When a young poet gets an endorsement from a superstar with as much influence as Lorde, you know they are set to make ripples. The team at Victoria University Press have taken a calculated risk with this debut collection, which has already paid off it seems, with a poem republished online receiving thousands of views. Unity Books sold out soon after the print copy hit the shelves. While it may alienate readers who are more accustomed to more traditional poetry offerings from academic presses, it is sure to appeal for readers looking for something fresh, irreverent and hilariously relatable.
With the release of HBO’s TV series, Girls, created by Lena Dunham, we saw a logical extension of the no-holds-barred, female-perspective sexuality made popular by Sex in the City. That this has spawned a trend across different media genres is no accident, with gatekeepers jumping at the chance to capture the next generation. In Hera Lindsay Bird, what we have is not only a signature honesty and sharp wit, but also a poetic agility that many well-seasoned poets would kill for. The work is well-formed, muscular and intelligent.
At times the stories encased in the poems are akin to a car crash or a horror scene, where you feel a sense of bodily shock, but can’t wrench your look away. For all its humour, it’s a dark set piece. Despite its art-world quirkiness, this is no Zoey Deschanel, manic pixie dream. There is no sugar coating here. The word ‘black’ features over 40 times, along with a litany of other words Blake would blush at. Her work might not pass the filter test on your work computer.
Like the writer of The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lindsay Bird captures that intriguing shadow side of existence, acknowledging that the world is not as shiny and full of kittens and rainbows as Katy Perry or Taylor Swift would have us believe. It makes sense that Lorde aligns herself with Hera’s work, as the dark antihero scorning the romantic view of women as pastel, smiling and infantilised objects for the male gaze. The cover may have Hera in a bright yellow coat, but it is interesting to note the shadow, the dual names, the owning of the dark and light. It is no surprise then that we get a generous amount of gothic imagery throughout the book. This, combined with the pop culture references (e.g. Monica from Friends!) give us a dark, cynical take on the familiar, hyper-colour media fed to us as representative of the youth of today.
A standout piece in this collection is the concrete poem, Mirror Traps, broken into several parts, sectioned off by an internet buffering symbol. Its broken, fractured lines embody the fragmented period of emerging womanhood, perfectly summed up in the line, “…wait for the heart to finish buffering.” Encapsulated in this poem is the idea that sometimes our actions, our hearts and even the mirror can be disconnected. This is not a malady unique to the young, but possibly more prevalent among females, who are thrown into a world of “…discount facial peels” and “cucumber slices”. The “mohair of loneliness” sums up the image of the lone model in mohair. We are reminded that no amount of glamour or beauty treatments can purchase the kind of human connection and love we all crave; this despite how much we are sold this idea from a young age.
It’s an intriguing, fresh and well-crafted debut; one you won’t want to put down.
Reviewed by Anna Forsyth
Hera Lindsay Bird
by Hera Lindsay Bird
Published by VUP