Heather Taylor-Johnson is the author of two novels, her last, Jean Harley was Here, recently optioned for a seven-part tv series. She’s also the editor of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain, winner of the Mascara Avant-garde Lit Award for best anthology and read in disability circles around the world. Her fifth book of poetry will be published by Wakefield Press in 2021, as well as the new hybrid verse novel, Rhymes with Hyenas, by Recent Work Press. In 2018 she was the Writer in Residence at the JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice at the University of Adelaide, where she is now an Adjunct Research Fellow.
Imagine if six famous protagonists transcended chronological and geographical barriers to come together through a poetry group in Adelaide. Rhymes with Hyenas is an inventive narrative of emails and poetry that gives a female voice to characters originally written by men. They are Ursula from DH Lawrence’s Women in Love, Caddy from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Melanie from Coetzee’s Disgrace, Delores from Nabokov’s Lolita, Katherina from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, and Lilith from Hebrew mythology.
In a poignant ode to literature and Adelaide, these women are whole, complex characters, sometimes up to their breasts in mothering, sometimes homesick for exiled lands. ‘They are lecturers, dog owners, art makers and carers who deal with illness, infertility, addiction and abuse. Their stories, initially limited by the masterpieces that spawned them, continue on: they are not a closed book.
In a vibrant commentary on literary patriarchy and the patriarchy beyond, this book considers the place of writing, critiquing, reading, performing and publishing poetry in a woman’s space.