Reviews

Review: The Whale by Yoram Symons

How can you truly review a piece of art that comes from a close, spiritual place? Specifically, how do you critique a work of art that was created as a medium to critique itself? It has been challenging to put words to how I feel, but only because this long poem truly is something great.

A large part of this is Symons’ understanding of the use of space, and the positioning of the poems on the page. This is helped further through the illustration of Lital Weizman. The impact this juxtaposition has on the pieces at large quite staggering. The stanzas flow from line to line, breathing, and pace back and forth, fall down and crumble, and then are brought up again. This – combined with the images of scriptures, young students, teenagers pairing off at camp, create a wonderful piece of art in itself.

The piece hints at the ekphrastic; a dramatic description of a work of art, the medium in this case being poetry. I say ‘hints’ as the poems aren’t exactly describing the works of art that accompany them. They feel more like a collaboration of ideas and images, worked out via words and ink.

The whole poem itself stands out alongside the art; I loved its natural flow, its even tempo, and satisfying feel to read:

physical contact           can make me                      awkward.

It centres itself on the questioning of a shared faith. Throughout the poem, the poet eventually turns away from an old, conservative religion, to a more open and free spiritual society. The whale is a powerful symbol, and has obviously been used in many famous pieces of fiction, and this is because the whale is an awe-inspiring creature. The whale in this instance is an existential metaphor, one that is gesturing towards something we as a people can have:

out there in the ocean the whale evolved who sings subtle songs that are so much sweeter than even the sublimest human poetry

The personal nature of the poem is another

Review: If The World Were Upside Down by John Englezos

I like to think that every poem or collection has a ‘hook’, or a ‘way in’ that reveals itself gradually to its reader or listener. When reading John Englezos’ collection If The World Were Upside Down, it seemed important to honour that John is a poet whose words need to be heard as he performs them, rather than to be read off the page.

Thankfully, there’s lots of clips online of John performing many of the poems in this collection. I wanted to start with the one that personally ‘hooked’ me in – ‘The Proper Way to Make a Cup of Tea (YouTube)’:

I admittedly giggled cheekily at the beginning words, because I am a tea-lover, and also may still fall in love with not-just-men:

Young man

If you wish to learn the proper way to make a cup of tea

meet a girl

fall in love

and get married

John preempts the feelings this might bring up in the reader/listener – perhaps ridicule, amusement, excitement, inward groaning as the poem continues:

Hear me out

In an age where gas was lit and fire burned

a kettle would whistle to you the constant reminder of its boiling brew

Now he’s captured our full attention, and we feel like we need to know what has to follow – he’s mentioned things that are common to many of our everyday lives, and we want to know: what does making tea well have to do with love, with care, with intentional acts shared?

This collection is full of poems that celebrate the wonder in the ordinary, in those things we might take for granted in our lives. I especially like that ‘The Proper Way to Make a Cup of Tea’ can also be taken as an exercise in mindfulness. From a mental health perspective, the act of listening to or of reading a poem that talks to you the way John does is incredibly comforting, or downright amusingly raucous.

An example of his playful, more surrealist take on life is in the title poem ‘If The Worl

Review: Wide Open by Amy Bodossian

The ‘aperture’ of an ‘OCDiva’s’ ’appetite’ by Hamish Danks Brown

“Beauty beheld in solitude is even more lethal.” Witold Gombrowicz, Ferdydurke

(Poland/Argentina/France 1904-69)

In mid-December 2016, Amy Bodossian launched her debut collection wide open in the standing room confines of Ferdydurke, a venue located above Tattersalls Lane in the CBD.

It’s a slim ninety-page volume containing two dozen poems, plus illustrations by an Adelaide-born cabaret performer who usurps any stage with such panache escalating to frenzy that I’ve christened her ‘OCDiva’!

The poems hone in on personal matters: the author’s body, mind and soul; the whenever, wherever, with whoever that all comes with outbreaks of love and influxes of sex. This book is not for the prurient and prudish among us. It is intended for a ‘wide open’ readership in print and for a like-minded audience with similar gaping predilections shown when the ‘OCDiva’ herself is on stage.

The overriding theme of this book is that adults are overgrown kids dealing with the alternative facts and fantasies of love lives  and that none of us are getting any younger though we can tweak time and play depending on whose place we’re at, through the detouring routes of our boudoir behaviour patterns.

This collection goes full-cycle from a juvenile tryst in ‘Remember that Sunday Afternoon’, to a reflective ‘Reprise’ via a poetic cycle of remembered episodes and personal encounters such as ‘First Date’, ‘Coat Hanger Eyes’, ‘Summer Love’, ‘Phone Sex’ and ‘Over’:

I’m not into dominating / but I do like masturbating / over the thought of you telling me things / you’d never tell anyone else, / how you say you’d like to be punished / which I’m not really into, but I do get wet / over your wounded, he

Review: Hey Moon! by Lady Longdrop

Love, loss, and loneliness all pop up in Kendra Keller’s (aka Lady Longdrop) lively and tender first collection of poems Hey Moon! Lady Longdrop demands a conversation that leads us away from an elusive state. With an active, empowered voice, she uses the moon the way many of us use it – to connect to the hidden self from, the self that is terrified of being seen. Poetry to her is a form of meditation.

