Language is used here as talisman – a means for escaping the ugliness of the present into something bigger and, if not better, more powerful. Rhythm and alliteration are used expertly, to create partial rhymes and a song-like metre that mirrors meaning.
Beatriz Copello’s under the gums’ long shade is a beautifully written, tender collection full of rich moments. It travels along a very national route, exploring the Australian terrain, and then moves outward to a place that encompasses all of humanity.
Each poem stands alone and it is possible to read them in isolation, but whether Darwin is studying, travelling, testing hypotheses, raising children, reflecting on life and death, or dying, there is a real sense of the humanity behind the legend – something that the reader can identify with.
The iconic references are frequent enough to lure in the hippest of readers, and much of the poems are humorous. A series of “available” fortunes are listed in “These Fortunes are Currently Available”, including such things as “He may be ugly but remember how desperate you are.”
Even in the 24 pages of this chapbook, however, readers will find that walker touches on the full spectrum of human frailty. This is a book that takes us through our many fears, both realistic ones, and those that poke fun at the many strange habits of the modern human. It’s a powerful little collection full of quirky introspection, original and intense imagery, and lots of pithy black humour.
In their citation for the award, the judges observed that the poems “gently invite us to share their ferocious compassion. With their praise for the world and their fierce accusation, their defiance and applause, they combine grief and glory in a music of crazy excelsis. In this generous retrospective volume a gifted young poet has become a master.”
Editors Maggie Emmett and Gaetano Aiello considered 777 poems read at Australia’s longest-running open-mike poetry reading to select 111 for this edition. The standard is high and the collection lives up to the promise on the back cover that it “demonstrates the vibrant diversity and depth of South Australia’s thriving poetry scene.”
This is a terrifying world to find oneself in: walking a medicated line from sanity to insanity and back again. The divide is blurred in this book, partly because of the poet’s egalitarian eye: there is no “us” and “them”. Everyone is hurting, and everyone is both utterly sane, and absolutely mad. Postcards from the Asylum presents a powerful picture of life inside an asylum – tender, warm, loving and fierce all at once.
This is a sure-footed and powerful collection which not only points a finger at governmental posturing, and the tragedies that humans create, but also provides a kind of solution and mythology to replace those that have failed us. It isn’t always easy to read, and best read slowly, so the impact of each poem can be allowed to unfold. This is poetry written at the limits of what our language can do; without sacrificing accessibility. It speaks to everyman; as conspirator; perpetrator; and fellow seeker.
While you might need a few more reference books on your journey from a person who dreams of being an author to someone who has a book of his or her own to sign and sell, this is nevertheless a useful starting point and a reference you’ll find yourself going back to along the way.