Claire Albrecht, pinky swear. Slow Loris Series 1, 2018, ISBN 9781925780314.
Kait Fenwick, Burning Between. Slow Loris Series 1, 2018, ISBN 9781925780307.
Trisha Pender, Bibliophilic. Slow Loris Series 1, 2018. 9781925780321.
Kerri Shying, Elevensies. Slow Loris Series 1, 2018. 9781925780338.
For further information on the Slow Loris series, see Puncher & Wattmann.
These publications are the first tranche of a series of attractively designed chapbooks (all 20-24 pages) presenting a sample of new poets, most of them (in 2018, at any rate) based in Newcastle, NSW.
Claire Albrecht ranges from bald eagles to Putin and takes her images from nature, from the current news, or from her own experience, even-handedly. She gives us a sense of space and distance at her fingertips, balanced by humour and a wicked turn of phrase. Her poem ‘dutton’s revenge’ begins:
ex-police officer dutton
takes to the streets
camera flash firing,
weaving dark arts,
darts flung from his
forked tongue …
and ends with the splendid image:
dutton, of brumby husbandry,
gallops into the flames
and raises a scepter to the sky
(pinky swear, 14-15)
Kait Fenwick, on the other hand, speaks in a variety of voices in their very personal observations of the world around them. ‘Ambivalence Can Ruin Your Life’ complains that:
Mapped bodies drape
like protest banners
over this city
We’ve all got
something to say
but are seemingly
searching for someone
who speaks the
(Burning Between, 11)
‘Your Honour,’ begins with an external, courtroom setting, then moves to a vivid sensual image, the hand on the gavel moving to be a more close-up hand:
You’re sitting on the front bench
with a gavel in one hand
& I’m standing before you waiting
for the walnut to connect with oak
All this talk of borrowed time
wide open spaces
& moments of in between a and b
Your hands hold the weight of my hips
fistfuls of feminine flesh
your fingers quiver under the mass
& struggle to contain the volume as it splits at the seams
(Burning Between, 15)
Trisha Pender uses the literary tradition as part of her raw material, speaking throughout as an interested (and interesting) observer. There is a nice series of poems about the Wordsworth ménage; my favourite is ‘Rydal Mount’, quoted in full:
If you ever had a great idea for a poem
stolen by a much-loved brother
and turned into a National Treasure,
you’d know how I feel about fucking daffodils.
Dora’s field is covered in them
and they push me past patience.
It feels wrong to hate a flower
with this much intensity
but we’ve always been a bit whack about nature in this family.
One day soon I’ll turn into a giant bird
brooding up the bowers of this vault
and won’t that give them something to write about.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer provides the voice for someone who, like Dorothy Wordsworth, also worked within a need for transformation. ‘Buffy bests the beast’ doesn’t beat around the bush. She begins:
I am a natural blonde.
The dream machine you see before you
has been achieved through an early
introduction to gymnastic activity
followed by regular workouts.
You can call it phallic rigour if you want
if you really want to.
What interests me most is the taste
of the apple, not
the path of the worm.
My complicity is such that I can now make
a variety of soufflés, entrées,
and heartier dishes.
Kerri Shyring is a poet of Chinese and Wiradjuri family. She takes more liberties with the look of her poems in that she puts one line of each poem into the centre of the poem itself, which makes the reader stop and consider: is this special line a title? why bother about titles anyway? what should this particular set-up do: are we supposed to look at the special line as a comment on the rest of the text or as an integral part of the text? Here are two examples, quoted in full:
listen to the cold bats chatter still time before
the loquats come up ripe how can the
green-fuzzed hardness of their present stave off
the time for nets and hand-to-hand fighting
it makes it seem like summer when you
compete with things that fly
listen for them wheeling through the night
cackling in the wee small hours building
buttress to their trickery I become
a woman on a porch speaking
keep on driving you touch the fruit you die
and later in the book:
lovers often lay you waste where once the hand
a hair away from heaven shuddered
now I shrink fear the aftertaste the chalk
screetching on the board write my love and
liar poems of the twentieth century
when all the mirrors smashed
machines acquired a brain and happiness
the enterprise of solitude replaced
that friction rubbed up kissed out
ground into the soul alongside the one
true other I so truly felt that it was you
These chapbooks are an appealing start to what looks like a good and varied chapbook series – very attractive to look at, and wide-ranging in style and content.
Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. She is a retired science editor and volunteers at a nature reserve and at a women’s centre. Her most recent books are Body Politic (The Cuba Press, 2020) and Field Notes (a satirical miscellany) (Makaro Press, 2017).