In a fit of madness, I have agreed to take on the semi-regular role of editor of poetry for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
Madness because my life is in a crazy busy cycle at the moment and taking on something else seems like the most counter-intuitive thing I’ve ever done. And madness because my knowledge of poetry is limited by what I studied in school and the occasional more recent excursion into verse novel territory.
Since we only have ten poetry reviews registered for this year so far, the time factor should be fine and I hope that by seeing what you all have to say about our fabulous Australian women poets will inspire me and teach me at the same time.
Flood Damages by Eunice Andrada (Giramondo 2018) was reviewed by Jonathan Shaw. Andrada is a Filipino immigrant poet, lyricist, spoken word practitioner and teaching artist based in Sydney, Australia. Jonathan says,
There’s a lot of pain in these poems: the pain of migration and living in diaspora, of miscarriage and sickness, of domestic violence, racism and internalised racism, and – shockingly topical just now – of family separation at the hands of officialdom. There are also poems that celebrate the body and family relationships, especially of a young woman with her grandmother.
Alicia believes the poems “offer insight into the experience of life of teenage girls who choose to wear the headscarf and how pride, faith and self-awareness and self-consciousness collide.” And Jonathan explains that “The 29 poems in this small book aren’t religious poems, but they are infused with a religious understanding of the world.”
I’m quickly realising that Jonathan Shaw is our resident poetry expert. He has reviews for seven of the nine books on offer so far. His next choice is Fiona Wright’s Domestic Interior (Giramondo 2017). This is her second book of poetry (the first being Knuckled from 2011). Jonathan found that many of Wright’s poems spoke to him “loud and clear“. He shows us how one particular poem, Camperdown, St Stephens, affected him and the tangential journey in took him on.
How To Be Held by Maddie Godfrey (Burning Eye Books 2018) was reviewed by Jemimah @Oddfeather Creative. Godfey is a performance poet and this is her debut poetry collection. Jemimah says that “this collection explores profound, intense feelings, moments, and modes of being. They discuss issues around gender, body positivity, being young in the modern world, and finding the place and people that you belong to.”
She also recommends listening to or seeing Godfrey perform her work as the listening and reading experiences both “intimate and intense” but in different ways.
False Claims of Colonial Thieves by Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella (Magabala 2018) was reviewed by Bill Holloway.
The back cover blurb describes the poems, which alternate irregularly between the two poets, as “call and response” but that is not completely accurate as they are more “variations on a theme”. Their main shared concern is the impact of mining on country.
Bill also fills us in on some lovely personal history around living in midwest W.A. and family connections to John Kinsella and Kim Scott. I urge you to read his post in full so that you can also experience Paperbark Green’s reconciliation poem that he has included.
Jennifer Maiden’s Selected Poems 1967–2018 (Quemar Press 2018) was reviewed by Jonathan Shaw. He appears to have followed her career quite closely and knows her work intimately. He enjoys that this collection is collated in chronological order so that the reader can “see Maiden’s subjects and poetic forms develop over the years, a little like a stop-motion movie.” Jonathan also reviewed Maiden’s Appalachian Fall: Poems of Poverty in Power (Quemar Press 2017) and tells us that,
There’s an extraordinary wealth of reference in Maiden’s poetry: to the Australian poetry scene past and present, poetry in general, politics in Australia, the US, the UK and Catalonia, art, music, the publishing industry, TV shows, movies, famous and little-known political and cultural figures.
Check out his post for the slide show he created to highlight Maiden’s extensive and “intricate web of associations and connections“.
In his review about Tilt (Vagabond Press 2018) by Kate Lilley, Jonathan discusses the controversy and publicity surrounding this book and author after she and her sister, Rozanna, revealed the sexual exploitation they experienced as young children by “much older men – writers, poets, artists” with their parents (Dorothy Hewett and Merv Lilley) apparent knowledge. Her poems,
are not a diatribe, nor do they ask for a response of moral outrage. They are complex, poised, sometimes angry, clear-eyed accounts of troubling moments in a young life.
Finally we have Kate Middleton’s Passage (Giramondo 2017) also reviewed by Jonathan. Throughout 2018 Jonathan has changed how he has reviewed the extensive amount of poetry that he enjoys reading, he now focuses on one poem within the collection. For a novice like myself, all of these posts have been informative and interesting. In this particular one I learnt a lot about erasures and centos.
So what else have I learnt from my first foray into the AWW poetry pages?
Firstly, I’m very excited by how many of the collections were published this year. There is a rich, diverse group of young poets coming up through the ranks who have a lot to say about growing up in contemporary Australia.
Secondly, I’m impressed by the number of smaller publishers who are taking a punt on these young poets by publishing their work.
About Bronwyn: I have been a book blogger at Brona’s Books since 2009 and a bookseller (specialising in children’s literature) in Sydney since 2008. Prior to this I was as an Early Childhood teacher for 18 years in country NSW.
I joined the AWW team in 2015 as the History, Memoir, Biography editor. In 2017 I moved to the General Non-Fiction page and in 2018 I picked up another semi-regular role as editor of Poetry. You can also find me at The Classics Club as one of the new Gen 2 moderators.
I taught myself to read when I was four by memorising my Dr Seuss books. I haven’t stopped reading since.
You can find me on Twitter @bronasbooks and Litsy @Brona.