A6 32pp ISBN: 987-0-9808656-5-3
(cover photo by Chris Mansell,
author photo by Susan Adams)
$9.90 including postage
Wicks’ tenth book of poetry is full of feathers, life, shadows & laughter. Its beguiling language and fusillades of bam-bam-bam images are accessible, exciting and invite you in.
Wicks is well-known as a publisher of Meuse and as a long-time poetry activist and performer. See a reviews of Barking Wings at Rochford Street Review.
Appetites of Light
A6 32pp ISBN: 978-0-9580367-2-6
(cover illustration by Steven Sturgess)
$9.90 including postage
Les Wicks is well-known for his gritty urban poems with a social conscience. He has worked in union and many community contexts which make the voices in his poems recognisably true. Wicks is not without a level of wry reflection which makes Appetites of Light and enjoyable read.
Les Wicks' previous books are Shadows of the Read (Krok, 2011); The Ambrosiacs (Island, 2009); Stories of the Feet (Five Islands, 2004); The Ways of Waves (SideWaLK, 2000); Nitty Gritty (Five Islands, 1997); Tickle (Island, 1993); Cannibals (Rochford St, 1985); The Vanguard Sleeps In (Glandular, 1981).
Anthony Lawrence says of Les' work: [Wicks]...assembles an amazing cast of people in recognisable often dark places. With fine detail, their domestic & working lives are brilliantly portrayed.
Les has performed at festivals, schools, community projects etc & conducts workshops across Australia. For 20 years he has also worked as an editor & publisher. He runs Meuse Press which focuses on outreach projects such as poetry on buses & poetry published on the surface of a river. Les has been a judge of numerous competitions including the Premier's Prize.
Ralph's eyes sway around from
the fireplace like a leering crane
on a tiny wharf.
You can piss in the sink, Petey,
but if you don't turn on the tap
The smile was full of gaps/ /
post apocalypse dentistry
from the prison system.
Petey's father's friend
more pirate than any child
could hope for,
the boy hung onto every word.
The howling winds outside
the communion of sweet tea and cakes.
He listened when told
All people are good
& pigs & grasses.
Ralph's tattoos danced,
his muscles snuck around their bones
He could fix anything.
Dad and Ralph were
like a two-day party every
Custody was never in doubt,
Petey knew his dad and society
were birds & worms,
only which one was which ever changed.
Come Sunday his
return home to Mum was like
the end of day release.
But Ralph explained
that nothing matters
& Petey was beyond a fuss,
irrepressible in weak London chiaroscuro.
Appetites of Light
by Dr Christine Ferrari
Lecturer in English,
and Film, Humanities and Social Sciences
Charles Sturt University
Les Wicks was writer-in-residence at Booranga in 2000. This collection of nine poems (his sixth) were 'polished' during his stay in the writers' cottage. The poems in Appetites of Light are loosely based on an exploration of light as an active player in a range of situations.
Coloured signal lights; the sudden illumination of 'primary light'; the sickly wash of 'yellow street light', and the unnatural glow of a casino, act as metaphors evoking the atmosphere and tone of lost opportunities in Three Rail Workers'; of the gritty reality for street kids in 'Brat Girl and Boy'; of a surreal S&M experience in 'Cry'; of the intense 'human fusion energies-/ jealousy and fear' as a polyester clad couple at sundown, try their luck with a poker machine in 'Buffalo Dreaming in Pyrmont', only to lose the lot at the tables.
In 'Off Highway', 'a clear impertinent sky-breathing air' 'is true pure barring / the faintest whiff of petrol'. The departure of the disdainful Judith has left the speaker 'adrift': 'Lost / but not uncomfortable' in the setting the woman dismissed as 'suburban'.
Reading these poems, I'm reminded of the way Canadian novelist, Michael Ondaatje creates rich patterns of light to throw characters, stories and events into relief. Wicks lights the desires, ideas, acceptance, and epiphanies of his everyday Australian protagonists in a similarly rich, impressionistic, resonant way.
A meditation on the 'path to peace through rain' in 'Cloudburst': (The rain in Sydney / is a violation/ We expect anything else) leads to 'A hand flashed / through clouds and fogged up glass' - a lightening flash of brilliancy that disappears as it's thought. In 'Out and About' though the speaker finds the 'best truths / rendered down' in his child's '12 years old' vulnerable attentiveness to the crowd and speeches at an anti-racism rally-'A rainbow demolition in the early spring'.
I found this an immediately accessible and thought-provoking collection. Appetites of Light is one of the pocket chapbooks (A6 size...) beautifully produced by PressPress. The designer's attention to detail makes the books perfect gifts.
Originally appeared in the Booranga News, May 2002