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Maria Takolander

While the terms ‘romance’ and ‘novel’ are entangled at their origins, romance novels have been traditionally disparaged as formulaic and frivolous, feminine and anti-feminist. Nevertheless, romance is the most popular genre in the world. Harlequin reportedly sells two books every second. In recent times, scholars have given the genre serious attention.

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The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, one of the world’s leading prizes for short fiction, is now open and closes on April 24, with total prize money of $12,500. In this week’s ABR Podcast, we feature Maria Takolander’s story ‘A Roānkin Philosophy of Poetry’, which won ABR’s short story competition in 2010, the year before it was renamed the Jolley Prize. It is one of the best-read features on ABR’s website, which hosts content going back to 1978. ‘A Roānkin Philosophy of Poetry’ is an artful take on academic intrigue and absurdism. Maria Takolander’s story appeared in the December 2010–January 2011 issue of ABR. Listen to Maria Takolander reading her story thirteen years later.

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Trauma is often said to be unspeakable. There are various reasons for this. Pain and shame are silencing, as are implicit forms of censorship (of the kind scorning trauma literature, for instance) and explicit injunctions against speaking (from perpetrators, enablers, or the law). But it is also the case that trauma doesn’t inhere in language. Trauma lives in the limbic system, which is that of the fight, flight, or freeze response, and which is necessarily more immediate than language processing. After all, when your life is under threat, it’s not words you need, but action.

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In Ghostly Subjects, her first book-length collection, Maria Takolander brings a sharp, wide-ranging voice to various themes of haunting. What, after all, does it mean for a subject to be ghostly? Takolander reveals a fasci-nation with the ways that surfaces of many kinds might be disrupted within the poetic text – for example, the ways in which the present can be interrupted by the pressures of the past, or an external geography of landscape by the private desires of the heart, or the stage of global events by the graspable scale of the local. And as these boundaries blur and suffuse, Takolander’s poetry suggests that the subject is not only the world under the scrutiny of the poet’s eye, but also the subjectivities of poet and reader, both drawn into these shifting spheres of light, shadow, and surprise.

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Umberto Eco once described the text as a ‘lazy machine asking the reader to do some of its work’; to contribute, in other words, to the production of meaning. Poetry has a particular reputation for being demanding, but Tracy Ryan’s tenth poetry collection, Rose Interior, isn’t challenging in the way that Eco envisages. It is less about engaging readers in the masculinist energy of the ‘machine’ and ‘work’ than about inviting them into a feminine world of domestic spaces and quotidian phenomena ...

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Maria Takolander’s fourth book of poetry, Trigger Warning (University of Queensland Press, $24.99 pb, 100 pp), is a sharp and arresting collection, fierce in its emotions and determination to make language do the hard work of speaking that which hovers at the edge of articulation. This is a poetics that traces everywhere the lurking presence of the disruptive – in domestic life, in global crises, even in our most intimate experiences. Takolander’s courageous poetry becomes both a landscape in which to inscribe what is unbearable and a sphere in which it might be, at least partially, managed.

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Our final 'Poem of the Week' for 2015 is 'Déjà vu' by Maria Takolander. ABR's Poetry Editor, Lisa Gorton, introduces Maria who discusses and reads her poem. ... (read more)

Iphigenia among the Taurians by Euripides (translated by Anne Carson)

May 2015, no. 371

Creativity is always an exercise in recycling. Vision comes from revision. In the ancient world, such wisdom was institutionalised; the task of the poet was to powerfully exploit a cultural storehouse of existing plots. Thus the early Greek playwrights reworked the same complex of myths. However, stories are inexhaustible, something that Scheherazade, in another anc ...

In the spirit of our annual ‘Books of the Year’ feature, in which we ask a range of writers and critics to nominate their favourite new fiction and non-fiction titles, we asked ten Australian short story writers to nominate their favourite short story collections and individual stories. As this is the first time we have run a short-story themed feature of this nature, our ten writers were free to nominate older titles if they wished to do so. Our only request was that at least one of their selections should have been published recently and that at least one be by an Australian author.

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