Milk Teeth (Rae White, UQP)
Rae White’s striking debut poetry collection, Milk Teeth, explores gender, identity and the body with an admirably light touch. The manuscript, which won the 2017 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, defies easy categorisation. Milk Teeth is challenging and lively, dexterously tackling weighty issues alongside everyday life. White’s work is both technically inventive and accessible, and the poems here ripple with captivating, unsettling imagery and textual play. In ‘Mother’s Milk’, a swallowed molar ‘glimmers & hums, my beautiful / crystalline baby / the only jewellery / I’ll ever wear’; while the poem ‘<title>gender optional</title>’ features lines of poetic code, declaring: ‘>>Gender not found<< / if (value == “trans”) / return false;’. While there’s an undercurrent of wry humour to some of these pieces (see ‘tweets i never published’), White, who identifies as non-binary, also interrogates gender binaries and explores the nature of transgender identities. Poems such as ‘what even r u’, which placed second in the 2017 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize, and ‘Regarding your suspension’ address discrimination and abuse with raw honesty. Fans of more traditional poetic forms may not be fully engaged by Milk Teeth, but this collection is nonetheless an assured and original debut from a powerful new voice in Australian poetry.
Carody Culver is a Brisbane-based freelance writer and editor