Rico Craig is a writer, award-winning poet and workshop facilitator whose work melds the narrative, lyrical and cinematic. His poetry has been awarded prizes or shortlisted for the Montreal Poetry Prize, Val Vallis Prize, Newcastle Poetry Prize, Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize and University of Canberra Poetry Prize. Bone Ink (UWAP), his first poetry collection, was winner of the 2017 Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize 2018. Since 2012 he has worked as Storyteller-in-Chief at the Story Factory, designing and facilitating creative writing programs for young people, and teacher development programs for adults. Our Tongues Are Songs, his second collection of poetry, was published in 2021 by Recent Work Press.
These are poems of love and loss, they imagine a world where hawks fly from the arms of lovers and disappear into a dying world, where golden fish rise from rivers and tangle themselves in hair, where molecules and mist carry messages of love through cites. In this collection, beginnings and endings slice across each other, modern and mythic intertwine, the everyday is stirred into a world of metaphor and incantation. Individual poems chime off each other, creating strands of narrative which circle the collection’s central symbol, the nekhau — small fish-shaped amulets crafted by ancient Egyptians and plaited through the hair of loved ones to ward off drowning. In a contemporary and at times imaginary world, the poems become nekhau, articulating the fears and dangers underlying love in order to subdue them. In doing so the poems transform many tropes of love poetry, repositioning them in contexts both everyday and otherworldly. The bodies in these poems fight against the mortality of love, they borrow lore and build new myths as a way to protect love’s fragility. Glistening with musicality and precision, these poems twist and shimmer like fish leaping toward the fears that have shaped them.
In Our Tongues Are Songs, Rico Craig pursues the intimate, the voices people use as they speak to their private fears. Craig brings his unique ear for lyricism, his eye for human need, to bear on the promises people make to themselves as they attempt to find solace, companionship and meaning. His haunting use of image fills the day-to-day world with the uncanny — bats are comforted by children, old women weep tattoos, the earth burns, television stars comfort teenagers as they struggle with anorexia, encroaching sands spill the dead into an unnamed city. This book spans voices, generations and countries; it sides with the young and old as they try to carve their humanity from the swirls of despair.
‘These poems of bone, sky, night and earth pulse with danger and exaltation. Selves spectral, imagined and embodied dissolve the solitary ‘I’ to imagine flocks of selves, dancing with knives in their hands, standing on rooftops, never forgetting what it is to be at our wildest. They overflow with loosened energy, yet their crafting is meticulous, brilliant and exact.’ Felicity Plunkett