Killernova (Omar Musa, Penguin)
The latest collection from slam poet champion Omar Musa is a raw and muscular combination of poetry and woodcut art that uses the visual and literary capacities of each form to explore questions about heritage and legacy, actions and consequences. Musa has always been an artist willing to add new techniques and forms to his toolkit. In his introduction to Killernova he relays his travels in Borneo, the land of his grandparents, as part of a journey of self-reflection. On this journey he encountered members of Pangrok Sulap, an activist arts collective working with traditional woodcut techniques. He studied with them and discovered a way to combine words and visuals that reignited his passion for poetry. In Musa’s woodcuts solid blocks of black, cyan, indigo and red are scored with stark white delineations that play with negative space as they resolve into surreal and poetic images of were-leopards shooting hoops and pelicans bitching about debt with Donald Duck, or more tranquil scenes of starscapes and family bedrooms. Alongside the optimism and hope of these artworks, Musa’s poems carry a counterpoint tone of cynicism, exhaustion, confusion and determination as they shift focus between Borneo and Australia, meditating on environmental destruction, the ongoing consequences of colonialism, and the search for a place for the personal within a frightening and demanding world. Killernova will appeal to fans of Musa’s existing body of work, as well as readers interested in contemporary Australian poetry or graphic storytelling.
Adam Ford is an editor and published poet.