BOOK REVIEWS

The front cover of Slow Walk Home by Young Dawkins.

Zowie Douglas-Kinghorn Reviews Slow Walk Home by Young Dawkins

There is a humour to Slow Walk Home that interrupts solemn atmospheres with a wry warmth, comedy and tragedy unfurling like contrasting petals of the same bloom. The second collection of verse by Young Dawkins, an American-born poet who has lived in Scotland and now resides in Tasmania, Slow Walk Home also pays homage to Beat poets of his generation, evident in poems such as ‘The Real Lion—Ginsberg’ and ‘Kerouac, Raton Canyon’.

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The front cover of Case Notes by David Stavanger.

Dženana Vucic Reviews Case Notes by David Stavanger

Experience of mental illness presents a paradox that feels impossible for representation in language: it is at once both too personal and yet too universal for easy translation. Everyone has a measure for how it can be done; from Sylvia Plath to My Chemical Romance to Robin Williams, if we have not experienced mental illness ourselves, we have seen a multitude of others grapple with it and have become (we think) discerning arbiters of the real.

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The front cover of "Dona Juanita and the Love of Boys" by Gabrielle Everall.

Gareth Morgan Reviews Gabrielle Everall’s Dona Juanita and the Love of Boys

In the ‘Reflection from the author’ at the beginning of Dona Juanita and the Love of Boys (Buon Cativi Press, 2020), Gabrielle Everall states: ‘The main struggle of the novella is about the protagonist’s love of boys. Some of the poems are written about two guys I had crushes on’, as well as, ‘there is lesbian erotica … as my best sexual experience was with a woman.’

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The front cover of 'A Kinder Sea' by Felicity Plunkett.

Alexis Late Reviews Felicity Plunkett’s A Kinder Sea

The writer Phillip Hoare, celebrated author of The Whale and self-confessed sea obsessive, once wrote: ‘Our bodies are as unknown to us as the ocean, both familiar and strange; the sea inside ourselves.’

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The front cover of In This Part of the World by Kevin Brophy.

John Bartlett Reviews Kevin Brophy and Linda Adair

Despite the publishing limitations in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 restrictions, Melbourne Poets Union remarkably released seven chapbooks last year in its new Blue Tongue Poets and Red-bellied Poets series, all under the auspices of the soon-to-retire editor, Tina Giannoukos.

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The front cover of Navigable Ink by Jennifer Mackenzie.

Claire Albrecht Reviews Jennifer Mackenzie’s Navigable Ink

The blurb of Jennifer Mackenzie’s 2020 collection Navigable Ink (Transit Lounge) begins by introducing Indonesian writer and activist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died in 2006.

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The front cover of Infernal Topographies by Graeme Miles.

Kiran Bhat Reviews Graeme Miles’s Infernal Topographies

In Infernal Topographies, Graeme Miles traverses mythology, landscape and notions of selfhood to reveal moments of approachability and tenderness that are rare in Australian poetry.

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The front cover of Self ie by Alice Savona.

Ivy Ireland Reviews Alice Savona’s Self ie

Reading Alice Savona’s Self ie feels a bit like taking a vacation inside a palindrome. It’s a wonderful escape, albeit sometimes fraught with all the rocking movement, backwards and forwards, until you aren’t sure what the runes and symbols that make up the words even mean anymore.

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The front cover of The Jewelled Shillelagh by Duncan Hose.

James Jiang Reviews Duncan Hose’s The Jewelled Shillelagh

‘HELLO FAERE CUNTIES!’ we are hailed in the opening lines of this rough-and-tumble volume, which swings between the campy and the choleric, the vatic and the venereal.

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The front cover of Cuando Fui Clandestino / When I Was Clandestine by Juan Garrido Salgado.

Tim Wright Reviews Sarah St Vincent Welch and Juan Garrido Salgado

The achievements of the poets who started publishing in the early 1980s in Australia have tended to be overshadowed by those of the generation immediately prior to them.

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The front cover of Ask Me About the Future by Rebecca Jessen.

Caitlin Wilson Reviews Rebecca Jessen’s Ask Me About the Future

Is the future something to fear, or is it our saviour from the present? We have no idea what’s coming; we hope it’s something better, but suspect it’s only getting worse.

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The front cover of Ashbery Mode (edited by Michael Farrell).

