The End of the World

Maria Takolander’s poetry presents the primitive aspects of life in dramatic and uncompromising ways. She strips the world of easy sentiment, highlighting the visceral qualities of experience, its hauntings and its premonitions of disaster. The intensity of the poems, and their focus on projections of violence, madness, degeneracy and despair, are tempered by a Gothic sense of beauty, and at times, a deadpan wit. The End of the World is divided into three parts – poems about childbirth and scenes of domestic menace; those set in places in the poet’s imaginative landscape which are troubled by the past (Finland, South America and Australia); and poems which portray the cruelties suffered and inflicted by the human animal.

‘Poetry is always ruthless but few poets are as wiling as Takolander to explore that ruthlessness.’—Michael Farrell, Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Takolander’s poems are ruinous, diabolical, all the more so for their polish and precision. Here, as in Baudelaire, beauty is inextricably linked with evil: it’s “the dark italics”, as Wallace Stevens phrased it, that compels the poetic imagination.’—Bronwyn Lea, Westerly.

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Honours

Named a best book of 2014 by Australian Book Review.

Reviews

‘Maria Takolander's first book, Ghostly Subjects (2009), with its stylish and often brief poems, was impressive enough, but her second, The End of the World, marks a sudden leap forward in intensity and scope.’—The Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Divided into three sections (childbirth and domesticity, the history of various landscapes real and imaginary and the cruelties humans inflict upon one another) this collection of poetry is tough and crystalline . . . The poems are as sharp and disquieting as the raven on the cover with its beady stare.’—The Age, Sydney Morning Herald.

'Takolander is interested in situations we would like to think of as extreme . . . She knits historical moments with the everyday pathologies of human behaviour, making the calamities of war, colonisation, violence, poverty and totalitarianism specific and palpable.'The Australian.

'Takolander's apocalyptic, menacing poems shine.'Australian Book Review.

'Tightly controlled . . . a poetry that is both attractive and hard-wearing'. Los Angeles Review of Books.

‘The poems have an apocalyptic feel, taking us forward to a world where the "game is over"; the excesses and villainy of our past have wrecked the future, even as it explores the past with archeological fervor. While the scope of the book is grand, taking in a kind of checkered history of the human race and its foibles, a transcendent beauty continues to shine through . . . Takolander's vision is taut, dark and powerful.’—Good Reads.

The End of the World makes no pretense at sweetness or ease. While there is tenderness in the poems of childbirth and domesticity that open the collection, the collection has an underlying ferocity which takes the reader below the superficial into the heart of meaning, as revealed by the intensity of each moment it encounters.’—Compulsive Reader. 

‘Part 3, with its blending of lyrical, narrative and prose poems, is a complex, ambitious work, and the one where Takolander’s gifts for haunted vision are given free rein. Poems such as “Show Business”, “Witch” and “Violence” are wonderful examples of how taking risks with imagination and storytelling tradition can make fine poetry.’—The Saturday Paper.

'Its poems explore the dark and unforgiving nature of the world. This is the ground of Takolander’s imagination, and here it is unalloyed and unqualified . . . Takolander has . . . set out to explore it with the candour and the steadiness it demands.'—Cordite.

'Displaying restraint and intrigue, daring and bewilderment, Takolander’s The End of the World is not a volume to be missed.'—The NSW Writers' Centre.

'Takolander’s poems are excruciatingly daring . . . Poetry can often seem inaccessible but I was instantly seduced . . . Every word perfectly precise, perfectly descriptive, perfect.'—ANZ Litlovers Litblog.

'Here is poetry whose language is muscled, precise yet allusive. It startles, and its promise drives through the whole work.'—Mascara Literary Review.

'The arresting choice of language, the precision that has guided those choices . . . the clarity she brings to bear on complex subject matter, without compromising the complexity or gravity of her ideas . . . the collection as a whole and in its parts strikes me as both subtle and immaculate.'—foam:e.

'Takolander's great talent as a poet is to plumb the unknown, like sending a bucket into a darkened well to see what might turn up . . . The End of the World is a fine collection, yielding its riches incrementally through re-reading, a quality I associate with the best poetry.'—Rabbit.

