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Plague Animals by Rebecca Edwards
Puncher and Wattmann, 2020.
ISBN 9781925780772
Les Wicks reviews

Plague Animals

by Rebecca Edwards

It’s no spoiler to let you in on the secret, we are the plague animals.

This becomes most clear in the third section situated in Japan, where the vast human busyness has only led to a void. Where nature has been consigned to growing secretly under the eyelids of statues (95). Where:

Even in Tokyo

the rich rice land calls up through subways 40 stories deep

and a salary man on his way to work

stops at a construction site

to crumble friable soil in his hands.

(97)

Degradation of the environment is further explored across several key points in the book, ranging from garbage in Bali toDays of Heat’, but this work is no generic indictment of humanity, no prosecution brief. In many ways it is a plea for clemency, for understanding. Even men with dubious pasts in ‘The Dementia Ward’:

They left their habits of evil and good

in the rooms upstairs.

Family has fallen from them.

Guilt forgets to visit.

(48)

Even they deserve compassion and re-creation on paper.

Edwards’s book is not a new and selected but it feels like it as it spans several lifetimes, even epochs (82). At the same time, it is deeply personal:

I fight myself

with myself

alone.

If I succeed

no-one will recognise

how vast it was, how violent

If I fail

no one will be surprised.

(44)

In the end neither herself, estrangement from her daughter (‘… the child is the flesh that is wounded over and over’ 58), lovers or

… a man

feathers plaited in his beard

crystals slung around his thin blue neck

crying in the bric-a-brac section.

(27)

are judged. We are led to empathy.

I will admit to an initial reluctance approaching any writing about writing, it’s just another of my flaws. But the first section, ‘Manifesto’, is extraordinary:

poetry is a joke that gets better each telling is predictable as the egg

(14)

I don’t like abstract nouns like gravitas or lucidity

at least not in a poem. Give me a sound, like crunch

(22)

There is imagery anthropomorphic in nature (but it works). We also see the humanity given form painted within the frame of environment. But you must read ‘The Exile of the Imagination’, wherein life is so vividly painted by itself, the them-ness of each species engraved on our eyes.

Another of my obsessions is the need for quality covers for Australian poetry books. Plague Animals has a cracker.

Plague Animals Rebecca Edwards. Puncher and Wattmann 2020. ISBN: 9781925780772

Published: September 2022
Les Wicks

For over 45 years, Wicks has performed widely in Australia and internationally. He has published and broadcast in over 400 different channels, magazines, anthologies and newspapers across 33 countries and in 15 languages. He conducts workshops around Australia and most recently edited To End All Wars (Puncher & Wattmann, 2018). He also runs Meuse Press, which focuses on poetry outreach projects like poetry on buses and poetry published on the surface of a river. His fourteenth book of poetry isBelief (Flying Islands, 2019).


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