When I ask people if they like poetry I often get told that, no, they don’t understand it. It’s too pretentious, it’s outdated, or it’s just too hard. And I think to myself, what a shame. Poetry can be such a pleasure if you’re willing to give it a go.
And Michelle Dicinoski’s debut collection, Electricity for Beginners, is a wonderful way to become acquainted with contemporary poetry. Her writing is entrenched in the domestic. The poems flirt with sentimentality but don’t go home with it, and many Brisbane readers will be able to relate to her experiences during the recent floods in poems such as ‘The City Gauge’:
But for now, it’s night, and there’s just the torchlight, and the radio voices and the raising things up, the lifting that is like belief: the best that we can do but never high enough.
One of my favourite things about poetry is the way language almost becomes self conscious. By creating physical pauses in text through enjambments and line breaks, we become aware of words in a new way. I find this can be a wonderful experience. Look at just a short excerpt from Dicinoski’s poem, ‘Arterial’.
Tonight, late, our flatmate brings his woman home and the tremors come again- paperbacks shake on their shelves, windowpanes rattle and silverware, girlish, shivers in its drawers.
In this passage items are disturbed line by line – the paperbacks, the windowpanes, the silverware. This highlights the appearance of each object and allows us the opportunity to linger over them. I particularly like the way silverware is described to me here. By quickly following the word with ‘girlish’ (another word emphasised by slight pauses) the silverware seems almost to take on a personality – shy, and perhaps giggling. Later the use of the word ‘drawers’ reminds me of ladies undergarments and somehow I feel the cutlery is now barely clothed. This is a fresh description of the mundane experience of noisy neighbours, and with a lovely funny touch. And that is another delight in Dicnisoki’s collection, a gentle humour that lingers beneath the imagery and leaves a lasting impression.