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2021 - Winner
Divided thematically into five parts, Throat reckons with memory, family, sexuality, intergenerational trauma, and intergenerational resistance. Van Neerven’s verse carries the reader through difficult political and emotional terrain with the precision of stark, unwavering language. Through the voice of a queer First Nations identity, condemnations of colonial legacies are laid down with fierce wit and humour. Moments of rage and mourning echo one another, building an uncompromising intensity. Running in the undercurrents is a hope that is bold and vulnerable, moving the speaker to call for mateship in the fight against continuing colonial violence.
In this collection, van Neerven writes with a decided clarity that matches the urgency of their poetics. The lushly interwoven layers of this work create an active conversation between its themes. Careful meditation over stark verse reveals its shapeshifting voices, tones, and forms, leading to a reading experience that is consistently dynamic.
Throat is a book that extends and expands the possibilities of poetic utterance in Australia. It establishes community with joy. It provides a clarion call for justice. It speaks sensitively to multiple readerships simultaneously. This is an exceptional volume, representing a key moment in the ongoing reckoning with colonial legacies and power structures.