Dress Rehearsals

Madison Godfrey

Dress Rehearsals
Allen & Unwin
28 February 2023

Dress Rehearsals

Madison Godfrey

My femininity is not a survival instinct, it is a song.

In their brilliant new poetry collection, Madison Godfrey documents a decade of performing womanhood, from teenage fangirl to tender femme. Godfrey's poems approach the autobiographical body as a site of the everyday and the surreal: experiencing first crushes, mosh pits, sharpened nails, gender euphoria, and the complicated colours of desire and memory.

Darkly witty and deeply confessional, Dress Rehearsals is a love story to the queer self. This coming-of-age memoir asks, what does it mean to wear femininity into the world, when it constitutes both a bullseye and a ballgown?

'Unlike anything else you'll ever read. It's an ode to womanhood, performative feminism and deeply confessional. Godfrey has created a deeply intimate letter to their experience of the everyday through an autobiography of sultry poetry.' InStyle Australia


Dress Rehearsals by Madison Godfrey is a powerful second collection of prose poetry. Alongside their previous collection How To Be Held (2018), a number of their other poems have been previously published in anthologies such as Admissions (2022) and Australian Poetry Anthology Vol. 9 (2021), and for their poem ‘Unmade’, which appears in this collection, Godfrey received the Tom Collins Poetry Prize in 2020. Dress Rehearsals is a glorious, queer exploration of Godfrey’s relationship to their selfhood from adolescence to young adulthood.

The collection, structured in three parts, forms a poetic memoir of Godfrey’s relationship to their body and gender. In Part One, Godfrey reflects on their adolescent years. In Part Two they explore their relationship to both performances of masculinity and femineity through the figure of the Femme Fatale becoming the Femme Menace. Part Three is where the collection really comes into its own. Particularly wonderful were the poems ‘Portrait of the Queer Body as Difficult Lace’, which dissects our construction of gender, and ‘Ugliest Girl at the Party’, which wryly answers the question: Why prose poetry?

What struck me the most about Godfrey’s poems was their attention to care and companionship while writing with a depth of well-earnt anger and frustration. The poem ‘Femme Menace as Guardian’ best demonstrates this attention to care when the Femme Menace says ‘It may seem easier to stay angry / but that will split you open / will turn your tenderness into an emergency.’ Godfrey does not shy away from their pain or discomfort, while writing about their queerness with a tenderness and warmth that itself feels radical. This was a delightful collection to read.

Dress Rehearsals is the first book to be published by Allen & Unwin’s new imprint Joan, curated by Nakkiah Lui, established to make space for rebellious and interdisciplinary writing that has been pushed to the fringes of publishing.

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