Shortlist year: 2021
Shortlist category: Poetry
Published by: University of Queensland Press
Tough and alert, Savige's shapeshifting poems reflect the world in violent transformation. Bodies scarred by history collide in the ruckus of generations, geopolitics and technology. Elegies appear alongside poems that set a pulse to new life, biometric surveillance, leaf blowers, fatbergs, mechanical pets and military coups. A work of fiercely intelligent artistry, 'Change Machine' is shaped, equally, by felling—its wild originality comes from how it forces the two together.
About the author
Jaya Savige was born in Sydney, raised on Bribie Island, and lives in London. He is the author of 'Latecomers', which won the New South Wales Premier's Prize for Poetry, and 'Surface to Air', which was shortlisted for The Age Poetry Book of the Year and the Western Australian Premier's Book Award for Poetry. He has held Australia Council residencies at the B.R. Whiting Studio, Rome, and the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. He lectures at the New College of the Humanities at Northeastern, London, and is poetry editor for The Australian.
The first thing that impresses about this collection is its sheer technical virtuosity. Savige has an impressive sense of what rhyme can accomplish, when to go for it full-tilt and when to keep it an elusive undercurrent in the reading experience. His diction is immaculate, constantly surprising with the bold, right, unforeseen word. In the art of metrical composition he is also wonderfully accomplished and playful. Yet these poems are not mere technical exercises, and in fact demonstrate that it is possible to combine a high level of formal excellence with a great deal of personal feeling. Emotionally wrenching poems about assisted conception, miscarriage and stillbirth are among the most powerful in the collection, as are the many joyful and complex celebrations of love (romantic, parental, familial). Interspersed are less intense, more cerebral poems—glancing encounters with aspects of modern life—which show how cunningly poetry can operate as a vehicle for (seemingly casual) thought. Innovative and assured, this is a collection that reminds the reader of the endless versatility of poetic forms and the deep pleasures of poetic utterance.