Drakeford delivers a quirky collection of poems and short fiction that spans a lifetime.
Two things are immediately evident in this Australian poet’s debut: He clearly loves poetry, and his tone isn’t overly serious. “These orphan poems / came unannounced / to my front door / in search of names / to give them birth,” he writes in a foreword. One of his favorite topics is writing itself: “When is a poet a poet?” he asks. “Poetically, / when other poets / know it.” Experiments in form include “To the Editor of Overland,” a poem presented as a letter, and “Song of the South Australian Railways,” which reads like a train’s posted notice of prohibited behavior. Among the tales in this book is “The Renaissance,” set in 1956 and based on a true story, about a woman who puts a ragbag out on the stoop only to find later that another woman upstairs has washed the old clothes and hung them out to dry. “Miss Rafferty returned / to find the line / alive with memories,” the poet recalls. “Poor Marianne” is a fantastical tale about a girl who collects swains, while “Lullaby” delivers what its title promises, and sweetly so. Drakeford shifts to short fiction toward the end with a story that takes the form of an entertaining how-to essay on eradicating ants: “Follow them, but on tiptoe. If they look around, pretend you are doing the washing-up.” “The three monkeys” trails a trio of troublemaking animals who embark on a shopping trip with a stolen credit card. Although comedy is the author’s primary strength, he also excels at sensory details: “The heat dripped heavy on the town, / like honey / lazy spilling from the sky-jar down.” And though some of these works are decades old—“The Broken Soul” was published when the now-85-year-old author was 16—Drakeford’s playful style and erudite voice remain consistent throughout. Alliteration is his Achilles’ heel, however, and he leans on it too often.
A lighthearted compilation that will incite laughter and wonder.