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Book review: Take Care, Eunice Andrada

Reader beware: these poems can burn.

In an interview with Liminal last year, award-winning poet Eunice Andrada said: ‘One of the urgent reasons I write is to reclaim the power from which people like me—women of colour, survivors of violence, immigrants, fetishised bodies, etc.—have been dispossessed. When I write from the body, I try to hold a mirror not only to myself, but to the reader and the world, too.’

With her second volume of poetry, Take Care, Andrada continues to interrogate her own place in the world, and those of other women who’ve struggled for agency under the reinforced scaffolding of patriarchy. Although the title may sound like a casual throwaway deliverance of good wishes, gentle and sweet, the collection itself is shot through with passion and urgency. There is a dark subcurrent to these poems. 

Beware: The reader does have to take care; these works can burn.

It’s not an easy book to read but that’s the point: the author seeks to confront, disturb and enlighten. The personal is inextricable from the political. One of its themes is the exploration of sexualised and colonial enslavement and violence at the intersection of race. Andrada writes with lived experience and with the memory of her forbears in her blood: Take Care takes a well-aimed swipe at the racist and stereotypical tropes directed at Filipino women exploited in industries of service. In her ‘Vengeance Sequence’ she writes: ‘Filipino women stop working./ Empires shut down in a tantrum,/refusing to care for themselves./We do not go back to work.’ The multi-layered title asks the reader to question who exactly are the givers and beneficiaries of care in a capitalist society.

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Another poetic sequence is about ‘comfort women’ who’ve been raped as spoils of war. But it’s not just militarised assault but the more everyday societal misogyny that includes the casual street harassment and the search for small brown bodies in porn that provokes Andrada. The book offers an insider/outsider perspective— what it means to be caught up in situations beyond one’s control.

And yet there is still power in bearing witness with words. Her poems, that often play with form and structure, can be both precisely constructed bombs and lyrical bursts of tenderness, but whether it’s an expose on labour exploitation, the unjustness of justice systems, and the precarious safety of all women in general, Take Care is a feminist reckoning. As Andrada says, she writes the poem ‘so it lives/outside of my body.’

Take Care by Eunice Andrada
Publisher: Giramondo Publishing
ISBN: 9781925818796
Pages: 82pp
Format: paperback
RRP: $24
Publication date: September 2021

Thuy On is Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and a freelance arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She's the outgoing books editor of The Big issue. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was published by University of Western Australia Press. Twitter: @thuy_on

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