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 hand-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!

10 Sensational Slam Poetry Performances that are Worth Your Time

10 Sensational Slam Poetry Performances that are Worth Your Time

Let me just say that deciding on just 10 poems to showcase was quite difficult because there are so many talented artists. However, this is by no means the best performances but poems that really stood out for me and are easily accessible. I selected these slam poems especially because they cover a diverse range of topics and I believe will change your opinion if you’re reluctant about poetry.

I will also provide a short analysis of each poem.

(Please note I have also excluded including earlier slam poets and I will do that in another post shortly.)

So, in no particular order, let’s begin!

1. Blythe Baird – “Pocket-Sized Feminism”

“I am ashamed of keeping my feminism in my pocket until it is convenient not to, like at poetry slams or woman studies classes. There are days I want people to like me more than I want to change the world.”

 

Baird explains the “guilt” she feels when despite being a feminist, only voices her opinion when it is a “convenience” rather than at crucial times when it is detrimental to herself and others.  For example, she mentions that she remained silent when a man “shoved his hand up [her] skirt” on an escalator because everyone around her was quiet. Baird highlights the reality of feminism through her use of irony when her father tells her “sexism is dead” but reminds her to “always carry pepper spray.” She also uses irony in her final lines to emphasise this point as daughters are told “to be careful” and “safe” whilst sons are told to “go out and play.”

2. Olivia Gatwood – “Ode to the Women on Long Island”

“And last week when a girl was murdered jogging in Queens, the women on Long Island were unstartled and furious. They did not call to warn their daughters, they called their sons, sat them at the kitchen table and said “if you ever, I mean ever so much as make a woman feel unconformable, I will take you to the deli and put your hand in the meat slicer. You think I won’t? You hear me. I will make a hero out of you with mayonnaise, tomatoes, dill and onion.”

 

Gatwood salutes the women of Long Island as the title implies and illustrates the strength these women hold. She performs this poem with ease, switching from the narrator (being herself) into different characters (being the different women of Long Island). I must say, I have never been to Long Island, but the ease with which she switches accents is so authentic. Through her use of characterisation, Gatwood explains that these women despite their tendency to “hack” and “curse” are wise and comforting as they reassure young females that there is no pressure on them to be in relationships. She also expresses that these women hold all their family members accountable for any incident, as a girl who was “murdered jogging in Queens” doesn’t provoke them to warn their daughters but instead their sons who have their “husband’s hands and blood.”

3. Nkosi Nkululeko – “Not Finished Yet”

“What’s a poem if it doesn’t dismantle or split, burn or crack. So there’s gonna be a couple of heads here, limbs, Trayvon of course will be here in metaphor form.”

 

At first I was confused by this poem as I didn’t quite understand Nkululeko’s approach. However, after watching it a couple times I finally understood it and was in awe of his approach in presenting this performance. From my understanding, Nkululeko’s inability to “start [his] poem” reflects the injustice black youth face as boys like Trayvon and Mike Brown are unable to live their lives in peace. He also uses this technique of continually starting his poem to reflect how America dismisses the issue of unjust police brutality on black people as the “printer keeps on whiting out the black” and how he as a black writer is inclined to “compose a dead thing out of his mouth.” I particularly admired the confronting simile he uses explaining that he is filled with “so many eulogies” like a “Russian doll of the dead.”

4. Jared Singer – “Just Take a Shower” 

I think this poem speaks for itself. An intense subject that is superbly said. (This poem does deal with an extremely sensitive topic, so please take necessary precaution. I would recommend watching this one in a place where you feel comfortable).

 

5. Jared Paul – “When I say that I Came Up Poor”

“When I say that I came up poor, what some folks derisively call hood, somebody else calls home.”

 

Paul uses a great deal of visual imagery to explain that despite coming up poor, the “hood” will always be his “home.” He illustrates the sense of community the neighbourhood upholds as “they don’t have any concept of what it means to be lonely.” He further emphasises this point, as neighbours are treated “as family” despite being from “three different groups of friends.”

6. Sarah Kay – “Table Games”

 

Heartbreak presented to you like sweet and salty chips. It will have you laughing and crying.

Side note: Sarah Kay was one of the first slam poets my teacher introduced to us and the first time I learnt about slam poetry.

7. Muna Abdulahi – “Explaining Depression to a Refugee”

“Depression is a white man’s privilege, we don’t have the privilege to have that much time to ourselves.”

 

Such an important message especially after the recent World Mental Health day and for families who are from a different cultural background who don’t really understand mental health. Abdulahi expresses the confusion her mother, a former Somalian refugee, displays as she is unable to fathom her daughter being diagnosed with depression. She explains the stigmatisation the Somali culture places on mental health as her “native tongue doesn’t speak of it to its existence.” The line that resonated with me the most is how Abdulahi highlights the detrimental impact her depression has on her mother as it is a “fight that she cannot protect [her] from.”

8. Franny Choi – “To the Man who Shouted ‘I like Pork-Fried Rice’ at me on the Street”

“You want to eat me, right out of these jeans and into something a little cheaper, more digestible, more bite-sized, more cooked, you want me lunch special.”

 

Choi emphasises the stereotypical nature of how Asian women are exoticized “brimming with foreign.” She describes how the man fantasizes about her as he wants to “eat [her] out” as she is “red-light district stuck in [his] teeth.” However, Choi cleverly switches up his traditional fantasy in the end by gaining her revenge as after the ordeal he is left “squirming alive” as she is “strangling [him] quiet from the inside out.” Personally, these last lines left me conflicted with shock but somewhat satisfied as the man is left debilitated, but I guess he got what he deserved.

