“a 21st century Eve” – review by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Home Is Where the Heartache Is (Small Change Press, 2007)
home{sic} (Another Lost Shark Publications, 2012)
by Julie Beveridge

Reviewed by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

For a limited time, all purchases of home{sic} from the Another Lost Shark Store will be shipped with a complimentary copy of Home is Where the Heartache is.


Stars are arguably best left to outer space, but if ten of them fell out of the sky, I would grab nine and a half of them to jointly rate Julie Beveridge’s first two books, Home Is Where the Heartache Is, and home{sic}.  I do it this way because Beveridge’s books are best considered together, as an oeuvre.  Taken in this way, their similarities, and their differences, both in terms of form, and of subject matter, identify her as a voice that is worth listening to, and following for the future.

I will first consider Home Is Where the Heartache Is, then home{sic}, then make some comments about the two taken together.

Home Is Where the Heartache Is is, yes, a dark, at times surreally nightmarish collection of haibun in ways that remind us of those Hieronymus Bosch canvasses:

This house was a steal.  The woman who owned it before me stabbed her
defacto to death and skinned him in the living room.

“Playing the Market”

Yes, Beveridge is, already, laughing: it’s confirmed as the poem continues:

… I remember watching it
on the news and thinking what a shame, that house has so much potential.

In the last poem in this collection, “Solitude: the end and the beginning” Beveridge makes overt what has been implicit all along: her at times oh so wry, dark humour:

sometimes I laugh despite myself,
from a place not so deep within me

Yet there is much more to this book than its humour, appealing though that is.  Beveridge is a 21st century woman, aware that in Australian society of this century there is violence, and you don’t have to scratch too deep to find it.  She acknowledges the truth that most of the victims aren’t male defactos skinned in living rooms, no, they are women, and so often there’s a sexual basis for that violence.  In the title poem, “Home is where the Heartache is:”

She is worth an exploded eye socket and nine dissolvable stitches.

Yes, it is easy to dispassionately admire the vivid description – the woman is there photographically caught before us in all her battered woundedness – but Beveridge challenges us to go deep into the sexual politics, ask ourselves “why.”

There are cigarettes, wine, joints and more to be found within these pages, but it is almost as if they are the props, the enablers, not the underlying reasons for the events depicted.  What are those reasons?  Beveridge sketches, alludes, never falls into didacticism, always prompts us to think.  And always – I return to this – with sharp, questioning humour.  In “Cold Hands Touch My Face,” which recounts an abduction by car by a man wearing mirrored sunglasses:

behind the shades
a murder
of crows feet

Violence, including rape and murder, happens in our society right now.  Beveridge is unflinching in her exploration of it.  Her take is a feminist one, but one that, as a man, I feel included in: the problem is mine as well as hers.  This book is thought-provoking, and in being so, is deeply satisfying.

home{sic} is a book of journeys: we are taken to a number of places on the planet, to both Australian locations and North American ones.  Beveridge’s perceptive powers of observation are acute:

whether I climb or fall
nothing is as patient as these cliffs

“van diemen’s land”

your men hold their cameras like cocks

“song for san francisco”

These are travelogues with hard, sometimes jagged edges.  Yet these edges are leavened with a wisdom that resonates with deep psychological truths:

the longer
you spend
with yourself
the less
alone you
will feel

“a handful of consistencies”

This is part admonition, part acceptance.  Beveridge knows aloneness, and shares her introspective insights on it, but she also knows what it is like to intimately be with another, in all its aspects, from small talk in an airport departure lounge to being:

a factory for future men

“meat and bread”

as she so drily terms being pregnant with her son.  So it is that her intimacies, shared with us, become ours too; we are happy for her, and with her, that she has the peppered roast pork sandwich; her pregnancy cravings,

with 18 weeks before it all truly
ignites

“canada day”

are ours to experience with her.  It is almost as if Beveridge, as home{sic} reaches its climax on the other side of the Pacific, is inviting us to be, if not defacto God parents for her as a 21st century Eve, then, in a secular sense, partakers of her future journeys with her to-be-born son.  This is an invitation proffered with rich humanity, and a powerful, overarching sense of the joy of life.

It is instructive, I feel, to consider Home Is Where the Heart Is and home{sic} together, and as the first two instalments in an oeuvre which surely will continue to unfold over the years ahead.

From the artful haibun of Home Is Where the Heart Is, home{sic} sees Beveridge further exercising her technical virtuosity; in it she uses a number of different forms, from poems in couplets to prose poems.  Often her forms in home{sic} are unpunctuated, the earlier volume’s prose passages are generally traditionally punctuated, but what both books share is a use of ambiguity, often for ironic, and humorous, purposes.

Upon a first three or four readings of each volume, I leant slightly towards preferring Home Is Where the Heart Is, but by the time I had read each volume half a dozen times, the similarities, above and beyond even the ambiguities, below the surface differences in form, were becoming increasingly apparent.

The first book, eschewing all the implicit sexual politics of violence it contains, is in a sense about aloneness, and the struggle to make sense of a too often contrary world.  In home{sic} by contrast, the poet’s persona is with another, yet, on a deeper level, the world is equally vividly strange.

The first volume is overtly about interior worlds.  Beveridge’s second book, upon reflection, under the at times sensuously written travelogues, is also.  Whether it be that meat and bread sandwich, or

mozzarella dripping from my tongue

“song for san francisco”

we taste as well the graphic psychological truth that

homesickness is not a metaphor

“a handful of consistencies”

and it tastes piquant, awkward – it cannot be easily pigeonholed – and ultimately undeniably real.

It is reality in the truest sense that these two books jointly explore.  There are many strange things that comprise our world, too many to easily make sense of.  Beveridge’s poetry becomes her torch; shining light on some of that strangeness, and her light oft-times makes the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.  In so doing, she challenges us to look into the very heart of strangeness.  And if we do that, perhaps, if we are honest enough to accept her truths, we see mirrors, reflecting back who we are inside.

**********

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke had his first poem published in 1966 when he was seven years old in the mass circulation Australian newspaper The Sun.  Michael’s first poetry hero was John Keats, after he read as a teenager a biography of the English Romantic poet.

At Monash University, from 1977 to 1980, while studying successfully for a Bachelor of Economics degree, he hung out in a part of the library where hardly anyone went, devouring poetry books, and Michael Dransfield became his favourite poet.

To this day, notwithstanding he now has many other favourites, Dransfield’s “to be a poet in Australia is the ultimate commitment” remains seminal.  Since university, Michael has made a point of reading poetry, often in translation, from as many poets the world over as he can.

Michael now lives in Townsville, enjoying the north Queensland tropical sunshine.  He is a valued member of Writers In Townsville Society, whose website is: http://witsnq.blogspot.com/.

If Michael could have one wish, for anything in life, he would give the wish away.

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One response to ““a 21st century Eve” – review by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

  1. Pingback: The riches of Australian poetry: five exciting releases from 2012 | Another Lost Shark

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