A6 32pp ISBN: 978-0-9808656-8-4
(cover photograph: Chris Mansell)
$9.90 including postage
Kaye Aldenhoven’s Botanica Erotica is an exploration of those human obsessions: love, six, family, country, history and pain that persists through generations. These poems are emotional and intellectual; funny and personal - and distinctly Territorian. Kaye lives in Darwin, Northern Territory.
A6 32pp ISBN: 978-0-9580367-5-7
(cover photograph: Chris Mansell)
$9.90 including postage
Few poets are so hauntingly oblique, so good at knowing what to say and what to leave unsaid. ... Again, 'Becoming Fluent in Wailpiri' is a tour-de-force.
Patricia Prime in Stylus Poetry Review
Kaye Aldenhoven's political, loving and sensuous poems range over the meanings of skin with a clear and direct voice. Skin is Aldenhoven's second book. Her first, In my Husband's Country (2001), was admired for her intimate perception of the untamed country of Kakadu, NT.
Aldenhoven has lived and worked in the Northern Territory for 33 years; these poems are intimately connected to that life, in all the deep, and in the the casual, ways it can be. The poems are about love, death, sex, children - and none about crocodiles.
Kaye Aldenhoven went to the Territory in 1971, promising her mother she would return to Adelaide after two years. Aldenhoven still lives in the Northern Territory, after teaching at Umbakumba, Yuendumu, Amoonguna, Kakadu, Alyangula and Batchelor.
Becoming fluent in Wailpiri
Hey, your kids are learning to speak Wailpiri.
It's good, eh?
How do they learn so quickly?
Them boys more clever, you know, than their mother.
Jangala's in the carpenter's shop,
hiding from the cutting desert wind.
After school my kids visit him, swap stories.
He's teaching them bush business.
He teases them.
Jangala looks deadly flash.
See, beautiful, eh? Proper flash this one.
He removes the fine bone ornament
from his nasal septum.
See, him made properly.
See these red feathers,
from Major Mitchell cockatoo.
Put feathers in kangaroo bone,
little bone from leg,
stick with spinifex glue,
make him smooth so him won't hurt.
Look me now.
Jangala takes a biro and pushes it through
the hole in his nose.
I make a hole in you mob nose now,
you be deadly flash then,
My darling first born
jokily declines this offer,
The words knock the breath from Nungarai.
She mutters a warning:
Big trouble now.
Them words secret words - men's business words.
Women and kids can't listen.
Very dangerous words.
Jangala grabs his boomerang.
I thrash you mob, you mob too cheeky!
My three sons run screaming
out of the carpenter's workshop,
and run down the red dirt road,
run for their lives,
yelling, dodging, whites of their eyes huge,
yelling in English:
Sorry, Sorry! We didn't mean it, Jangala!
Sorry! Sorry! Don't hit us!
They run for Nungarai,
hide behind her, hanging onto her skirt.
Sorry, sorry Jangala.
We didn't mean it!
We're sorry Jangala,
Don't hit us.
Them three Jambidjinba.
Very rude in language.
Too cheeky! Too cheeky!
Who teach them Jambidjinba these words? Eh?
Kaye Aldenhoven is a talented writer highly acclaimed for her perceptive recording of some powerfully poignant aspects of the human condition. Her latest published collection of writings Skin is another sensuous and insightful literary gem. Here Kaye takes us on more intimate journeys of discovery involving her own past and that of her closely personal life with the skin group of autochthones where also she belongs.
My mother's story included the grey monotony
of the munition factory,
the insolent joy of young women
as they walked off the assembly line
when a naval boat docked at Port Adelaide
to see if their husbands and lovers were on it.
And the careful preparation before consummating contact with a lover:
To prepare for you
I scrub the soles of my feet
I smooth oil on my elbows, thighs and knees;
brushing oil from my palms
over my nipples so they'll stick to your fingers.
And of the lingering afterglow when: 'I could smell you in my hair all day.'
Between the covers of this gossamer word creation, lie emotively strong evocations of birth, childhood, language and Law and Culture. And too, of socially malfeasant manifestations of contemporary living, such as unwanted pregnancies, petrol sniffing, family violence and premature death.
A compelling reflective part of this elegant work is 'Words Packed in Salt: Poems about Remembering'. Here we make transient contact with an often murky past recalling, inter alia, impoverished times, disappointments, wartime exigencies, homes long gone, anguished losses, and the power of photography in recalling significant life and people.
spoken and written
is full of the meaning of gaps
and the silences that we choke back.
The spaces slip glibly between our lips
but the words catch in our throats
burning as we try to swallow-
words packed in salt.
Few writers manage to make such evocative impacts upon the reader with such short poetic vignettes.That Kaye Aldenhoven manages to do so repeatedly, is an on-going confirmation of her exceptional perceptive abilities and exquisite literary talents.
Skin is another fine literary treasure from this most talented author and is well worth adding to your personal bookshelf.
Reviewed by Allan Skertchly in Write Turn, August, 2004
In 1971 Kaye Aldenhoven moved to Umbakumba on Groote Eylandt from South Australia. She then lived and taught at Yuendumu, Amoonguna, Alice Springs, Darwin, Jabiru, Groote Eylandt and was Principal of all three NT Area Schools (at Jabiru in Kakadu, Alyangula on Groote Eylandt and Batchelor). These moves were important for the direction of her work.
Aldenhoven is an important poet in the NT scene: using her experience of the country in her work; and being involved in the Northern Territory Writers Centre in Darwin and helping to foster some of the many literary projects that dynamic city fosters.
Her first book, In my Husband's Country, was a clear and deft response to country in a way that is peculiarly Territorian... as is her involvement in cross-art performances of poetry, dance ritual, and textiles. In 1992 she won the Northern Territory Red Earth Literary Award. She has edited a number of anthologies and was included in artist's book / anthology Terra Australis which was published in Italy in both English and Italian.
In 2004 her PressPress chapbook, Skin, was launched at the Wordstorm Festival in Darwin where it attracted significant interest. This chapbook extends Aldenhoven's engagement with (and the conundrum of) living in country. This is an important theme in non-metropolitan Australian poetry which is not much taken up in the urbanised fringes. Poetically, Aldenhoven eschews overtly decorative language and aims for a clear and clarifying diction to illuminate her themes.
Kaye Aldenhoven likes visiting unusual places (and has travelled extensively in Indonesia, India, China, Turkey, West Papua, Nepal and Sarawak) but she likes reading and writing poetry more. In her poetry, the usual becomes strange and the worlds to which most of us are strange come closer.
Chris Mansell &
individual poets and translators. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
in the first instance
15 August 2014