It’s the 1970s and 1980s, and Sandra Renew, a young lesbian activist in Far North Queensland, is involved in some of the most politically charged moments in Australian history. From Pine Gap to civil rights marches in Queensland to the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and beyond, Apostles of Anarchy juxtaposes newspaper headlines and archival material with the personal experience of these struggles. It asks what it is to fight for the acceptance of difference in a discourse of prejudice and hostility.
On the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island there is a town called Timaru. The name derives from the Māori phrase te-tihi-o-maru meaning ‘a place of shelter’. It’s a place of shipwrecks and cabbage trees, smoky pubs and volcanic shores, and it’s where Brent Cantwell’s first collection of poetry begins.
Tether takes its inspiration from this shaken landscape, exploring the fault lines that rumble between friends and family as they move and migrate, as they tether vast distances small. Whether it’s Timaru, or Turnpike Lane, or Tamborine Mountain on the Gold Coast Hinterland, at its heart lies a possibility: a connection to place, to the past and to each other. Each poem is a ‘place of shelter’.
Nathan Shepherdson’s new collection, parallel equators is a book in five sections, under the five vowels, and through the five apparatus of one hand. It attempts to return its messages to a sender (or senders) locked somewhere in a haze of accidental truths. Words travel at irregular pace on a walking tour through a dissociative alphabet of concepts and images. Fingernails, silence, glass, leaves, eyelids, absence, lungs, and full stops all become entangled as ‘body types’ in this idiosyncratic language. Patterns repeat the self. Transcriptions of conversations between elegy and memory possess a natural cadence that counts out the oxygen molecules in life’s strange abacus.
Shepherdson’s poems are snap-fingered mosaics, dry ingredients holding their breath, so as not to sink, as they unexpectedly set on wet paper surfaces. Is Shepherdson a well-grounded, metaphoric-driven pragmatist, or a quiet, well-meaning fantasist, who wanders off each day, towel in hand, to meet Heraclitus for an afternoon swim?
The dictionary defines consumption as both the ‘use of a resource’ and ‘a wasting disease’. This collection explores the different acts of self consumption a person can go through—sacrifice and selfishness, defeat and hubris. It’s an unpacking of guilt for making the wrong choices; for contradictory compulsions; for complicity.
Erin Shiel’s debut collection brings together insightful vignettes about the arc of maturity to womanhood, exploring kindness, grief and the neglected beauty of everyday life. The collection slips through multiple identities, interleaving ekphrasis with lyric and nature poems. The effect is a dynamic tension between fiction and truth, invention and autobiography. Many of the poems, imbued with nostalgia, reclaim the liminality of girlhood, as an opportunity to form identity. A ghost girl character appears guiding the reader through the sections of the collection, with poems related in turn to the themes of girlhood, identity, finding mettle and contemplating nature. With whimsy and playfulness, emotional insight and nuance, Girl on a Corrugated Roof uses empathy and the natural environment to draw art out of the gallery and into our everyday lives.
For over a decade, international poets Alvin Pang (Singapore) and George Szirtes (UK) have met time and again—as friends and fellow wordsmiths on page and stage—until the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Confined to different sides of the globe, they began to write poems back and forth in response to one another. Reflecting on the circumstances in which we find ourselves living, the two poets dance in language through questions of life and time, with the world teetering from Covid through Black Lives Matters and Brexit to the Ukraine conflict.
Beginning with a childhood in and around depressed Cornish mining, Pancakes for Neptune is a detonation of neoliberal waste. Bullock understands that conservatism – whether in public or private realms – is, by definition, a protection racket. However, this collection is not an angry one. It sparkles with a rich lyrical and imagist vein, stirring us to dwell on this earth in relationship with others, with respect, rapture and exuberant interest. Owen Bullock’s latest collection showcases his restless experimentalism as well as his sly, generous and quirky sense of fun.
In this second collection from award-winning poet, K A Nelson, extends the themes in her 2018 debut collection, to write as desert flâneur or reminisce as the moon. In her concerns about the natural world she speaks directly to a kookaburra and pays homage to the riparian zone. In writing of loss, love and its antithesis, she employs wry humour or a sometimes-brutal response to aspects of contemporary Australian society that may startle readers or pose a question: how can we be better?
You lead me through strange geographies. You say, up here the tide cannot drown our sandwiches.
Es Foong’s debut collection explores the strange geographies of belonging: to family, gender, culture and oneself. It ponders boundaries; the predicament of needing to assert them even as they cause pain and separation. It explores influences on identity and the fault-lines of trauma, how these are woven into our bodies. It sees the power and the possibility of the pause – as breath, silence, a poem’s whitespace – and as an alternative way of being, survival and love.
Feldspar, the new collection of poetry from Brendan Ryan, is unflinching in its focus on rural landscapes, the treatment of farm animals and the humble lives of people often missing from poetry. There are odes to invigilators, truck drivers, a family member who took to walking, laments for dogs and the hardened realities of country living. A sense of longing for and loss from the country is a sub-text for poems that reveal how place is never only a geographical location, but more of a state of mind to be revisited again and again and where belonging can also be found in music, driving or looking at the country you inevitably return to.
The Gospel of Unmade Creation, the debut collection by Thabani Tshuma, is about reshaping. It is an examination of the ways we are taken apart and put back together and what exists in that space before ‘rebuilding’ or ‘recovery’. This book is a truth, in the way truth can be both something made and something that already exists. It is an origin story told in non-linear vignettes. Part-testament, part-tome, part exercise in reflection, the poems in The Gospel of Unmade Creation traverse scene, theme, space, and time in search of a sense of ‘self’.
The Sea Chest is a visceral, moving, and emotionally layered account of life in the aftermath of loss. In 2017, Kerry Greer’s husband Gabriel ended his life with horrific violence, dying on the kitchen floor of his parents’ home.
Haunting in its honesty, and underpinned by a connection to the spirituality of the natural world, The Sea Chest traces the impact of Gabriel’s death over years and continents. The collection provides a counter-narrative to ideas of grief portrayed in sympathy cards or Hollywood movies. There is no redemptive narrative arc, no going “back to normal.” But there is the old love—the indissoluble thread that is now called grief.
Imagistic and probing, The Sea Chest speaks directly into the void. In the stillness, in the grey: a ripple, an answer from the ether, asking the reader to listen, to not turn away. The Sea Chest becomes a holding space for grief—for the things which cannot be said out loud, but which need to be voiced. This is poetry as invocation, poetry as love enacted, poetry as gateway to the liminal and the sacred.
Utilising comprehensive research undertaken at the National Records of Scotland, On the Record takes as its starting point the death certificates of a number of Martin Dolan’s direct ancestors. Each poem imagines itself into the thoughts of its subject/speaker, developing a mosaic that gives a small sight of Scottish social history, primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In these prose poem sequences, five different tastes are explored, not only with reference to food and drink,but also through their metaphorical use. There are innumerable ways of ‘tasting’ and apprehending theworld, and these poems canvass a wide range of them while also encouraging readers to consider their own diverse tastes, preferences and experiences.
Emerging authors from vast geographical regions examine the conundrum and contradiction of human experience through carefully crafted detail. The brevity of short-form writing makes it an apt vessel for capturing the haunting incompleteness of human experience. Through flash and traditional length short stories—fiction and life writing, as well as hybrid forms of storytelling—there is a compelling ebb and tow of ideas, as focalised through highly idiosyncratic voices. The authors work deftly, paying due homage to the crucial relationship between the focalising voice and sharply rendered detail—cultivating narrative features with intuitive hands and minds, fashioning abstracted realities that linger beyond the final lines of the text.