Trigger Warning by Maria Takolander
Maria Takolander is an established Australian poet, and Trigger Warning is her fourth collection. At times a deeply personal selection of poems, it left me in awe of a poet’s ability to trust and to share.
The opening section, ‘Confessions’, is the most daring and engaging. Throughout it, Takolander’s poems are addressed as conversations with other poets, referencing specific works by Sylvia Plath, Anne Carson, Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Sexton and Adrienne Rich, among others. Takolander uses the oeuvres of these poets to confess details about her life – several focus on her husband becoming unwell and his resulting emergency surgery, others on her childhood surrounded by domestic violence. Takolander bares herself entirely through these poems, presenting arresting portraits of her family, while also characterising how relationships between them have progressed and changed. For this reason, I particularly enjoyed ‘Daddy’ (a nod to Sylvia Plath) and ‘Argument’ (inspired by Elizbeth Bishop).
The second section, ‘Domestic’, and the third section, ‘Outside’, lose some of this hyper-personal focus and instead become more generalised about contemporary life. Some of the poems are humorous – such as ‘Toilet’ – but others feel more like observations, though I did enjoy ‘Escalator’ for its focus on the need for movement and progress in a capitalist society. A particular strength of ‘Outside’ is in Takolander’s nature poems; ‘Haiku for the Anthropocene’ and ‘Scenes from a Documentary’ both focus on the wonder of the natural world. Other poems in this final section are more experimental with their use of form, playing with diagrams and changing the direction of reading. These work well, but may not suit readers who prefer a more traditional layout. Overall, Trigger Warning is a strong and compelling collection, with distinct focuses to each section.