Just Your Everyday Apocalypse by Amelia Walker REVIEW

Just Your Everyday Apocalypse by Amelia Walker REVIEW

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Okay, I must admit, this is probably the first contemporary Australian poetry book that I have properly read in a while. And yes I thoroughly enjoyed it and I must thank Amelia for giving me a copy. As always, I have selected 8 poems (which are in no particular order) from Just Your Everyday Apocalypse and provided my own interpretation/analysis for each of them.

1. In Translation

In Translation gd

In Translation is packed with metaphors and tells the story of handy-me-downs and thrifted clothing. Walker describes how despite numerous washes, the “fabric” is “flavoured” with “moments that are not [hers]” but of previous owners of the clothing. I really admire her use of alliteration when explaining that thrifted clothing is “a million mixed meanings” open to “minefields of misinterpretation.” It really makes you think about the previous owners of thrifted clothing, what they went through whilst wearing those clothes and the experiences they had. How rips or stains came to be? The mismatching of colours and the intricate stitch work? What era the clothing was from?

2. Beautiful

Beautiful

Short, simple and sweet. Dedicated to all the mothers out there with odd quirks and carefree attitudes. They might have a “crooked smile” and “varicose veins” but they are still “beautiful” nonetheless.

3. Walls

Walls

A poem that highlights some of the atrocities faced by female detainees, mainly focusing on the story of Cornelia Rau. Walker illustrates the horrid conditions these female detainees undergo as they are trapped in “windowless” rooms and must “sh*t” for an “audience of male guards.” She also describes the debilitating impact, life in a detention centre can have on an individual as after leaving and now “safe”, the former detainee is still unable to “let go of the teddy bear she clutched all those dark months.”  Walls ends in a startling fashion as Walker describes that even though the woman has left the detention centre, she is unable to escape the “walls” of society as they have “none.”

4. Reunion

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A direct and brutally honest overview of different life pathways our friends, family and strangers have taken. Pretty self-explanatory.

5. City, Lover, Self

City Lover Self

I believe we can all relate to City, Lover, Self regardless of whether you live in Australia or not because we all have places that are like home to us. Walker demonstrates the connection she has with Adelaide, through her use of personification, as she describes she is “intimate” with the “rhythm” of Adelaide’s “soft tissue organs” and “strange scarred body.” By using figurative language, she depicts how each instant details a specific memory of “things that have been or could have been” as “every shop glass shines with the ghost of some moment.”

6. Submerging

Submerging

A point that’s inevitable and you’ll face sooner or later unless you’re extremely lucky. Submerging, as the name suggests, describes the feeling of losing your sense of self. In Walker’s experience, it happened to her “slowly” as she was already “neck deep before [she] realised.” She uses metaphors to describe the symptoms of losing one’s self as she begins “rejecting sun and air” and finds it “hard to breathe” as “glass” is “encasing [her] head.” The line that resonates with me the most is how Walker emphasises how people “who were close” to her feel as if they’re “a million miles away” as she struggles to “follow conversations.” However, the last stanza is somewhat comforting as she is consoled by Circe, the Greek goddess of magic, who now “holds her hand” as her harsh exterior starts to melt away.

7. Astrocytoma

Astrocytoma

Poignant and beautifully written. Walker details the experience of a loved one discovering they have astrocytoma (cancer of the brain) and how despite the crippling nature of the disease they still manage to stay “composed” as “science slice [their] skull into squished butterfly segments.” Here, Walker uses alliteration to explicitly portray the life of this cancer-ridden individual. I also particularly love her use of a Stephen Hawking quote.

“If you jump into a black hole, your mass energy will be returned to our universe, but in a mangled form which contains the information about what you were like but in an unrecognisable state.” (Stephen Hawking, 2004)

I believe this quote serves as a reminder to us all that regardless of the immensity of our problems/issues, they will always be insignificant and eventually be forgotten and “unrecognisable.”

