A review of Oh My Rapture by Gemma White

Reviewed by Dr Beatriz Copello

Oh My Rapture
by Gemma White
Interactive Press
ISBN: 9781922830173, Paperback, 62 pages, $26aud

The reader won’t find conformity in Oh My Rapture or accordance with literary practices characteristic of traditional poetry. The poems in this book break many rules, and express what is not expected. Was I disappointed about all of this?  Absolutely NO, surprised yes.  This book is different and I very much enjoyed reading and reviewing it.

The first two things that surprised me was that the first poem starts on page 50 and the last poem is on page 1 and that the poems do not have titles – the page number appears to be the title. There is a sense of urgency in White’s Poetry, along with a veiled depth and hints of irony, but above all she expresses what it is not expected, she repeats, she shocks you and she leaves you wondering. For example, poem number “49”, on the second page of poems confronts wastage, and human complicity. What doesn’t hesitate to say it as it is: 

i-text i-talk i -eat i- drink i– piss i piss
i give no shits
i-take i-walk i-eat i- piss i-waste i-want i-buy
i buy
i-text i-pout
shit out
i-come i-conquer
i wank
i-eat i-work i-buy i-jerk
i-waste i-want

Hidden amongst all the coarseness and slang words there is gentleness and poignancy, as you read page by page you can feel it. There is a voice impregnated in the words of the poems that are like two forces, forces that propel and repel each other. 

Some of the poems appear to be very personal particularly about mental health, the impact of medicines on the mind, love affairs and relationships. Rebellion, anger and grit are evident in many poems but also humour, no euphemisms, amongst the variety of topics there is a poem which is an advice to writers, poem 33, here it is:

The voice inside your head
is not your friend
and if the goal is to create
you must escape yourself
you must become a god
so far above that whiny self-pitying monologues
no longer exist
they have been left behind
along with the unflattering selfies
black skinny jeans that no longer fit
and sneakers that let the rain in

It is obvious that the poet has a rich, creative mind. Creativity sometimes is like a horse that bolts and needs to be controlled. We writers and poets need to control our creativity for the protection of our mental health. White expresses her environmental concerns, marrying them to everyday life like washing dishes and using plastic cups. Lists make an appearance in this collection: a letter to Nick Cave, and instructions on how to be a good poet that made me laugh:

to be a good poet:
write in forms that are centuries old
be aloof and self-consciously obscure
shroud your meaning in secrecy
make editors wet with your vagueness
I don’t want to be a good poet
I want to be a naughty one!

I believe that Gemma White is a naughty poet, but who cares when she makes you sad, surprised, laugh and think about issues.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is an award-winning poet who writes poetry, fiction, poetry reviews and plays. The author’s books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria, A Call to the Stars translated and published in China and Taiwan, Witches Women and Words, Renacer en Azul and  Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish). Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. Copello is mentioned amongst the forty “most notable people” graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney.