Tara Mokhtari Reviews Amelia Walker

1 June 2013

The character Angie Rawkins is the third of the Jason Silver personas, and perhaps the most enigmatic of the three. A strange anti-intellectual intellectuality – a kind of self-conscious denial of her own talent – is the undertone in most of her offering. Despite her attempts, she cannot conceal the fact that she is well read; her style is contemporary and, I hate to say it, fashionable. Had she been real, Rawkins would have been one of the few contemporary Australian poets I’ve read who use non-traditional punctuation, phonetic rather than correct spellings, and poetic annotation really convincingly. There is actually a system and a consistency to her alternative grammar scheme and it doesn’t weigh down the work. For example, there is a delightful panic in the constant second-guessing of one’s own judgement conveyed through the shorthand expressions in ‘I’m Not Gettin’ On That Bike Wiv You’, 1997:

& I’m not ridin’ out to sea wiv you / 
not gonna taste th salt air / nor th sweat
inside yr spare helmet / not gonna wonder
if it’s yours, or... No / I’m not
gonna swim inside yr jacket / th leather so soft
yet so strong / not gonna hold on 
to you for dear life screamin’ little deaths

The movement from image to image here using forward-slashes for caesura contributes to the idea that there exists a private alternate meaning in every literal utterance. This tension is sustained between the spoken and the real and the emotional truth throughout all of the Rawkins’s poems.

The contrast between the three poets is as undeniable as the connection between them. Lind is clearly the most careless of the three, both stylistically and in terms of his confessionalism; what is striking about his poems is exactly this: a self-destructive abandon, a sense of hanging from a cliff’s edge. Rawkins doesn’t hide behind her unconventional orthography. Instead she uses it to tame the beast that makes her so likeably wild. And Woodford is the mum of the group, the one who’s trying to keep it together between all the mental illness, the heartache and the supermarket trips.

The most marked contrast actually stems from the crux of the whole anthology, which is an examination of the Ern Malley-esque ‘Jason Silver’, the joint persona of the three poets. Strangely, or not, the Jason Silver poems are the weakest link. Whereas the three poets individually are stylistically distinct, the Jason Silver poems are devoid of a strong voice. They are experimental, to be sure, but experimental without a sense of purpose. And this is to Amelia Walker’s credit. She has captured the hollowness of Jason Silver, and the way he benefits from the democracy between his three creators beautifully. They are almost boring in their cleverness, except in poems where we get the sense that one of the poets is using the Jason Silver mask to safely explore some dark subjects. For example, in ‘there’s no light, lenny, and that’s not how it gets in, 2002,’ there is a sense of fiery frustration encased in a glassy exterior:

today, even the raindrops are cracked.
the radio has floaties
in all its songs. i want to freeze
frame the world,
but instead the world has framed me, frozen
and cohen, groaning low through static oceans
couldn’t give a shit...

What makes this anthology cohere is the enigmatic story of Jason Silver, the coming together of the three poets and the ways in which they identify as part of a whole, and also as separate from one another. Walker has managed to capture three very distinct poetic voices in her exploration of this implied narrative. The reader can lose herself in the lives of these fictional poets and easily forget that they are Walker’s creations. More importantly, Sound and Bundy offers a new way into using verse to convey story.

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