#Poetry Alison Whittaker “Blakwork”
- Author: Alison Whittaker
- Title: Blakwork
- Published: 2018
- Publisher: @MagabalaBooks
- Trivia: 2019 shortlist Victorian Premier’s Award Indigenous Writing
- Trivia: 2019 winner Mascara Lit Review Avant-garde Award for literature
- Trivia: 2019 shortlist ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly plan
- Trivia: Review: poem Blakwork (pg 3) (title poem)
- This book consists of 15 chapters and 94 poems.
- I still am trying to learn how to read a poem.
- I am going to read a poem …then really try to figure
- …out what the message is…or what do I see in the poem.
- More of my reviews about these poems
- …will appear during the summer..in drips and drabs.
- These poems will take time to read.
- The author has put so much thought into her words
- …I don’t want to rush my reading
- Poetry does not need a story…that is not its function.
- That is why poems sometimes make people cringe!
- The reader speaks English, the poem is in English
- and still the reader (me) has no idea what it means.
- This will be my biggest poetry reading challenge.
- Just look at the way the poems sit on the page!
- I glanced through the book and see images, emojis,
- poems with unique shapes, punctuation and lists.
- I am not going to review them in lofty poetic terms
- …but just by asking myself some basic questions.
- What is the shape of the poem? Who is speaking?
- What images does the poet use? Allusions?
- How do they make me feel? Stumped or enlightened?
- I’m even going to read the poems to the cat
- …I need to hear the sound!
- Poems tells us the history of the human heart.
- All poets are struggling with the different things:
- loneliness, racism, gender roles, sexuality
- colonialism, family, class, history,
- …violence, culture, pleasure, joy.
- I’m eager to learn what Alison Whittaker….
- …is struggling with.
Poem: Cotton On (pg 15)
let’s compare hands s t r e t c h
tendons wrists across o c e a n s
here: a common wound.
- My FIRST reading: 12 words placed on the page leaving a 10×10 cm blank center page. words describe hands ready for planting and harvesting. The key word is ‘oceans‘ referring to the overseas labor force that is used in this industry. The blank page could indicate a field that is planted with cotton seeds. Title: Cotton On is perhaps a reference to seeds…starting.
- I then contacted the poet via Twitter:
- “I’m just starting to read poetry and I admit I don’t understand it after a first reading…so I re-read alot. Reading: Cotton on (pg 15) in Blakwork. May I ask…why the big open space in the poem? What am I missing! Thank you for your time #justasking”
- Reply from Alison Whittaker:
- “I try to not be too prescriptive with the poetry, but in Cotton on, the spaces denote the physical space across the pacific between communities wounded by cotton, and the act of stretching out to touch. it’s whatever you make of it!”
- My SECOND reading: Then I put my thinking cap on.
- Who was wounded by cotton?
- USA the slaves on the plantations.
- AUS the aboriginals who see their sacred rivers drying up.
- The aboriginals say: “If there’s no river, where’s our culture?”
- The landholders (cotton farms) are pumping all the water out
- for irragation and water management.
- Now I see the connection in the poem.
- The slaves and aboriginals are stretching their hands
- across the Pacific Ocean.
- Both wounded by cotton.
- “The last line “here: a common wound.
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