Joel Ephraims Reviews Ashbery Mode Edited by Michael Farrell

The presence of John Ashbery shines over contemporary literature, for many as an enigma, indisputably as a catalyst. Part of the post-World War II wave of new American poetry, his name is grouped not just alongside his contemporary poets but among their literary schools and movements: the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E school, the New York School, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, the Black Mountain poets, our own ’68ers and J.A.

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Declan Fry Reviews Cham Zhi Yi

The reader will have to imagine for themselves what Maria-Àngels Roque, editor-in-chief of Quaderns de la Mediterrània, a twice-yearly journal focused on authors from the Euro-Mediterranean, must have felt upon hearing these words.

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The front cover of The Empty Show by Alice Allan.

Julia Clark Reviews Alice Allan’s The Empty Show

Alice Allan’s debut collection opens with the declaration, ‘A sonnet is always a love poem.’ Absolute statements like this tend to attract consideration of their opposites, gesturing to their qualities and equally calling to mind all that they are not: always/never, empty/full, lost/found or wrong/right.

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The front cover of Fire Front: First Nations Power and Poetry Today.

Nathan Sentance Reviews Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today Edited by Alison Whittaker

2020 is a hectic year, ay? Severe bushfires, Covid-19 outbreak, the subsequent lockdown, the colonial government funding an idolised re-enactment of the starting point of the invasion of these lands, Black people being harmed and murdered by state agents such as the police and those same police protecting boring statues of colonisers all while Rio Tinto destroys a 46,000-year-old sacred site.

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The front cover of When I die slingshot my ashes onto the surface of the moon by Jennifer Nguyen.

Darlene Silva Soberano Reviews When I die slingshot my ashes onto the surface of the moon by Jennifer Nguyen and wheeze by Marcus Whale

Jennifer Nguyen’s debut chapbook, When I die slingshot my ashes onto the surface of the moon, investigates the multifaceted natures of pain and sadness.

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Melinda Bufton Reviews Ursula Robinson-Shaw’s Noonday

Noonday is an intriguingly built set of poems. As a reader, I am looking to be jolted into a new paradigm. I want the poet to raise the stakes and am generally looking for puzzles I cannot solve.

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Alison Flett Reviews Sofie Westcombe’s Timestamps

So begins Sofie Westcombe’s debut collection Timestamps, one of the last books to be released from the Five Islands Press traps. At first glance it’s a curious choice for an opening poem, the ethereal New Age tone seemingly at odds with the rest of the collection’s insistence on the concrete.

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Aïsha Trambas Reviews Sweatshop Women: Volume One Edited by Winnie Dunn

Sweatshop Women: Volume One is an anthology of poetry and prose by twenty-three emerging writers based in Western Sydney. As a text, Sweatshop Women unapologetically claims space in the public archive of literary testimony crafted on this continent by women of colour.

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James Jiang Reviews To Gather Your Leaving: Asian Diaspora Poetry from America, Australia, UK & Europe

An anthology like this one that aims to be so broadly representative puts itself in a paradoxical position where the failure to articulate a coherent voice amounts to a kind of success.

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Nicholas Birns Reviews Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians

Postcolonial poetry has always lagged behind postcolonial fiction on the world market. Yet in most cases, this is attributable to poetry generally lagging behind fiction in sales and publicity.

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Corey Wakeling Reviews Stuart Cooke’s Lyre

Stuart Cooke’s Lyre is the most ambitious work of ecopoetry in recent years. Few other writers could be employed to embark on this kind of project either, I think, considering Cooke’s long engagement with the central questions of ecocriticism not only by way of extensive reading and writing in this field, but also with immersed fieldwork in diverse ecologies found outside Australian metropolitan and suburban zones: notably, the Philippines, Chile, and the West Kimberley.

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Pam Brown Reviews Angela Rockel’s Rogue Intensities

It’s January. As I begin to write this review it’s over 40 degrees celsius outside our small non-air-conditioned house in inner suburban Sydney. I’m indoors, perspiring lightly, with a desk fan on, windows closed, blinds drawn, listening to wails of gusts of hot wind.

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Connor Weightman Reviews Gregory Kan’s Under Glass and Caitlin Maling’s Fish Song

Under Glass is the second book of poetry by New Zealand author Gregory Kan. Blurbed as a ‘dialogue between a series of prose poems … and a series of verse poems’, a reader might also happily call it a long poem or a verse novel.

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