Poetry review by Angela Gardner
UWA Publishing, Crawley, Western Australia, 2017
A crop of new titles came in to foam:e from UWA Publishing just before we went to press. The timing was difficult for a full review but Quinn Eades collection, Rallying, is exceptional. Such aware and embodied writing demands a response. As a reader I was entranced, the book is a page-turner in the best sense of that description. The strength of its narrative making me want to know what happens next.
Quinn Eades early life was one of trauma and surviving. This book celebrates writing, mothers, children and family life in an honest and frank way. Now since writing Rallying, Eades is transitioning from female to male although gender was always an issue and the viewpoint is often within the experiences of the body but distanced and aware. The long opening poem ‘How to disappear in your name’ enumerates the names she has been given, taken or assumed during her life:
the hunt for the next name. She takes them all. She is PK/Francis/
How to disappear in your name’ p22
The poem’s two epigraphs could act as a manifesto for the collection itself: Hélène Cixous from Coming to Writing “Loving:keeping alive: naming” and Luce Irigaray from To speak is never neutral “Call yourself. Give, yourself, names.”
After the first poem the remainder are arranged in sections around the experiences of motherhood: Under Them, Away With Them, Without Them, Around Them, and What Comes Next. Although the poems use the powerful ‘I’ and explore the past and present realities of an individual life they are not confessional in their matter-of-factness. There is also a level of detail and description that is not ‘for its own sake’ to decorate language but used with the urgency of moving on the narrative:
But today you are gone. And I don’t know
what poems you want in your funeral booklet.
And I still have your tureen.
And my hands are stained with raspberry blood,
and the air carries rain.
Autocorrect is becoming a scourge p122
Many of Quinn Eades experiences, however, are beyond the ordinary, from living in a refuge, to using heroin, asthma attacks or having pierced nipples. You can tell by the reaction they get:
It is what is left after the shot has rung out
it is everything drilled down to quiet in the aftermath
it is the tinnitus ring, the screaming din. It is the sound
of death, reverberating.
And although the past invades the present it is the physical, familial bonds of family that Eades writes about with such strength and knowledge. This is particularly on show in Always going home (a domestic cycle) which came second in the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2013.
I want more than anything to be
out and away
and at exactly the same time I cannot bear
to leave them, so
soft, so beaming and beautiful
shining like the silver underwater shot
by the sun.
Always going home (a domestic cycle) p42
That tension between the domestic quotidian and “the urge/ to chaos” (Songkran p68) is part of the strength of this book. As he says “All I can do is write. And hope to find my way home again” (All I Can Do, p90)
There are others who champion Quinn Eades. Pam Brown has said of his poetry it is “an important part of the continuum of the development of language in relation to gender, the body, language and expression of the self. In Rallying, his use of direct language is refreshing.” Jessica Wilkinson, that his writing “is poignant and heartbreaking.” While Kevin Brophy called this collection “a generous, full-hearted non-stop call upon experience”.
Rallying was published concurrently with another book of autobiography, poetry and queer theory all the beginnings: a queer autobiography of the body published by Tantanoola.