By Andy JacksonPoetryGiramondo Publishing

Human Looking

A ground-breaking insight into the experience of disability, from a distinguished poet who has lived with Marfan Syndrome, including severe spinal curvature, and whose poems give voice to those who are often treated as ‘other’ or alien. 

The poems are visceral and intimate, they comfort and discomfort at the same time – empathy for the other seems to falter, only to expand and deepen.

The poems in Human Looking speak with the voices of the disabled and the disfigured, in ways which are confronting, but also illuminating and tender. They speak of surgical interventions, and of the different kinds of disability which they seek to ‘correct’. They range widely, finding figures to identify with in mythology and history, art and photography, poetry and fiction. A number of poems deal with unsettling extremes of embodiment, and with violence against disabled people. Others emerge out of everyday life, and the effects of illness, pain and prejudice. The strength of the speaking voice is remarkable, as is its capacity for empathy and love. ‘I, this wonderful catastrophe’, the poet has Mary Shelley’s monstrous figure declare. The use of unusual and disjunctive – or ‘deformed’ – poetic forms, adds to the emotional impact of the poems.

Portrait of Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson’s first collection, Among the Regulars, was shortlisted for the 2011 Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry; in 2020 his collection Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold was shortlisted for the John Bray Poetry Award. He has featured at literary events and arts festivals in Ireland, India, the USA and across Australia, and has co-edited disability-themed issues of the literary journals Southerly and Australian Poetry Journal. Andy Jackson works as a creative writing teacher and tutor for community organisations and universities.

Judges’ report

Andy Jackson’s fifth collection is nothing short of textured. While fiercely anecdotal, conversational and crafted, Jackson’s art is consistent in its illumination of the discourse and lived experience in disability. These poems range in craft from his own childhood medical files, responses to pop culture and connective odes in erasure to literature’s greats. Deep and experienced, accessible and challenging, Human Looking casts honestly filtered light on our bodies. How we see them, respond to them and how we live within them, this collection is dimensional in its lyricism and form. An undeniably potent collection ‘tenderly sketched’ by its creator.

Extract

Blemished

from the Rabbinic scriptures and a Buzzfeed article

 

A hunched back could be a misshapen eyebrow.

Withered could also be dwarf.

Some of our problems are to do with translation.

 

Here, perfection and human weakness touch.

You wouldn’t want to distract the people from YHWH.

Without eyebrows. Missing teeth. Nose too big.

The people will stare at you. There is nothing wrong with them.

 

A priest is like an X-ray physician – at far more risk

than the patient. Inspiration is too much for your body to lift.

Breasts like those of a woman. Bowlegged. Epileptic.

 

You’re shaped into a question that confounds them.

Unmatching eyes. Crushed testicles. Blind. Lame.

You can still sweep the courtyard, and eat the holy food,

but you can never offer the sacrifices.

 

 

A rare sight at Fashion Week – you walk down the runway

and the audience cheers. This is not frightening.

All you can do is love every single part

 

of the body you will have for the rest of your life.

You get made up, pose, look beautiful.

Pockets of the industry are ticking your box and feeling good

about themselves. Your gait reminds some of a marionette.

 

Today, you are the most inspirational, viral thing.

Your face, with patches of pigment missing.

How the wheels turn beneath your hands.

 

People who thought they were alone

send you desperate, ecstatic messages. You know

even the fit models wear padded bras and butt pads.

Has anyone even noticed the clothes?

 

 

Then the lame will leap like deer,

              the tongues of the speechless sing for joy.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist