated with the word from the page; Caddy's voice is a sure guide to her own work, her intonation is threaded through with accents, Australian, and from her childhood spent, North American.
Good poets inevitably write for, and from their own voice - an adage well realized in this recording of Caddy, made by Carol Jenkins in February 2009 in Perth, for her CD The Tibetan Cabinet.
Burning Bright is shortlisted for the WA Premier's Award.