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Mike Ladd

The title of Omar Sakr’s latest collection references the Covid pandemic and comes from his prose poem ‘Diary of a Non-Essential Worker’. It also reminded me of Plato’s banning of the poets from his ideal republic, and Auden’s line that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’. Throughout Non-Essential Work, Sakr explores the limits of poetry and its function in society, questioning the value of his own art, letting us in on his doubts. In the poem ‘Your People Your Problem’, he asks: ‘What is a song worth singing here? / The silenced are listening.’ Despite these doubts, or perhaps because of them, he has achieved a powerful collection of lyric poetry, simultaneously political and intimate.

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Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

December 2016, no. 387

Ellen van Neerven, Joel Deane, and Mike Ladd present poems about journeys, recovery, and healing, from comfort food to the experience of a stroke, within overlapping landscapes as palimpsests for their respective pathways.

Reciprocity through feeding runs through Ellen van Neerven’s first collection (Comfort Food, University of Queensland Press, $ ...

1953 by Geoff Page

March 2013, no. 349

Geoff Page’s 1953 is set in the town of Eurandangee, which, we learn, is about 650 kilometres north-west of Sydney ...

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Available Light by Graeme Kinross-Smith

February 2013, no. 348

Facing the first poem in Graeme Kinross-Smith’s new book Available Light is a quote from Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead (2002): ‘The mere act of writing splits the self in two.’ When you write, not only are you a writer, but you are your own first and very present reader. Suddenly, all alone at your desk, you have company. The first section of Kinross-Smith’s book focuses not so much on the act of writing as on the split self. In poems such as ‘In my wheat-bag hood’, ‘Commas’, ‘if I be not I …’ he observes possible past selves and his future. ‘Commas’ uses the metaphor of a man skimming stones across a pool:

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'Tide: My Father’s Dementia', a new poem by Mike Ladd. ... (read more)

Asymmetry by Aidan Coleman

September 2012, no. 344

In July 2007, at the age of thirty-one, Aidan Coleman suffered a stroke as a result of a brain tumour. Asymmetry is a book in two parts. The first details the poet’s survival after this near-death experience, his struggle to regain full use of his body and to speak and write again. The second part is a group of love poems for his wife, Leana ...

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In his poem ‘Reunion’, Mike Ladd takes us back to his old school in Adelaide. Three stanzas recapitulate the journey before another four talk us through the fate of the poet’s former schoolmates. Some of these outcomes are predictably neat: ‘How the wild girl became a matron, / and the prim one, a single mum, at seventeen.’ The ‘cop’s son’ ‘was shot dead in Afghanistan, / a mercenary, picked off by sniper fire’, while ‘the thin and gormless one / made a fortune dealing stocks’.

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