Book review: Thicket by Anna Jackson

This book is in stores now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

The title would suggest a nature theme, but it is more the Thicket of human relationships Anna Jackson explores in this short collection, her fifth.

Fairy tales run a red thread through the book. Quite befitting the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Grimm’s fairytales – and Grimm’s fairy tales they all are. Be it Hansel’s abandonment issues, Red Riding Hood discovering in two juxtaposed poems that her mother was a wild child, or the man from The Fisherman and his Wife lamenting his predicament.

In one of my favourite poems Not looking, Feeling Jackson follows a mother into the pit of dust and Lego pieces that is her children’s room:

“Down past everything soft
and forgotten to the very bottom
where I hit the dust and paper scraps
and where I grasp a dream, or a dream
grasps me, entering my fingertips / like sap …”.

I could swear she was talking about my children’s room. It’s like going through the rabbit hole behind paper scraps and odd socks.

My inner linguist was quite taken by the imagery in the poem Indexing. “You index achievements, I index my dreams[..]” and then the last lines “Well. I am in your index / and you are in mine”. I liked the idea of the presence of other people in the inventory of our lives.

Envelope closes with the words:

“But where am I being sent?
And when I arrive, who will open me?
Roughly with a finger or gently with a knife?”.

A threat enveloped in beauty.

How do you approach a collection of poetry? Apart from a strictly academic (metre counting, metaphor categorising) way, I think it can only be approached by the effect it has on the reader, on every individual one. The way it bounces back off us or enters us and grabs hold of us, tells us secrets about ourselves we did not yet know .

Reviewing poetry from the perspective of the reader is always a personal act. In a good collection of poetry we will find what we are looking for, but it will also challenge us to follow new paths down into the depth of our imagination. I invite you to read Thicket and see what it has on offer for you. There is plenty to discover in this Thicket. A deserving finalist for the New Zealand Post Book Award 2012.
Reviewed by Melanie Wittwer

Thicket
Anna Jackson
Auckland University Press
ISBN 9781869404826

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