TREAT editorial

By | 13 May 2024

Why the theme TREAT? Because, as I said in the call-out for submissions, ‘Who couldn’t use a treat in these difficult times?’ Though the word ‘treat’ also has other meanings, which I encouraged poets to explore.

Nearly half of the poems I selected for this issue address the most familiar meaning of treat, though the type of treat varies. There were many poems about food and drink – like Zephyr Zhang’s rambunctious ‘Cucumis sativus parvus’, a poem in praise of mini cucumbers, or Megan Cartwright’s ‘My shout’, which has fun with the office coffee run – and also food as a vital component of culture, as in Lesh Karan’s ‘My mother’s kitchen’. There are unusual treats, as in Diane Suess’s sly yet bold ‘Better than to receive a treat, I would like to know the taste of a treat in someone else’s mouth’. There are poems in which the treat is existence itself, as in Moira Kirkwood’s exuberant ‘Fullest’ (‘I’ve had it with eking’). There are celebrations of the natural world, of music, language, friendship, and the freedom of solitude.

The second largest category is what I think of as ‘Who are you treating how?’. A number of these poems consider self-care, like Simone Sales’s ‘Wash day’ (‘This is how you learn     to hold yourself without violence’) or Troy Wong’s ‘Three durians’ (‘You live half a life barbed and difficult, another half / scrounging for a knife strong enough / to split yourself open’) or Jane Downing’s ‘Car wash reiki’. There is care for Country in Teneale Lavender’s ‘Flying over Birrpai Country’. Other poems deal with the charged interactions between new friends, new lovers, old war enemies. The reality of violence against children features too, along with the ordinary kindness of letting another driver into the flow of traffic. Some poems focus on, or touch on, the ongoing genocide in Gaza, as in Eva Birch’s ‘Warm all week’ (‘did you see my queen on the kayak / stopping the boat? // did you see the bodies in the graves / wrapped in blue plastic? // I’ve never seen anything so / clean and decent // I’ve never seen anything so / absolutely fucking disgusting’).

There are poems that address treatment as an action intended to heal or cure. Medications are mentioned, and a dental procedure. Susan Fealy’s ‘How to hug a tree’ includes a prescription for a specific interaction with nature (‘Sprawl yourself under a canopy. / Let its green wind / rinse clean through you’).

Some poems highlight further variations on the theme of ‘treat’, and others combine them.

My thanks to the 500-odd poets who submitted work for this issue from all over the world. As well as Australian poems, the selection I chose includes poems from the Philippines, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US. Big thanks to Kent MacCarter, editor of Cordite, for inviting me to be guest editor, and also to production editor Alex Creece.

Feel free to treat this issue as a box of chocolates (if you like chocolates), or a selection of fine cheeses (if that’s more your jam), or even a bag of mixed lollies (for non-Australian readers, ‘sweets’ or ‘candy’). Dip in as it takes your fancy; savour the poems, roll them around in your mouth. May this selection provide not just pleasure, provocation, and syntactical surprises, but some joy and relief in difficult times.

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