A review of Tickets to the Fall of Icarus by James Gering

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Tickets to the Fall of Icarus
by James Gering
Interactive Press
December 2023, Paperback, 106 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1922830470

When for the first time I held Tickets to the Fall of Icarus I thought it would be a book of Greek mythology or about failure and burning the wings? Well, was I wrong! This fascinating book of poetry is about two characters Icarus and Audrey who could be anyone who loves the Blue Mountains in NSW, likes hiking its trails, climbing its cliffs, searching for dates and establishing relationships. 

The book is divided into four sections and a page of acknowledgements. The poetry is written in a variety of forms from long paragraphs to two or three lines of poetic narrative.  The first section is a very short one and the reader gets introduced to the characters. The poet retells the Icarus legend but it is the modern-day version – Icarus burns his wings but he does not drown, he rises himself up and plants his feet in the shallows and eats eggs and considers love. Audrey, the sophisticated woman, serves prawn cocktails to her guests. She imitates a butterfly but instead of going shopping she goes climbing rocks. What a pair. What a book!

Icarus not only trades in shares, which is luck dependant, but he also decides to start dating and gets involved in dating apps, which is also luck dependant. Readers who have tried this method of meeting partners will identify with Icarus’s experience. Like the cliché says: “You need to kiss many frogs to find a prince or princess”, but the poet says it a lot better in his creative way in the following poem “Ariadne Has Uploaded a Picture”:

The dating game isn’t for the faint-hearted
but the rewards are there for the brave
regrouping fall after fall
for a semblance of whole.

Gering brings to life his characters but also his Citroen. I thought I was the only crazy person who talks to her car like a person.  Here is an excerpt from the poem titled “Icarus’s Treasure – 2 – Double Dipping” when Icarus has a conversation with his Citron:

What do others stash?
Good sense? Hope and entitlement?
Insurance policies?
Snow falling, a rare event so lovely –
the laying of white cloth for a banquet.
Celebrating what?  No matter in my case –
snow or sun, I fetch my sustenance.
But today the Citroen refuses to drive,
to negotiate the white drifts.
‘I’ll trade you in,’ I say.
You wouldn’t.
‘Try me.’

Audrey and Icarus explore and question philosophical and life issues with answers that are imagined, proposed, and poignant. I was impressed by how well Gering developed the characters. There is a clear difference between Icarus and Audrey and Gering does a terrific job of capturing the female sensibility. The poet writes without sentimentality about all sorts of emotions from loneliness to passion. I am not surprised since he is an award-winning poet and short story writer, as well as a teacher and teachers very quickly develop a deep understanding of human beings their actions and feelings. 

The variety of topics covered in Tickets to the Fall of Icarus is gripping and varied, including such things as family issues, love, political comments and sprinkles of humour. All the places mentioned are well described with vivid images.  In some of the poems the many impacts of the Corona Virus on our lives are explored and readers will recognise themselves in the characters. As I read I started to wonder if I would behave like the protagonists, burning my wings like Icarus. Tickets to the Fall of Icarus is a humorous book full of fun and a bit of adventure. There is something here for everyone.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is an award-winning poet, she writes poetry, fiction, 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, No Salami Fairy Bread, Rambles, 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. The author has participated in international conferences, has taught Creative Writing at W.S.U. and other scholarly institutions, she has read her poetry at Writers Festivals and other poetry events in Australia and overseas. Copello is mentioned amongst the forty “most notable people” graduated from the University of Technology.