Review: Blakwork by Alison Whittaker, by Jess Rae

Title: Blakwork
Author: Alison Whittaker
Genre: Poetry

Look at that: the fantasy editor is reviewing poetry! Pigs really do fly after all. I actually read a lot of poetry, but my preferred written form is prose so it’s rare for me to talk about poetry on this platform, especially when we have quite a fantastic poetry expert on our team already. Regardless of that, when I read a book of poetry with the amount of gravitas that this book has, I feel it’s my duty to talk about it. Blakwork is a collection of poetry, memoir, fiction, critique, and satire written by a powerful new poetic voice. Whittaker’s work brings forth two things: a brave discussion of the present, and the description of what I would consider to be an indescribable loss.

Within this collection there are 92 poems broken up into 15 sections and so it’d be a rather lengthy review if I were to specifically talk about every poem in Whittaker’s collection, so instead I’ll talk about a few of my favourites.

The History of Sexuality Volume III

Favourite line: Is my want for you pure? Is your want for me?

This poem explores the complexity of race and sexuality. The grammar Whittaker uses replicates what I would imagine to be chaotic, complicated thoughts as well as the chaotic nature of physical intimacy. There’s a sense of naivety in this poem, which isn’t necessarily expressed in the earlier poems of the collection. I think the youth of the voice in this poem is what made me gravitate towards it, not to mention the question of sexuality.

by another name

Favourite line: if you scatter my flour like ash

This poem haunts me in ways that I can’t eloquently express in the same way Whittaker expresses the themes in this poem. It paints a marriage of beauty and ugliness; that is, its beauty gets you to look and the undercurrent of ugliness gets you to keep looking in disturbed fascination.

branchstack

Favourite line: no man is an island, blak women in the public service are.

This poem plays specifically with metaphor; it compares women of colour to an island in a choppy ocean. When speaking of the public service sector, specifically retail, I think we can all relate to feeling like an island in the middle of hostile waves. This poem is short and simple but speaks volumes of the feeling of hostile isolation.

beneviolence

Favourite line: THIS GOOD IS FOR YOU.

This poem is incredibly reminiscent of almost every day of my life; being told something is for my benefit without my opinion on the matter. While Whittaker doesn’t specifically express what “THIS” is that is good throughout the poem, the sentiment is the same; a deep, burning, frustrated rage a lot of us experience when stupid things we can’t believe exists comes our way.

don’t @ me

Favourite line: Love this country or leave it so

We live in a digital/political age and I think this poem speaks volumes of that. I’m not too sure what else to say, just that I related to this poem.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this collection, I’m typically quite picky about the poetry I like but there was plenty of content that I enjoyed and related to in this collection. For those who have been suppressed and/or manipulated you will find plenty to relate to in this poetry book. This collection explores many different voices; you will be surprised, as I was, to find yours in there.

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