The last lines of Astrocytoma despite being quite grim are also somewhat consoling as we find out that this diseased individual is relieved of their suffering as their “six year migraine” is finally “over.”

8. Tequila

Tequila Pt 1

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I just love how cleverly put together this poem is. Walker organises it into three parts and as you guessed it, it starts off with Part One: SALT, then Part Two: TEQUILA and lastly Part Three: LEMON.

Part One: SALT describes the various uses of salt and allows us to contemplate the nature of salt as it is used to “sanctify” in Japanese Shinto culture but also deemed “unhealthy” and “indulgent” in Western culture.

The last lines lead nicely into Part Two: Tequila as salt “addiction” causes “thirst.”

I feel Part Two: Tequila describes the intoxicating and blinding effects of alcohol but also, its power to provide us with temporary ecstasy. Walker’s decision to provide a short story of the discovery of Tequila really enhances this poem.

Part Three: LEMON delves into a fond memory of Walker “picking lemons” with her grandmother as a young child. She describes through her use of personification that her closest feeling of being drunk at that age is when she swims in “scents of citrus and cinnamon.”

I particularly love the last stanza which I feel is pretty self-explanatory.

 

If you liked this review, I would love to hear from you.

Also, if you’re interested in purchasing Just Your Everyday Apocalypse you can do so by emailing poetryisdangerous@gmail.com , FYI it’s only $10 a copy!

 

Local Focus w/ Amelia Walker [INTERVIEW]

Local Focus w/ Amelia Walker [INTERVIEW]

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing South Australia’s very own poet, teacher and creative, Amelia Walker.

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Photograph by Martin Christmas for Spoken Word South Australia

So before we begin, for those of you unaware of Amelia’s success in the creative arts, let’s get to it!

She has performed at various festivals including the Transeuropa/ Arts 4 Human Rights festival in London and the World Poetry Festival in Kolkata.

Not only that, but she also completed her PhD in 2016 about the value of creative writing in contemporary higher education and research at the University of South Australia.

Amelia is also the author of three poetry collections, and three poetry teaching books in Macmillan’s ‘All You Need to Teach’ series.

She was also the 2015 Winner of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs Postgraduate Conference Paper Prize in the creative paper and critical paper fields.

You can listen to a brief snapshot of Amelia’s interview below.

[ME] What first sparked your interest in writing poetry?

[AMELIA] I was 14 years old and I actually hadn’t really gotten into poetry at all because growing up in school the kind of poetry I’d been exposed to was rhyming, it was about flowers, we were kinda forced to write it. I didn’t think it was my thing. But then my sister and I together actually discovered on our parent’s bookshelf, a book of poems that was an anthology by the Beat generation and it was completely different to anything we had seen before. These poems were kind of rude, political, they were written in a style that was like your friend talking to you over a cup of coffee, it wasn’t this high, fancy language. So, they were raw poems that spoke to me and made me think wow I want to read more poetry and eventually I want to do this too. I could write this.

[ME] So could you please explain the meaning behind your poems “Ten by Ten” and “Cyber Tourist”? What thoughts were going through your mind when you were writing these?

[AMELIA] Both of those were written when I was down in Port Pirie, so this was almost ten years ago now and I was down there for an Artists in Regional Schools project run by Carclew Youth Arts Centre and the South Australian Youth Arts Board.

Port Pirie is an old town with a big lead smelter and there’s been a lot of stuff in the press about the effects of that on people’s health. There was a campaign to get the lead levels in people’s blood down to 10 micrograms per decilitre by the year 2010 and that actually failed in this campaign, so the poem is a reflection on that and a reflection on what mining and so forth has done to that town and done to a lot of people around Australia.

