Mary Cresswell reviews four titles from Slow Loris

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.

 

Mary Cresswell

 

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:

… now

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

same tongue.

(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

joint 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.

(Bibliophilic, 8)

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

by myself

a variety of soufflés, entrées,

and heartier dishes.

(Bibliophilic, 16-17)

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

(Elevensies, 4)

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

(Elevensies, 12)

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).

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