Wednesday, November 29, 2006



The Good Campaign by Amy King
(Dusie, 2006)

The Good Campaign brought images of “Thelma and Louise” to my mind. It is a gentle poem with a kick ass message about feminism…I think. One problem facing many reviewers of poetry today is the number of collections/poems in which there is no clear topic, no thread to pick up and gradually unravel the mystery behind the writing. Poetry to some of us is more than just a string of words that make a beautiful line, it conveys powerful messages, sometimes subliminally, at others in your face, and that message is intended, received and then interpreted. The Good Campaign borders on being incomprehensible to this reviewer, but on my last reading (of which there have been a frustrating number of) I glimpsed a thread of feminism lying innocently among some pretty amazing lines.

Organised crime into easy access panties
With whatever method gets you by, sings a pink

June Bug baby, bankrupt by the dew of clocks,

Decades skitter by as the reader desperately tries to pin the lines down to a recognizable moment. Pre-war, post-war, it is a harsh moment that we recognize, but King won’t throw us a lifebuoy, just lines that disturb and enthrall. She has a way with language that makes us forgive her for making this such a difficult poem to "get". Her words alone deserve a review with the lines she composes being independent of any influences I know of.

Having desperately caught at the feminist thread, I can now read this collection and begin to makes some sense of it. Lines thrown into a context I just couldn’t understand now become the most important on the page.

Who will seek your footnoted solos
for the gender that sidesteps its name?

I breathe a sigh of relief. This review will not carry the shame of my not "getting" it. Of course, I may have missed the boat altogether -- it may be that the woman is a personification of fur and that this is an anti-fur protest poem -- but I can give MY interpretation of it now, as a feminist poem. Amy King can write -- this much we know -- BUT her images are overloaded to the point where it is difficult to see the poem for the words that enwrap it and this is really the only criticism I have to make about it. It is not a light poem -- it is heavy, but not stodgy -- a bit like Christmas pudding on Boxing Day around 9 pm after the leftover roast has been made into sandwiches. Her imagery, however, despite being overwhelming, is fantastic.

A feminine body needs to slice, not bubble,
the air that masks us clearer.

The same could be said of King’s poetry. This is the kind of poem that I would really enjoy bringing into a group discussion. A bunch of poetry enthusiasts, sitting around an open fire, drinking heavy red wine, heatedly debating the images that flood this chapbook. It is not a book for the fainthearted, definitely not for the novice. To appreciate this book you must be a serious poetry lover. It is also, having said that, a book for the poetry writer. Amy King has an amazing manipulative way with words that is an inspiration to anyone interested in the written word.


Fionna Doney Simmonds has published many reviews of poetry both in print and on the net. Formerly the Poetry Editor for feminist literary ezine, she has recently left that position in order to concentrate more on her writing. Living in the beautiful English county town of Shrewsbury, Fionna continues to draw inspiration from all around her and look for more ways in which to develop a wider appreciation of poetry in herself and others.


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