We are a lyrical bunch.

2014 seems to have started with a soft slow glide into all things lyrical peppered with a staccato beat from some of the astounding performance poetry penned and pinned down onto the page.

We have a sextet for you. Seven collections but six poets in the main instance and their words set down. Let’s start with the beat.

Maxine Beneba Clarke's Gil Scott Heron Is On Parole

No stranger to poetry herself, Katie Keys reviewed Gil Scott Heron is on Parole by Maxine Beneba Clarke, a West Indian – Australian poet who packs a punch when she is performing and has managed to translate that same punch, patois, pidgin with as Katie Keys puts it “mid-line punctuation breaks” onto paper. With this collection, you hear it as you read it.

And isn’t poetry meant to be read out aloud? Sean the Bookonaut joins the Maxine Beneba Clarke audience with a front row seat for nothing here needs fixing but he claims the ticket to the performance may not be necessary to hear the beat.

nothing here needs fixing by Maxine Beneba ClarkeI have to admit I am finding I have more of a connection with spoken word poetry even when I am just reading it, when I haven’t heard the poet perform it. I am also thoroughly enjoying all the works I have purchased from Picaro Press.  Clarke’s collection is no exception.  At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s real, it feels raw and honest and takes me on a journey that as a middle class white male I won’t probably experience otherwise.

XIII Poems by Jordie Albiston

Rabbit No 10: Gravity with Jessica Wilkinson (ed)

Over that we get melody. With Jonathan Shaw reviewing two collections in one go, both with a mix of cultural influences: Rabbit No 10: Gravity for which Jessica Wilkinson was editor and Jordie Albinston‘s XIII Poems. Rabbit No 10: Gravity gives us a selection of poems about real things aka non-fiction as opposed to fictional narratives.

The melody cannot end until we transpose Aria by Sarah Holland-Batt, a prose poetry track laid down and reviewed by Sean the Bookonaut whereby he tells us that it is accessible but it requires more than a few days to read and re-read the 40 plus poems in the collection because:

Sarah Holland-Batt's AriaA couple of days reading of an entire collection seems to be giving the works short shrift.  Poetry’s power is (in my experience) in its density, in the crafting of fewer words to carry a greater weight.

Poetry is often “bigger on the inside”.

Aria is starting to sound like the TARDIS. He also warns that it will make you nostalgic. Consider yourselves warned and keep an eye out for a Doctor. 😉

Sean the Bookonaut (who is by the way working his way through the Best Australian Poetry collections) then gave us the lyrics by postmodern poet Maria Takolander in his review of her Ghostly Subjects.

Ghostly Subjects by Maria TakolanderThe collection is broken down into the sections: Geography, Chemistry, Biology and Culture. I actually like this construction, it drew my thinking on poems within each section into focus, it made sense, tied poems that had diverse form together. As Ali Alizadeh points out in the link below the last section doesn’t seem to mesh as well with the first three.  On approaching the different sections as whole entities, however, I did find Culture was the easiest to grasp because the poems deal with things I have more of a reference point for, like Stanley Kubrick movies.

Everything in this lyrical debut for January and February 2014 gets tied up tightly with Katie Keys’ shirt-tail ending (we like jazz over here at AWW) consisting of her review of Cate Kennedy‘s The Taste of River Water which is not as biohazard worrying as the title may suggest.

Cate Kennedy's The Taste of River WaterThe collection is eclectic, almost random – linked by the remembered, the overseen and a few loose thematic threads that flick across the pages like the spray of sunlight on waves. In Part 1, Kennedy collects memories at one remove, as a bystander ‘trespassing’ or retelling other people’s tales. In Part 2, she gets more personal, delving into loss and grief and the numbness that follows. These come together with the title poem, a watery contemplation that unites her rural observations and inner hurt.

We have yet to see short story collection reviews grace the stage here at Australian Women Writers 2014. If you have turned up late to the show and need an usher with a flashlight to show you to your seat, feel free to check out the listing of titles for short stories and poetry that were reviewed in 2013 for some options of what to try first. With the vast array of female poets in Australia I have a feeling we will be in for a feast for both our ears and minds over the next few months.

About me
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 based in Perth, Australia. She’s also been freaked out by the Scientologists, helped run national publishing conferences and currently sits on the Society of Editors (WA) and WA Media Alliance committees. She writes book reviews for The West and the ABR, science news for Science Network WA and writes 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 and the Society of Editors (WA). You can catch her on her blog at marisa.com.au or on Twitter @mwikramanayake