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.
John Amen’s Strange Theater lives up to its name in that it is a strange book. Most of the poems are written to people we do not know. It appears that they are friends or acquaintances of the author but we are not sure about this. It also appears that he haphazardly throws words together to make sentences that do not make sense but somehow are able to tell a story. In this way, Amen reminds me of Federico Garcia Lorca.
Kerdijk Nicholson’s poems are not difficult to read: they flow in straightforward rhythms, and take on familiar landscapes and territories, but the poems in Everyday Epic are much more complex then they seem at first glance. It is through the everyday moments of such universal elements as love, grief, work, that we find the epic, and in those old stories of conquest and domination, where we find our most shameful and least ‘epic’ natures.
During the Crusades, European priests kissed cannons, by way of blessing them, as soldiers marched east to fight what was perceived as the threat of Islam. Instead of cannons, Antonio J. Hopson uses words as his weapon of choice in the poetry collection Seven, and that for the most part focuses on a love affair. “I am a poet. I use words” (Mr. Law, 31). Amazingly, his use of words gives the impression that this affair—at least for him—resembles the carnage of the Crusades.
Time and again, the poetry confounds expectations and unpicks itself, structurally, grammatically, and linguistically, presenting what looks like a story, a letter, a footnote, a telegram, a Wikipedia entry, a diary entry, or even a simple poem about a single thing, only to undo the stereotype, the perception, or the form, through a reworking of its conventions.
The voice of the playwright is obvious in Christine Evan’s verse novel Cloudless. A rich blend of characterisation, setting, and powerful thematic weaving from poem to poem, the novel takes us deep into the heart of working class Perth in the 1980s. Each of the eight key voices who make up the story are on the cusp of something: their lives about to change.
From Louisiana to Honduras, Susan Swartwout covers much ground in her poetry collection, Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit. The collection is billed as a gothic take on Southern culture, and in some aspects it is, but there is more here than meets the eyes or first reading. The collection also tells a family’s history and the impact of this on the life of the individual who tells it.