You might not want to read Karina Bush’s Maiden unless you like lewd literature. She presents poetry in a frank way. This moves away from the subtleness that some have come to expect and appreciate in the art of poetry. This is not a case for the censoring of Karina’s work or works like hers. In some ways, her writing reminds us that the world is not monolithic when it comes to the subject of sex.
Cynthia Manick’s Blue Hallelujahs is an impressive debut poetry collection. Manick’s talent shines here. Her poetry is like a good meal, worth savoring. She describes small things in big ways. This approach draws the reader into the landscape of her poetry. In The Shop Washington Built, laughter is described as “the size of two small ships” (8) and strength is the ability “to hold lightening inside/grow daughters among/shifting currents” (Things I Carry Into The World, 16).
Jen Karetnick’s Brie Season reminds us that food is life and life is food. The pages of this collection is littered with odes to the art of cooking and eating. The poems remind us of the joy that is food. Karetnick reinforces this understanding by aligning food with mundane items. In this way, we become aware of the specialness inherent in what we eat.
Bulletproof is all about mortality and the poems develop like a verse novel as they attempt to come to grips with the inevitable that waits for us all. Despite the morbidity, the poems are never maudlin. In fact, they’re almost cheery, in a grim black sort of way, effectively giving the middle finger to death. How very Lemmy, though he wasn’t immortal after all.
The recurring themes of this brilliantly haunting collection run a powerful range, from tragedy and trauma to innocence and carnal desire. Derr-Smith offers an intimate, unyieldingly honest account of her life and experiences. The subjects, the lines, the words all scream truth. Often brutally. Often beautifully. Her themes and approach leave a lasting impression.
Contradiction and absurdity reign freely, and non sequiturs pop up out of the blue, each fetched further than the last, as if the poet were striving for the most unlikely next line ever to come out of left field. The effect is to loosen up the reader’s consciousness and allow her to gaze into an open-ended world of expansive possibilities. It’s a wild world, where sense and nonsense are on an equal footing, but she soon finds that the poet has left a trail of delectible crumbs to follow.
The landscape of Seminara’s poetry is often domestic – home life, motherhood, abusive relatives, relationships, aging, and illness, but there is also magical realism, shapeshifting, sublimated desire, and a range of literary influences that come through the found poems, centos, erasures and remixes. The poetry plays with metapoetic themes, with traditional rhyme schemes and rhythms, and are self-referential in a post-modern way.
Faber’s grief is like a river that runs through the book, sometimes coming across as confused, sad, and angry, but never maudlin. Instead, grief becomes the starting point for a celebration of life. It’s not just Eva, and the many aspects of her life and death that are discovered through this work. It’s also about what it means to live in the face of such an inevitable and untimely death.
Though the narrative presents a fast-paced story of ambulance, medication, confusion and return, we’re in the realm of poetry, which can be dream-like, with a multitude of simultaneous meanings. The poems operate on several levels at once, from the struggles of a failed body and its attempts to come back from the nightmare of motor neurone degradation, to the writer’s daily struggle to make sense of language and the self against an increasingly incomprehensible world.
Hazel Smith’s Word Migrants is a poetry collection that is utterly relevant right now. Smith brings her cross-media poetic aesthetics to such topics as racism, the plight of refugees, diaspora, stereotypes, climate change, grief, aging and death, semiotics and literary theory all in a way that weaves and intersects seamlessly. Though there’s a neat circularity in the book – starting and ending with disappearances, Word Migrants is organised into five sections, each with a slightly different focus. The first, “The Forgiveness Website”, focuses on the nostalgia and sense of loss that comes with displacement. This chapter explores refugees and migration, but also the motion from past to present, and of all that we lose in our identities as we try to find ways to live and forgive in the face of oppression.