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The title of Annabel Hawkins’ This Must Be The Place encapsulates the theme of her collection: home. Based on Hawkins’ poetry on her website, this book is also a collaboration with designer Alice Clifford.
With the familiar roads of Wellington as its core setting, This Must Be The Place explores what defines home, whether it be people or places. Using memories as a kind of filter, the narrator searches for this definition by looking through her past and recalling the feeling of being at home. By shuffling through a series of moments in different days, seasons, and years, I could distinctly feel a sense of time passing and of the narrator growing. Even though the majority of the book was based in the past, the events described didn’t feel too distant. By making connections to friends, family, and events in these memories, Hawkins effectively shaped out the narrator from the past upwards.
Hawkins’ use of language built up a sense of longing that explored not only earlier events, but also looked towards the possibility of a better future. ‘What heartbreak felt like’ was a breathtaking piece that described an empty home as “just the hollow sound of you waiting at the other end”. Both haunting and provoking, her poetry identified familiar emotions and was able to describe them in an original way.
These snapshots also explored how humans are prone to believing in a romanticised past. Often, this kind of sentimentality clouded the narrator’s search for a genuine home. However, some of Hawkins’ poems recalled these memories in a way that felt overly dreamy to the point of clichéd. The use of repetition in numerous poems throughout the book seemed justified at first; it appeared to be a way for the narrator to better recall her memories by grounding herself to language. After finishing the book, however, I felt that the constant use of repetition felt clunky amongst the richer language of Hawkins’ poetry.
I recognised and loved the influence I could see from the designer. The single pages of pink staggered throughout the book served as subtle indicators of different chapters; with each section, the narrator further understood what home meant and how to deal with her longing. The photographs of sparse backdrops—of horizons, of waves, of empty sky—tied in nicely to the themes running throughout the collection. Along with the wallpaper-esque pattern on the cover, imagery and photos played an important part alongside the text in exploring the concept of home and its manifestations.
Overall, This Must Be The Place is a book about the search for a home when the future is uncertain, the present is inadequate, and the past is clouded by nostalgia. It explores what it means to be at home, and how to find this ‘place’, but it also explores how the idea of home is a concept that is always developing. Home does not have to be concrete or stagnant; it can change with people and time.
Reviewed by Emma Shi
This Must Be the Place
by Annabel Hawkins
Published by Makaro Press