In the section ‘Moon Poems’, she takes the reader out to see the moon, and in the poem, ‘Full-of-it’ lies a powerfully vulnerable question that requires sight:

Great fat moon

Why do you look at me and ask

Whether I am as fully human as you are fully stone

What would it take for many of us to articulate the pain our mothers and fathers caused us? To articulate back, to them, their state, and ours, through a question? Lady Longdrop insists that we rest before this journey – to connect with our larger selves.

What would it feel like if we took our problems to the moon, then feasted on her light as the narrator of the book does? Would we perceive love in ways suggested in ‘Love Is’?

A silence

A forgotten dream

Would we then dig deeper into our memories, and say:

Love is some clothes I threw out cos they didn’t fit anymore

Love is some papers

Dusty with nostalgia

That I had to burn

Where would we go? The ocean?

If we are to find ourselves, to find where we belong, we must find the things that truly know themselves. In her poem ‘As Though it is OK’, Lady Longdrop poetically displays the human demise when we compare ourselves to others without the knowledge of our capacity to transcend our conditions.

Clouds

You hang there

As though it is ok

As though there are humans who can cope with your perfect

mirroring of yourself

Lady Longdrop consistently draws attention to the possibility of opening up

Review: Scott Wings' Whiplash

When experiencing a Scott Wings performance, whether it’s a one-off piece on an open mic or a full-blown show, you’re guaranteed two things: playful language, and playful use of the body. It’s all bound up together. Whiplash, Wings’ latest show, now on at The Butterfly Club provides all of that, and more.

We can’t say exactly define what ‘that more’ is because like many of his shows, his improvisation ensures that each show is unique. This show’s latest iteration, with one more performance tonight, at an iconic performance venue, indicates that it’s ready for a broader audience, as well as continuing to have artists there too.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it at various stages of its development – from parts being performed at Wings’ ‘Passionate Tongues’ feature, to a preview in his lounge room/performance venue, Cathaus. The changes made and charting its development is part of the joy, as an audience member, and also the closest analogue a live performance gets to having a ‘director’s cut’, albeit one that appears before the ‘final’ cut. Like a true follower of Scotty’s work, I find myself mentioning to a few people afterwards that I got to see earlier versions of the show, which I admit, feels like the kind of brag you’d expect from The Simpsons comic book guy character.

Whiplash continues to explore themes of mental health that he’s touched on in his previous shows and work (Icarus Falling, Colossi) and touches on some particulars of his own life that connects with other artists facing similar, envisioned struggles. To parallel the way the show is produced, the physicality of the body is used as a central motif to navigate travel to his physical heart, and what we understand ‘hearts’ do, on an emotional level.

His narrative mixes and blends several elements – at times, there is stark poetic imagery, mixed with dynamic bodily movement to music, neither fully theatrical nor d

One-man spoken word or theatre? Black T-Shirt Collection

Is the one-man show an example of theatre or spoken word? Is it both? Does the question even matter? Even if it doesn’t matter, I always find myself asking these perhaps insular questions, like last night when poet Inua Ellams opened Black T-Shirt Collection at The Arts Centre Melbourne. He essentially tells a story of two Nigerian brothers who set up an international designer t-shirt business, and the complications with leaving their home. Themes of identity and sexuality shine through. The story is compelling enough, the delivery provokes something more in the audience.

He is a lone actor (or poet) on stage. Minimal set. One box he sometimes holds or moves around, and a subtle soundscape with intermittent sound effects. The most haunting sounds are what you think is a predatory bird flapping its wings.

But the rhythm and cadence of his voice make me think he’s essentially performing one very long narrative poem. It’s a testament to his delivery that he can hold our attention for that long, the important details sticking in. All the important details are in his words, in his speaking, never fully acted out on stage, except for a couple of mimed actions. There are singular lines that stand as poetic. I found myself reacting those, but I couldn’t click in a theatre! I suppose those lines shine through in all kinds of writing, be it poetry, prose, theatre, even film. If I closed my eyes for the whole show, would I still understand it all? I suspect I would’ve without discounting the effectiveness of his minor movements.

Is that the difference between theatre and poetry? Theatre tries to recreate the physical sides of the story, the dialogue augmenting it and part of that recreation whereas the poet uses words and images to describe something somewhere else.

The show, the poetry, his delivery is all effective, evokes an investment in the characters over that hour or hour and a half.

I’ve seen sho