Come, come, come, dear reader. Here’s a hand outstretched to you because you won’t believe the words (and worlds) we have fallen into over the last two months. We have a rabbit hole (or seven) to find. Forget the gloves, you may need hankies.
If you remember, we gave you music and made you dance to jazz and a two-step beat as we rounded up the poetry reviewed for the first two months of 2014.
But the last two months we have been moved, not physically to some wonderful rhythm but by the tug at our heartstrings. We have fallen in love and flailed madly at loss and floundered at remembering long lost memories.
We start with Jonathan Shaw’s oh so very apt comment as he reviews Maree Dawes‘ brb:
Do poetry and sex have to belong to different realms?
Do they? Why should they? As even I found, Maree Dawes takes us back to moments where we felt the need to escape and “a/s/l?” was the start of a fantasy woven and, in the case of brb, an online romance started.
It’s prose poetry about how we need to be loved and to love. How if it is taken away from us, we find it elsewhere, with the pings from computer speakers and the tapping of keys, our soundtrack to our own onscreen online romance novel unfolding in front of us. And all in a torrent of words, underlining the key point of this round up: words have the power to make us feel.
It’s with words that Dawes‘ protagonist builds a relationship that feels more real, more fulfilling than the one she has “in real life” and the lines between what is real and not, what is fantasy or otherwise are blurred. Words make worlds collide.
Katie Keys transected the worlds Jennifer Maiden provides us in Liquid Nitrogen and in between the rising vapours of the gas in sublimation she tells us:
It’s a collection of long ‘weave’ poems; multi-levelled streams of conversation and consciousness that string together the observed, the insular and the political in layer after layer of dense and tumbling interruptions.
In a series of dream worlds, one person after another wakes up in impossible and surreal situations. Almost half of the collection begins with the ‘[so-and-so] woke up in [somewhere]’ motif, with politicians and historical figures going on to posit on politics and ethnographies through a very specific Western lens.
Gas for the gaseous perhaps as our words show how we view and value what’s around us – how we use words to construct the world as we want to live in and interact with it and perhaps, not always, as it actually is. We use words again to escape, to create our fantastical bubbles of reality to live in.
They also bring reality back to life for us whenever we are about to forget as Louise from A Strong Belief in Wicker tells us in her review of Jackie French‘s Fire, illustrated to help the words along by Bruce Whatley:
Jackie French has written a moving, true representation of the fires that attack parts of Australia every year. Many of our children are much too familiar with fire as a threat- they have lived through it, they have lost houses, or lost loved ones.
And so with words we are treated to flames and flickers. With a conflagration of words we are reminded of the edges and limits to the worlds we inhabit, how fragile we and they are, how fire both destroys our world and also recreates it anew.
And so with words again we are again set alight and aflame internally. With the first flushes and rushes of what feels like fire in our veins as we remember first loves and lusts as we see in The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobsen as reviewed by Mindy from A Hoyden About Town:
And Cello did what Cello did best:
giggled behind her charcoal curls
while boys gawked at the breasts
that pressed against her uniform,
ripe as fruit and ready to eat.
Jack was pensive, not Cello’s type
in his faded jeans and well-cut hair.
- Excerpt from Lisa Jacobsen’s The Sunlit Zone
And then there are words to make us remember the harder moments in our worlds, when our worlds are ripped away, when we lose them, when they close in on us, building up the memories for us to recall. Helen Petrovic at High Fantasy Addict finds this as she reads through Maureen Flynn‘s My Heart’s Choir Sings which follows a man who reflects on his relationship after the loss of his wife in tragic circumstances. The words mirror back both his loss and our losses back to us:
Each poem is a piece of a jigsaw, coming together like mirror fragments as the reader builds up the whole. This is a parallel journey for reader and protagonist, as both undergo revelation.
The words tell us about other forms of loss in our worlds – when worlds come into being for others and they move away from our ones. Sean from Adventures of a Bookonaut tells us about this birthing and moving of new worlds put in words pulling us into loss and confusion as he reviews Carmel Williams‘ collection: The Butcher’s Window:
A comfort that you are experiencing poetry and a poet that is close to you. You can appreciate poetry for language and its technical proficiency but I find those poems that tap into your experience constitute another layer of immersion and enjoyment.
An advantage of knowing the poet, is of course that I know, rather than have to surmise or guess, that these poems are at times brutally raw and honest.
And this you can see then in how Carmel Williams weaves words to explain that this was how you were born, this world created anew for you as you first started experiencing it and how, later, again to explain, that this is you leaving her world, no longer just a daughter, now something more, moving to expand your world, while hers, as a mother, has to contract with its loss instead.
And we dial the emotion down slowly now to faint tinges of loss and leaving, in remembrances and memories as we ponder Jean Kent‘s words in The Satin Bowerbird, reviewed by Debbie Robson:
My favourites are not the Paris poems, nor the poems where Kent looks back to the past but those where she is in the here and now of living in New South Wales. Those of us who live in Australia are lucky to do so and Jean reminds us of this with a delicate grace.
The words that build our worlds leave behind a historic timeline, biographic details of where we have been and what we have seen, how these worlds we inhabit have contracted and expanded over and over again. And it is these experiences, these worlds, this timeline that we are reminded of with words that evoke emotion in us by directing us back, by overwhelming us, by immersing us, by mirroring and reflecting the emotions back at us.
And so with March and its maddening March Hare madness over and Alice’s April drawing to a close, we bring you out of this wonderland of worlds built with words and ask you: what words write the worlds you live in?
And more to the point, why aren’t we traversing the worlds of short fiction as yet?
Presumably rabbit holes don’t cut it, but if you want to see what emotions words in the worlds of short fiction can evoke in you, we have portals to choose from here.
Marisa Wikramanayake is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She published her first book at 17, has lived on three different continents, been in ground zero of a bomb blast twice and is currently hibernating in Perth, Australia. She’s also been freaked out by the Scientologists, helped run a national publishing conference for the Society of Editors (WA) and currently sits on the WA Media Alliance committee. She is dangerous when bored, having terrorised educational institutions to finish an Honours thesis on Archaeology and a Masters thesis on Neuroscience and Science Communication. She pens book reviews for The West and the ABR, science news and then writes and edits novels in the spare time that’s left over after painting, dancing, gaming and mentoring. She contributes her two cents as non-fiction editor at Australian Women Writers and lends her geek goddess expertise to the Guys Read Gals project. Feel free to badger her at her blog at marisa.com.au, on Facebook or tweet at her at @mwikramanayake