Reviewed by Leila Lois
by Eunice Andrada
82 pages, Paperback, September 2021, ISBN 9781925818796
Take Care is the brave and arrestingly beautiful second poetry collection to come from Eunice Andrada. Within the seventy one pages, Andrada delves (as she characteristically does) straight to the heart of what it means to be a young woman of diaspora, in a system bound to the prevailing iniquity of colonialism, which is ‘a structure, not an event’. In so doing, her poetry illustrates the attention, work and ‘care’ that urgently needs to be taken at a personal and structural level to avoid perpetuating this juggernaut of harm. Interspersed with poems that at once depict crisis and inspire bravery, Take Care is an emblem of a book that elucidates all the weight of Audre Lorde’s words when she wrote (2017): ‘My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.’
It seems fitting to connect Andrada’s work with Lorde, for this book is a work of consummate bravery, interrogating power structures, recounting personal experience of gender-based violence and intergenerational trauma. Following Audre Lorde, Eunice Andrada through her words holds space for resistance, reclamation and simply the power of voice. Every poem in the collection teems with the consequences of silence after abuse and exploitation, from the unsettling diatribe of the list poem, ‘Don’t you hate it when women’ to the intense disillusionment of the poem ‘Sexual Report Questionnaire: Describe your hair’. In both poems, the final lines leave the reader done for; the progression of the poems towards closure is breathtaking. We are left with so many questions as to why many women still endure the indignity and pain of abuse and the double-blow of silencing. This feels like a Lordeian call to arms for all women but especially women of colour to demand their safety and fight against the bromide of policies which are currently failing to secure this.
The very title of the collection ‘Take Care’ is a dramatic irony, highlighting the monumental failing of a contemporary society that promises equity and the collective elimination of peril yet has fallen short of securing universal safety from gender-based violence. We are often told to ‘take care’ as a benign and banal message, a throwaway few words unless followed through with genuine compassion and action. Andrada highlights this so succinctly in the poem ‘Duolingo’. Demystifying the ‘fail safe’ app for language learning, the poem exposes the oxymoronic idioms we use in our mother tongues that are perhaps untranslatable, centring on life and death, such as ‘I’m dead. /I’m dying’ to express mirth. The poem finishes with the lines: ‘There are things we must kill/ so we can live to celebrate.’ This again exposes the cached violence of imperialism, alluding perhaps to the suppression of indigenous languages by colonisers in Andrada’s ancestral land of The Philippines and the suppression of minority voices (read: women of colour) in contemporary ‘Australia’, where she grew up.
The collection trembles with trespasses of boundaries, literal and allegorical in a deeply embodied sense. There are poems in ‘Take Care’ that knocked the breath out of me. Whether the reader has direct experience of gender-based violence or not, Andrada’s ability to galvanise compassion is extraordinary. Take Care is a deeply important moment for women of Diasporas who have lived in settler societies, such as contemporary Australia and reckoned with the failure to be heard and protected. It is a significant piece of work for wider understanding of the systemic machinations that threaten their bodies with violation and erasure. Take Care exposes violations at a personal and peripheral level, showing the inextricability of loss in this era and urging us not to look away.
These verses with their beauty and depth will carry away any reader and inspire them to truly ‘take care’ of themselves and others as under this system, freedom has proven to be predicated upon the ‘unfreedom’ of others. The poems contest the system by recognition that when a woman of colour cares for herself, it is not as ‘self-indulgence’ but an ‘act of resistance’ (Lorde, 1988).
Lorde, Audre 1988. A Burst of Light: Essay collection, Firebrand Books
2017. Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Collected Essays. Publisher: Silver Press
About the reviewer: Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage who has lived most of her life in Aotearoa. In her poems, Leila explores a personal sense of origin that, like the ocean, binds several landscapes and times, coming back to the idea that a timeless, boundless love pervades. Her publishing history includes Southerly Journal, Djed Press, NoD Literary Journal, Honey Lit Journal, Mayhem Journal, Lite Lit One, Bent Street Journal and Delving into Dance. Find out more at: www.leilaloisdances.com/writing or at Twitter: leilaboos