Reviewed by Beatriz Copello
by Les Wicks
Flying Island Books
Pocket Poet Series
2019, Paperback, 126 pages
Les Wicks is a poet, publisher and editor, with a long list of publications. Belief is his fourteenth book of poetry. The actual book is small but do not be discouraged by its size, as you will find it is a bag full of surprises. Belief is an elaborate mosaic where the tiles are words; paradoxes, satire and the vernacular adorn the pages of this beautifully crafted book. Belief is divided into seven sections, each section opens a door to two worlds: one the writer’s imagination and psyche and the other opens to the external world.
Wicks analyses life and ponders about issues, furthermore, he has an eye for the small matters and embraces the big ones, sometimes with a pessimistic view of life. Some of the characters/people in Belief appear out of harmony with their own existence, some brought memories of the Theatre of the Absurd, but unlike what you find in Absurdist work there are no clichés in this book, neither puns, repetitions or sequiturs. For example, in “Compulsion, Rut & Self Proposition” the poet reflects on the futility of life:
Neurotheology — god is in giggles. It is the hymn
within our Personal Delusional System.
Neuroplasticity — we can sculpt
a future with our laughter, invent tranquility
or dance with fairies. Irrepressible glory —
I will lay down my life to pretend it matters.
Wicks’s poetry is quite unique, in his own particular way he can be that of a merchant, a navigator, or a snake. His strong voice convinces us often using sarcasm or with humor, like in “Against the Wanting Walls”:
When His Holiness turned up
we offered him a sponsorship.
A T/M chuckle the lama said
Call me Dal, he’s just so Australian.
Some of Wicks’s poems are enigmatic and require more than one reading. You read and re-read them and then the meaning gets hold of you and you see his talent. Yet, in some of his poems he is not afraid to use everyday language when appropriate, like in “A Nike Size 5 White Jogger Beside the Pacific Highway”, he writes:
It was an accident.
My father was an arsehole, I
was an accident. Having blinded
my rear-view mirror this rain was like a woman
ballbraker-nagging fat angry
there was this little girl,
it was an accident.
The language used in this poem, when referring to a woman, could be considered offensive but it is not the writer’s voice it is that of a character. Each section of Belief has its own characteristic and flavour. I loved the section Australarcanum which contains an array of fascinating characters like Tamara, the Newcomer to Magic in Go Fish, young Johnson in Vacation Hexing, Briar Rose in the Penthouse and Emily in Emily Takes Off.
In the section “The I Myth”, the writer debunks the I and leaves the reader wondering that the I is just an ingenious fabrication: so Buddhist. In “Contracts With the World” he says:
This frond that I am, this
spore about the summer winds,
this distressed lawn, this
panting bird this dog-optimism
that daft disregard this contented crash, all
my theurgies mumble.
Cognition or recognition? Wicks does not offer healing, there is no escape from life, no capitulation. In the section “Brain” there is a very cleverly written poem titled “The Compassion Rut and Self Promotion”. In this poem Wicks analyses what we are through the structure and function of the brain. The poet not only is conversant with neuropsychology, he also knows about human nature.
The poet knows what pain is and what moves us, this is evident in the many philosophical reflection, which are gems scattered in his poems. Here are some:
“Will come to the day when drowning seems less effort than the constant strokes.”
“Indecision leads to ghostliness.”
“Our irrelevance is durable.”
“Freedom is actually free, but hazardous.”
“Everything makes sense if you forget hard enough.”
“Lie it up until our fears are a sturdy fence.”
“Lives are designed for deceit, our shameful indifference.”
“Legs walk for money, Appetite is an element.”
“We are all meat in the herd driven to the market stinking of shit & optimism.
“Love tears up all the unimportant words.”
” if we are anything perhaps we’re cabling and fluid.”
“We defecate predictability.”
The reader will find more profound thoughts penned in the poems contained in Belief. True to his characteristic style Wicks again has written a book full of the unexpected, the minutiae, the grand, demonstrating once more his talent as a poet.
About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello, is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.