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Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Book cover for Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven (UQP)

Judges' Comments

This first collection of poems by Ellen van Neerven delivers on the promise of her previous publications. Van Neerven, a Munanjali woman, offers a fresh poetic voice, with images that reach (to borrow Wallace Stevens’ phrase) not for ‘ideas about the thing’, but for ‘the thing itself’. Readers are invited into her world: one that has a history and tradition stretching back for millennia, and where food becomes both an actuality and a metaphor for home and family, and the comfort promised by the collection’s title.

The prose poems, lineated lyric poems, travel poems and love poems all find a rhythm and a shape of their own, and are characterised by lightly-worn profundity and deep thought. But they also contain wry humour — ‘we are Facebook friends forever / immortal, and enshrined’ (‘Future Senses’) — and commentary about social politics (colonial legacies, racism and football, for example, being showcased in ‘Invisible Spears’). In this collection a new voice tells old stories in a fresh way, blending narrative traction and lyric energy, capturing the mind and the mood.