Dropbear (Evelyn Araluen, UQP)
When I was in primary school, on the occasion that foreign travellers or tourists would come to visit, our conversation would inevitably turn to Australia’s famous fauna and flora—to snakes and kangaroos and the desert and redbacks. For my friends and I, it became a commonplace game to attempt to direct these conversations to the imaginary ‘dropbear’—a carnivorous subspecies of koala that drops from treetops to maul its unassuming victims. It is the folkloric figment of the dropbear that Evelyn Araluen takes as the title for her superb debut collection of poems. The dropbear is a (settler) science fiction, but as a literal juncture of Country and violence, Araluen ironically transforms it into a mascot for the continuing violent dislocation and dispossession of Indigenous Australia. Such colonial technologies of control function as the fulcrum for Araluen’s poetic intervention, which moves deftly between lyricism, prose poetry and scholarly pastiche. Araluen deconstructs the ways in which literature itself has been appropriated for settler dominance in Australia: the pastoral, the bush ballad and the anthropological report are submitted to a critique whose valence is simultaneously political and moving. Dropbear is essential reading for anyone interested in ‘Australian’ poetics or politics.
Jeremy George works as a bookseller at Readings.