Two new poetry collections by Annabel Hawkins and Jamie Trower from boutique publisher Makaro Press.
It’s a unique time of life: post study and pre The Rest of Your Life. For me I know I was writing furiously in my early twenties, playing in bands, wandering around Wellington in a state of constant anticipation of all that seemed possible, and attending a steady stream of farewell drinks for friends as they ventured forth into other parts of the world. In her slim and beautifully designed collection This must be the place (Makaro Press, NZ$30), Annabel Hawkins captures this time perfectly.
The opening poem ‘When we flew’ sets the tone of this sense of possibility and excitement at merely being young and alive: skateboarding down Salamanca road “durries in our fingers, / threading the air with the others / as we leaned out to catch the night, / as the night flashed past. / The rush of it all.” The memories captured in this collection can’t be too far in the past for recent Massey graduate Hawkins and her design partner Alice Clifford, so it’s interesting that so much is described with a sense of hindsight and nostalgia. The past tense and references to age—“Nineteen on Salamanca road” and “Because we were 23”—give an almost self-conscious tone to what starts to become a narrative of these very specific years. However, Hawkins seems to justify this in her poem ‘When the sun comes’ which starts, “Hindsight is a pretty thing” as she recalls the easiness of summer, a “misspent (or somewhat missing) youth,” and that “I do not think I have ever felt particularly young.”
The poems in This must be the place originally came from Hawkins’s blog and although they have been carefully crafted for the page, a sense of immediacy remains, as well as a cohesion as the story continues from page to page. The repeated “we” could be the same we in each poem or it could refer to the poet and others; the poet and reader. It’s a satisfying connection and urges you to reflect on the common experiences we’ve all had of leaving, staying, sitting up late and talking, saying goodbye as we drift into our different directions and lives.
A very different but also specific time of life is described in Jamie Trower’s Anatomy (Submarine, an imprint of Makaro Press; $NZ25). Trower’s book follows his personal experience of recovering from a head injury and is led less by narrative and more by a kind of impulse. The poems are carefully crafted and motifs and images are repeated, but there’s definitely a sense that this is a mind disconnected from the mundanities of normal life. Even though we perhaps can’t recognise ourselves in Trower’s work in the way we can with Hawkins’s, the experiences described are compelling and feel utterly real. The repeated images and phrases that personify “Disability” or show aspects of Trower as he recovers—“Boy wonder” “bird” “t a r d”—connect these experiences into a sometimes unsettling rhythm back and forth between the pages and again create cohesion between each separate poem. As with Hawkins’s work, this book is beautifully designed with stand-out coloured pages and space between the words—proof, I believe, that lovingly produced books are objects of art to be treasured and the future of books is in good hands.
Also in his early 20s, Trower initially started writing to aid his recovery. The unrestrained feel to his words is perhaps testament to that purpose: he’s not trying to fit his ideas into a specific genre or even make the reader feel familiarity or comfort. He asks, “am I sounding psychotic, or patriotic, / that there is not just / one god in disability? / disability is my religion. // we are the angels // littering the night sky.” In owning his disability, referring to it as his religion—something he believes in and perhaps uses to guide his life—and by sharing his experience with the world in this collection, Trower’s voice is undeniably authentic.
With Anatomy and This must be the place, Makaro Press have given voice to those who are often marginalised. Both of these books exist as records of distinct times in the young poets’ lives and tell stories that are just as real and true as someone with more Life behind them. Perhaps Hawkins will look back on this collection with the prettiness of hindsight and see how she’s captured a time that can easily be left undocumented for the sheer immediacy of the experience it contains. Trower too, may look back on this as part of a process—a journey of recovery he continues on. Either way, readers can feel a connection to these writers’ experiences—whether through empathy or recognition—captured in these beautifully crafted objects.