Ghostly Subjects

In Ghostly Subjects, Maria Takolander applies her unflinching gaze to topics ranging from the Madrid train bombings to sex dolls, from domestic violence to poetry readings, and from love games to cosmetics. The world portrayed in this striking collection is intensely uncanny and rendered with a distinctive precision of language and vision.

‘Takolander is a new kind of shaper of poems: a postmodern lyricist, she searches for the essence of what makes the poem and finds, in the end,  that the poem matters. She won’t be categorized, because she is constantly exploring the nature of categories. A brilliant first book by a poet who will show us where to look next.’—John Kinsella.

‘Challenging and . . . disturbing . . . always polished, always surprising.’—Martin Duwell.

‘This is zesty writing, individual and unintimidated by the sharp nature of much of the material.’—Peter Rose.

‘At times either disarming yet penetrating, or mysterious yet blunt, in Maria Takolander’s Ghostly Subjects poems move from the You Yangs to Finland, contrasting or embedding the human with nature in rich imagery and stark thoughtful reflection. The last powerful section Culture uses art as palimpsest . . . In these jagged vivid portraits, each artist blindly pursues her/his own elusive ghostly subjects, and Takolander, haunted in turn, reinterprets them in a unique new voice.’—Gig Ryan.

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Honours

Short listed for a 2010 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Award).

Reviews

‘Takolander’s poems are ruinous, diabolical, all the more so for their polish and precision. Here, as in Baudelaire, beauty is inextricably linked with evil: it’s “the dark italics”, as Wallace Stevens phrased it, that compels the poetic imagination . . . Don’t be surprised if they take up residence in your body after reading them . . . it’s just that kind of book.’—Westerly.

‘Poetry is always ruthless but few poets are as willing as Takolander to explore that ruthlessness . . . The poems could be written by a ghost . . . or unfairy godmother.’—The Sydney Morning Herald (2010).

'The edges of the meanings are clean and the level of insight at its most convincing . . . there is, moreover, an extended density to the material which is compelling . . . A poet needs an edge to her words, and Takolander has developed one. It will be fascinating to see what she goes on to do with it.’—Island.

‘An exciting new poet . . . it is always a treat to read poems of consistently high quality written by a young Australian poet which sound so unlike the poems of other young Australian poets.’—Australian Poetry Review.

‘Takolander’s style, because of the tremendous weight each word and line carries, deserves close attention . . . Nothing in the book feels haphazard. She masterfully crafts strong sounds that pound the image into the psyche . . . Maria Takolander’s Ghostly Subjects reverberates within me. Every poem is filled with danger, and every poem is delightfully haunting.’—Antipodes.

‘After reading Ghostly Subjects, it is impossible to look at the world in quite the same way . . . she ushers in a new era for a cerebral grittiness in Australian poetry.’—Blue Dog.

‘Like Kafka and Plath, Takolander seeks to “defamiliarise the familiar” . . . Her poetry alternates between being highly metaphoric and disturbingly literal.’—The Canberra Times.

‘Fascinating yet grotesque . . . a kind of haunting.’—Australian Book Review.

‘Violence is a recurring theme, as well as something of a structural strategy . . . it is an encouraging fact that Maria Takolander’s daring and subversive work is not being marginalised.’—Cordite.

 

Narcissism

‘In Maria Takolander’s first collection we find all the qualities we look for in a new poet: accomplishment, verve, technical flair, memorable phrases, unexpected intellections—above all, originality and boldness, a gamey contribution to the long unfolding polyphonic song that is poetry. This is zesty writing, individual and unintimidated by the sharp nature of much of the material. “Beauty doing its job”, to quote the poet.’—Peter Rose.

‘These poems, as fine as bone china, have an acuity of image, tone and phrase that can cut to the bone, laying bare how the perception of “the unfathomable suddenly everywhere” becomes a mode of being. In Maria Takolander, poetry has found a fresh articulation and a new voice.’—Paul Kane.

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Reviews

'The most notable aspect of Maria Takolander's work is its intensity . . . its precise articulation of violence.'Island.

'Challenging and . . . disturbing . . . A book of great accomplishment.'Australian Book Review.