Books & Literature

Book Review: Spitting Teeth, by Ashlee Karlar, et al

POETRY: Four local poets who have carved their names into legend on the microphone, now take to the page in this new anthology.

A quirky and thought-provoking collection of locally written poetry.

The Adelaide poetry and spoken word scene is alive and kicking. Sitting at the heart of this is Paroxysm Press, an underground publisher of poetry, fiction, and short works from a diverse range of authors.

Spitting Teeth is an anthology of poetry from four writers, all of whom are well-known on the slam poetry stage. It is clear that much of this work was written to be performed, and that sense helps them jump off the page.

Ashlee Karlar writes of a dying father, an ode of love to a straight girl, the prejudice of coming from a “poor” postcode, and the empowerment in working as a stripper. Her language is clear and taught, allowing the emotion to speak for itself. The heavier subject-matter is delivered with appropriate sprinklings of humour:

So I was thinking that tonight
could be, like, a girls night?
We could talk about yeast infections and drink strawberry margaritas.

Alison Paradoxx delves into physical and mental trauma. Works such as My Existence Should Have Come With a Warning Label, are both confronting and hopeful. Most readers can identify with Conversations Around a Dinner Table where Paradoxx writes:

in this house
we don’t ever say the things that should
be said
…yet we all fight to be heard

Chiara Gabrielli explores the ways of being female in the world, and the difficult journey to claiming womanhood.

Boy, I have too much HECS debt to be silenced and dumbed just for
your comfort

Name, deconstructs her own name and its implications:

You see my name is not just three syllables, consonants and vowels.
It is the wings that brought me here, the story of a matched made who agreed to marry each
other from only a few letters and a photo…

Nico also writes around the ethnic assumptions made by others, sexual identity and loss. Particularly powerful is Where are you From:

“You must be good at maths, then”
and if you’re feeling chatty, you’ll throw in something about fried rice
and eating with chopsticks
“how good is Kung Pao Chicken?”

Each of these poets has important things to say: about being female, being queer, being non-Anglo-Celtic, being ill, and most importantly, being human. Each of them writes with passion, technical skill and originality.

This is a great volume to help you discover some of the fantastic contemporary poets living within our fine city.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Paroxysm Press
Released: November 2019
Approx RRP: $21 paperback, $12 eBook

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