Samuel Wagan Watson
Love Poems and Death Threats
UQP RRP $24.95
This honest and personal collection of poetry from award winning Indigenous poet Samuel Wagan Watson marks his fifth poetry collection, and secures his position as a poet of international note (…just in case that wasn’t a title he already enjoyed).
Watson moves deftly from interfamily, inter-Aboriginal recollections and stories to weaving a thread through the many historical legacies affecting the Indigenous standing and outlook. He is not afraid to portray love interests and occurrences in a solid, yet simple form, and they come alongside traditional myths and stories. His pieces are created with an accessible structure and language, yet with intelligence that reveals a mastery of subject and art without losing a sense of reality and time. Importantly Samuel Wagan Watson delivers his work with a touching grin.
From Bird-Song Of Imminent Death
Death songs off the Logan Road night;
and on the news, Blackhawks falling over Afghanistan.
Muk-Muk; the death-bird, aptly named by my elders,
because Muk-Muk only appears to those
who will soon be grieving.
Loosely moving from the formal to the informal Watson’s effective language is critical in a context of Australian poetry, but especially Indigenous poetry and voice. What I mean by this is Watson’s poems and pieces are a homage to ancestry, yet are crafted to touch and resonate with the reader, to bring the reader along; not only to take joy within the inspirational and uplifting story of Indigenous survival, but also to commemorate and agitate for horrible truths we must face in order to progress the status quo of our forgetful and brutal mainstream culture. Compared with many Australian peer-poets, both emerging and established, who write from an earnest bubble that entails staircases of inaccessible language and self-important “free writing” Watson’s work is ever-refreshing.
From Road Fire
A mature red-belly black serpent
animates the bitumen before us.
A good 1.5 metres in body scarlet belly, massaging path,
lighting the road.
The mythology of Australia has bedrock owned by Indigenous story and symbol, and here Watson adds a fresh, vital chapter with restrained layers of colour and detail. The great strength of this work however is a developed sense of confidence and self. This foundation is rare amongst Australian poets in my view, and allows Watson to write what he wants to write, without a worry for the market, or the expectations of others. He writes for himself, his family, his people and anyone who wants to read. It is clear Watson revels in what he does, and is proud of what he writes, and this seemingly most simple of traits, is a constant throughout this collection.
Love Poems and Death Threats is available online through UQP here http://uqp.uq.edu.au/ , or bookstores that support Australian and Indigenous stories and poetry.
Neil Boyack is a writer, musician and director of the Newstead Short Story Tattoo, his latest booklets “Million Deaths” and “Unimagine” complete with illustrations by Lucy Roleff are available via this site at the “sjop” page and through Neil Boyack’s site www.neil.boyack.com . Like the NSST Facebook page if you wish to see regular reviews of new and unique Australian poetry and stories.
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