A searing debut poetry collection that strikes with its beauty and ferocity. Araluen, born and raised on Dharug Country and a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation, is already an acclaimed author and editor, and a literary voice to watch. The raw beauty of her work here can be devoured in a single sitting but ought to be revisited often. Stunning and stirring descriptions of the landscape are a harbinger for an unflinching probing into the ongoing ramifications of colonisation.
An occasional poem is composed entirely in caps lock; the reader cannot miss a single beat. The first in the collection to do this is PYRO; it crackles and scorches with [all caps] lines like “Instagram promotes a sneak peek pre-collection of organic cotton womenswear in which the thin white model leans dour against a fire truck in the thrice-burnt char of a homeland … Scott Morrison sits sanguine in a wreath of frangipani.”
Some of the collection touches on the tumultuous and frequently tragic start to this century. In ‘The Inevitable Pandemic Poem’, Araluen meditates on an April like no other, peppered with rescue dogs, city lights illuminating empty streets, Dan Murphys trips and restless uncertainty; “leaking from the edges of pre-faded posters reading we’re all in this together.” In another, longer work, ‘Breath’, Araluen recounts being overseas in a Northern winter during the deadly 2020 summer bushfires, “we meet cold mornings in home’s evening to tallies of the day’s carnage, cold fingers scrolling across continents to find our towns … On the radio in the chemist while I’m pondering over candied flavours of fruits that are burning on the branch.” There too is a tenderness for family, notable especially in ‘See you tonight’ and ‘To the Parents’. Araluen has also used popular Australian texts and cultural tropes to, in her words, “riff off”, including May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
“Our ancestors are the original storytellers”: Blackfulla Bookclub celebrates Aboriginal voices and Aboriginal stories and is founded by Teela Reid and Merinda Dutton. Follow them on Instagram at @blackfulla_bookclub