Shortlist year: 2019
Shortlist category: Poetry
Published by: Magabala Books
A stunning mix of memoir, reportage, fiction, satire, and critique composed by a powerful new voice in poetry. Alison Whittaker's Blakwork is an original and unapologetic collection from which two things emerge; an incomprehensible loss, and the poet's fearless examination of the present. Whittaker is unsparing in the interrogation of familiar ideas—identifying and dissolving them with idiosyncratic imagery, layering them to form new connections, and reinterpreting what we know.
About the author
Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi multitasker from the floodplains of Gunnedah in NSW. Between 2017–2018, she was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard Law School, where she was named the Dean's Scholar in Race, Gender and Criminal Law. Alison's work has been published in The Sydney Review of Books, Southerly Journal, Seizure, Overland, Westerly, BuzzFeed, Griffith Review, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin and Archer. Her debut poetry collection, Lemons in the Chicken Wire was awarded the State Library of Queensland's black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship in 2015 and was published by Magabala Books in 2016.
Blakwork was also shortlisted in the Poetry category for Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019.
Exciting, formally ambitious and innovative, Alison Whittaker's Blakwork interrogates the past and present legacy of colonialism through the frames of a range of different kinds of work, including 'whitework,' 'storywork,' 'selfwork,' 'bloodwork,' and 'heartwork.' Blakwork'sfield of vision is broad—its subjects range across Indigenous deaths in custody, Native Title legislation, queer desire, live exports, immigration policies, family history, and the relationship between community and Country—but the poems are united by Whittaker's incisive critique of the ways in which language, as an instrument of policy, can oppress and dispossess. Whittaker repurposes and satirises legal, technological and bureaucratic language, remixing and redacting to disrupt its received usage and allow the reader to see it afresh. Her masterful usage of vernacular, slang, and her forays into the lexicon of the internet, text speak, and emojis bring her lively contemporary voice into crisp focus.