Review: How To Be Held by Maddie Godfrey, by Jemimah Halbert Brewster

Title: How To Be Held
Author: Maddie Godfrey
Genre: Poetry
Favourite quote: ‘oh kneecaps, you equator of ankle and thigh/you who feel the breeze through torn/windows of my dungarees’
Favourite part: the poems Porcelain, Past Self, Halsey and I Shave Our Heads in the Dark, and Ode to My Kneecaps

How To Be Held is the debut poetry collection of Maddie Godfrey, a performance poet whose achievements, both in Australia and overseas, seem disproportionate to their 22 years of age.

How To Be Held is about being embraced, by people, by cities, by yourself. Maddie’s work often deals with subjects that are deep and painful, but in a radically soft way, and this collection explores profound, intense feelings, moments, and modes of being. They discuss issues around gender, body positivity, being young in the modern world, and finding the place and people that you belong to. In particular, there is a lot of physicality in Maddie’s poems, many sharply visceral images that are easy to identify with and feel embodied by. Although I’m loathe to choose a favourite, I can narrow down the works that spoke me the most strongly to as: Porcelain, Past Self, Halsey and I Shave Our Heads in the Dark, and Ode to My Kneecaps. These poems reached into parts of me that I haven’t thought of in a long time, touching upon and unravelling knots of anxiety that I had forgotten were there. How To Be Held is not a light read, despite its slim format; it is a piece of flint in the chalk, sharpened by sensitivity and used to carve out moments of self-preservation.

I’ve had the privilege of reading Maddie’s work for several years now, and I have also seen them perform their work on stage, most recently at the GriffinSpeak Slam Your Truth event in Melbourne.  Something I’ve found interesting is the difference between reading their work on the page, which is intimate and intense, and listening to them perform their work at events, which is intimate and intense in an entirely different way. Reading something versus listening to it forms two very different impressions and experiences, a phenomenon that has been studied by psychologists, so if you haven’t seen Maddie perform I suggest you do so, as it is a whole new mode to experience their work.

You can buy copies of How To Be Held here and at the launch event. Maddie is holding more than one launch for this book, because why have one launch when you can have two! If you didn’t get to the first one, the second launch event is being held on the 8th August at the City of Perth Library, and you can RSVP here.

This book was provided free of charge to Underground Writers by the author for the purposes of reviewing. 

You can purchase a copy of this book from Underground Books here

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