This poem is from Choi’s debut book Floating Brilliant Gone, if you’re interested you can check out my review on her book here.

9. Rudy Francisco – “Complainers”

“When it feels like God is just a babysitter that’s always on the phone, when you get punched in the oesophagus by a fistful of life, remember that every year two million people die of dehydration so it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty, there’s water in the cup. Drink it, and stop complaining.”

 

Such a good reminder to us all. That’s all I’ll say for this one.

Side note: Okay, the fact that he was on Jimmy Fallon makes me so happy and proud.

10. Guante – “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’”

“Man up? Oh that’s that new superhero, right? Mild-mannered supplement salesman Mark Manstrong says the magic words “MAN UP,” and then transforms into THE FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW, the massively-muscled, deep-voiced, leather-duster-wearing super-man who defends the world from, I don’t know, feelings.”

 

Guante deconstructs and reiterates the idea of what it means to be a ‘man.’ He explains that society expects men to be “massively muscled” and “deep voiced”, however those who do not fit these ideals are often isolated. He cleverly uses personification to describe that these men “cannot arm wrestle [their] way out of chemical depression” and the male community must acknowledge that these men are more than just “background characters” before it’s too late.

If you liked this post or have any other suggestions of poems I should check out please let me know! I would love to hear from you!

Floating Brilliant Gone by Franny Choi REVIEW

Floating Brilliant Gone by Franny Choi REVIEW

A Korean-American woman with flair, creativity and an extreme knack for writing. Today’s review is on her debut 2014 book “Floating Brilliant Gone.”

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(And yes I know this review is quite late, but I only started to appreciate and properly discover poetry in 2016).

Anyways, I have selected 6 poems from her book that I really enjoyed and provided my own analysis of them. So let’s get into it!

The Well

Choi illustrates in her poem ­The Well, the immensity of loss from a detached third person perspective. She uses the metaphor of a well to describe how suffocating her life without her lover has become as it is now a “distant moon, a past life.” She highlights the dreariness of her loss as she has succumbed to the intoxicating and numbing effects of alcohol as she is no longer Franny Choi but “Dark-Drinker.” Choi ends this poem by personifying the night as an escape from her current life as she is “all open mouth asking for the night.” However, the night asks her to stay and “she stays.” These last lines stood out for me as it suggests that the night could be Choi’s inner-most thoughts and despite the temptation to leave this life behind and reconnect with her lover, she must resist and understand her present life and how her departure would impact those around her.

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The Well Pt 2

 

Halloween, 2009

Simple, shocking and confronting. Choi doesn’t make use of fancy figurative language in this poem to describe her disbelief on hearing of her boyfriend’s passing, calling his mother “a liar” when she told her of the ordeal. She depicts that despite her conscious mind being unable to digest this horrific news, her subconscious resumes life in mourning as she “put up [her] hair and changed: black shirt, black pants” for a reading of her play. Choi emphasises her disbelief through irony as people say she “looked like a writer” dressed in black without understanding her subconscious motives of her colour choice.

The use of enjambment in the first two couplets also replicates how she can’t comprehend the situation and wants to runaway from it. However, the couplets thereafter become more punctuated suggesting that she must come to terms with this bitter reality.

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Pussy Monster

Hilarious, creative and thought-provoking. At first, I didn’t quite understand this poem but once I read and viewed it a couple times it will hit you. Choi reinvents Weezy F Baby’s song “Pussy Monster” from Tha Carter III (which also has one of my favourite songs by him “Mr Carter” check it out haha) by rearranging the lyrics to the song in order of frequency. By using semantic saturation and satire especially of the word “pussy” which is said an unsurprisingly 40 times, Choi highlights the sexism evident in society especially in the music industry.

You can watch her performing this poem (which I highly recommend) here.

To the Man who Shouted “I like Pork Fried Rice” at me on the Street

This is one of my favourites from Floating Brilliant Gone. Choi emphasises the stereotypical nature of how Asian women are exoticized “brimming with foreign.” She describes how the man fantasises about her as he wants to “eat [her] out” as she is “red-light district stuck in [his] teeth.” However, Choi cleverly switches up his traditional fantasy in the end by gaining her revenge as after the ordeal he is left “squirming alive” as she is “strangling [him] quiet from the inside out.” Personally, these last lines left me conflicted with shock but somewhat satisfied as the man is left debilitated, but I guess he got what he deserved.

You can watch her performing this poem here.

Drive to Quinebaug Valley

An uplifting poem and a reminder to be present. I really enjoyed this piece as Choi reminds us of the simple yet delightful pleasures of driving with our loved ones as “blessed are the insides of wrists that wriggle into conversation.” She describes the drive as a “chrysalis in the cushions” depicting the state of comfort and peace she finds within her friends. However, the last lines really stand out as reminder to us that despite the circumstances we must continue the “ever-rhythm of live, live, live.”

Heaven is a Fairy Tale (& Vice Versa)

Coherent, simple and only a sentence long. Choi highlights to us the cold truth that at times “we are all dutifully practising our deaths” and that both heaven and death are just fairy tales.

 

If you liked the review and would like to purchase the book, you can do so here.