Apr 24, 2015

Poetry Book Review – Regulator by Benjamin Dodds


When people (and not just the students I teach) say they hate poetry, I usually try to get at the root cause.  Saying you hate poetry is like saying you hate movies.  Poetry is big, even in Australia I could be content in reading just what is published in one year.  I usually implore people to find poetry that they like or at least not give up yet. 

So Regulator is poetry that I like.  Part of the reason is Dodds’ approachable writing (yes I have been listening to the Australian Poetry Podcast), but I think the main reason is that we are of a similar age and have both grown up in rural areas. Though the Riverina is distinctly different from Central Australia, there are certain life experiences that distance from big cities seem to generate.  There is a connection with his observation of surroundings and my experience.

The collection is structured in four parts Regulator, Human Awe, There’s No Putting Them Out and Perfectly Normal Sons. The poems under Regulator seem to have a focus on Dodds’ childhood and evoke in me feelings of nostalgia, a glance bank at clear memories of youth.  As good example as any is the titular poem Regulator. A remembrance of dangerously adolescent men diving into an irrigation canal. What is it about young men who feel the need to congregate around any water source and bomb into it, whether it’s a canal or a desert waterhole(one of my first published poems evokes similar images).  Perhaps something to do with the thrill and the absence of water for most of us not living on the coast.

Under Human Awe Dodds has collected an array of works celebrating human achievement and also awe at the natural environment. These range from poems about the moon landing to the deafening thrum of cicadas.  My favourite here was Two Books, which underlined the awe in natural existence.

There’s No Putting Them Out  is curious, at this point in the reading I am not too clear about the theme that Dodd’s is organising the poems under here. Not that it matter’s of course.  Two poems in this selection made my smile Man at Home and Captive.  The former because I realise myself in the poem and the latter because I’m a keeper of stressed felines who love to “bronze” themselves up on the way to the vet.

The final section Perfectly Normal Sons, is largely concerned with sexuality and is wonderfully bookended by the poems Perfectly Normal Sons and Prodigal Son (and his Partner).  My favourite here is probably Perfectly Normal Sons,  It seems to embody what I have enjoyed most about Dodds’ poems – nostalgia, country upbringing and a touch of humour.

So for me at least Dodd’s works provides clear imagery and presents topics that I have an affinity for. There’s a lack of pretence and a sense of humour that feels comforting and in some ways, subtly Australian to me.

You can now purchase Regulator through Booktopia.

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