Now “Cyber Tourist” is not about Pirie but about Broken Hill. And that’s about anticipating a visit to Broken Hill for their annual poetry festival. And in that I was just looking on Google Maps at this place I was going to and had never been to before and it’s really interesting because all the streets in Broken Hill are named after different minerals that you can mine. So I was thinking about how the map of the city and how we name places tells a story but also at that time, it was also a sad story because if you go to Broken Hill, you see the memorial to the people who died in mining and you also see the ongoing effects on peoples lives. Around that time I was writing this poem, there was a huge lay off of people who were working in the mines and a lot of upsets in the town and a lot of struggle.

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Photograph by Michael Reynolds.

[ME] So what power do you believe poetry possesses?

[AMELIA] I believe it possesses all kinds of powers, good and evil. My email address is poetryisdangerous which people always think that’s a strange thing for a poet to say but I believe poetry is woven through every part of our lives. Poetry is not just that stuff we read in books or read at slam events and open mics, poetry is in advertising and on TV and sometimes that poetry is very, very dangerous because language is incredibly coercive, and language is the material in which we think. So I actually believe that by writing poetry, we become aware of the techniques that are used in advertising and propaganda: we can pull apart their mechanisms and become aware of how they try to get us thinking in particular ways. That means we can resist.

[ME] Do you feel a certain way when performing your poetry? Do you feel liberated when you perform?

[AMELIA] Yeah absolutely! It’s scary because often you are talking about very vulnerable things and particularly just standing up and public speaking on its own without it necessarily being personal on any level is known as one of those great phobias that people have. But I guess it is also like an extreme sport or jumping out of a plane, you get that adrenalin rush and sometimes really good things come up through it. And I’ve been on both sides of that.  You know standing in the crowd, hearing someone read a poem and think wow that’s an experience I’ve also had and I’ve been scared to talk about and you’ve been brave enough to speak about. And then I’ve had people say that to me as well after performing.

[ME] How do you believe poetry has helped positively influence those who have experienced personal trauma and mental health issues?

[AMELIA] Well I guess I said before about how it can start conversations and make people aware that they’re not alone and things. So, I think the forming of communities through poetry is a really strong thing. And you know there’s a lot of theories about bibliotherapy and various techniques that psychologists use and writing for people to deal with their mental health.

I also know there is a flip side to that. I also know that writing can actually bring up a lot of difficult emotional stuff. If you don’t necessarily put adequate support and self-care in there, it can take you into places that are quite raw and dangerous without necessarily giving you an out. I want to say it’s both of those things. It can be really healing and amazing and form communities, but it can also be quite terrifying. You can’t just rely on poetry, you do need social support and you do need to have counselling or whatever works for you.

And if you are planning to write on something that could trigger you or you’re planning to read an event that could trigger others, think about where you are going to be after this? Am I going to be safe? If I’m reading this out I’ll give a trigger warning and adequate time for anyone in the room who doesn’t want to hear this material to exit.

[ME] Who are some of your personal favourite poets?

[AMELIA] So many. One of the first poets who really kinda grabbed me was Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he was one of the Beat generation. And other poets in the Beat generation also really grabbed me. I’ll make a special mention of Diane Di Prima and Denise Levertov because they are two female Beat poets who perhaps don’t get as much recognition as some of the male ones.

Another poet who inspired me a lot as I moved into my late teens and early twenties and I was dealing with body image issues as a lot of women do, is Grace Nichols who wrote this amazing collection called the “The Fat Black Woman’s Poems” and it’s all in the voice of this character who speaks back against ideals and norms of beauty and it was very raw about what a woman can look like and can be anything.

One other poet I’ll mention, who is not normally called a poet, is Janet Frame, a New Zealand author, who is best known for her novels but she also wrote amazing poetry.

[ME] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[AMELIA] A little disclaimer, advertising possibly, Adelaide has an amazing poetry scene and we have an amazing little Facebook page called the Adelaide Poetry Gig Guide, so, anybody who is looking to get into poetry and come to events pop on that Adelaide Poetry Gig Guide, there are gigs every week and there are amazing people, its supportive, friendly and you know, come join us!

If you liked this interview or have any feedback for me, I would love to hear from you!