Poetry Review: Everyone is Everyone Except You and Meat Lovers

Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes (Auckland University Press)

Everyone is Everyone Except You by Jordan Hamel (Dead Bird Books)

Both of the poets featured in the last issue of 1964 (Issue 9, Autumn 2022) have recently released their debut full-length collections. One word: Yay! Two words: Cows and Timaru! 

Rebecca Hawkes’ Meat Lovers is “a book of poems on food, farming, and romantic folly, blending compassion and cruelty to explore the ordinary depravities of hunger and bloodlust.”

There are reflections on growing up on a Canterbury farm, from tail docking to the realities of meat processing to paddock-side questions about sexuality (“you cling to the fact that a tenth of rams / exclusively prefer other rams / even when ewes are available / this is uneconomical”), plus a losing battle against the allure of animal products (“I am trying to go vegetarian but finding myself weak, / week to week browsing the meat aisle at a linger / close enough to chill my arms to gooseflesh. I only buy / stuff so processed it hardly makes sense to call it meat”). You’ll never look at the word “pastoral” the same again. 

And in Everyone is Everyone Except You, the Timaru-raised 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion Jordan Hamel takes on masculinity and love in small town New Zealand (“he was told to play rough and listened / to his mate who said his old man / would kick him out the house if he was / or at least if he ever found out”), all served up with a strong dose of pop culture (“I used to think I was meant for great things / until I nearly died choking on ‘Very Thin’ Vogels / watching The Mighty Ducks: D2 after / chairing a Flash Fiction Zoom conference”), and a reference or two to his home town (“Rome wasn’t built in a day / but you aren’t Rome / you are Timaru at best /with expired resource consents / and an impatient local body”). 

Poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand is having a blinder at the moment, and these two writers are an example of why that is. As Jordan writes: “Poetry is the infinity pool of vanity / and baby I have brought my wetsuit”Dive in.

LAURA WILLIAMSON