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Rating : 4 stars

Amnesia Findings by Anna Jacobson

Jacobson reminisces on Jewish culture, family, dementia, anxiety and love in a haunting and beautiful poetry collection.
Amnesia Findings by Anna Jacobson Image: Queensland Poetry Festival.

James Arbuthnott

Tuesday 17 December, 2019

In snapshots of childhood memories and warnings of multi-generational trauma, menacing drawings are sewn into raw and candid poems on the page in Brisbane poet and artist Anna Jacobson’s first full-length poetry series, Amnesia Findings.

Jacobson’s poems – which explore her grandma’s cooking, advice and dementia through to the same wonders and afflictions found in her mother – supplement contemplative, menacing childhood drawings of food, family heirlooms, toys and household items.

‘My mind’s attic is weathered timber,
psychosis-scorched at its centre.
The creatures dance around it,
Their harmony as certain
as the burn mark is circular.’
-          Creatures in My Attic

Jacobson uses ‘worry dolls’ – fear and worry-absorbing figures placed under children’s pillows – to tell stories to and laments how they know what troubles she gave them.

The poems reminisce on visions and memories of Jewish culture, family, dementia, anxiety and love in a haunting and beautiful voice depicting diaspora and survival. Poems borne from found hospital records and revisions of Jewish songs and stories help to heal her fading memories of displacement and family lore, while her dreamlike narratives on domestic furniture and accessories complement what could be a motif found also through her photography and video work.

The mostly sparse sentences warn of and expose a certain anxiety, but also clear-headedness, will and determination. It’s not just ominous warnings in Jacobson’s poems which make the inanimate grow to be full of life, but almost her role as a voyeur among them, coupled with a personal past and impending fate.

Jacobson won the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers award in 2018 and her published work – from photography to illustration, poems and video – spans more than 13 years.

Motivic in not just its imagery and language, Amnesia Findings blends Jacobson’s non-linear narrative in a variety of artforms – for example, her poem Separation Ceremony transforms her video art into lined drawings and puts her spoken word on the page.

Jacobson began formally through academia with a Bachelor of Photography with Honours in 2009, then moved onto Fine Arts, Philosophy and Museum Studies. Her poetry has appeared in Cordite, Rabbit, Australian Book Review, Meanjin and Verity La and she was a finalist in the Marie Ellis Prize for Drawing.

4 stars out of 5 ★★★★

Amnesia Findings by Anna Jacobson
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
ISBN: 9780702262586
Format: Paperback
Categories: Poetry, Australian
Pages: 112
Release Date: 3 September 2019
RRP: $24.95

About the author

James Arbuthnott is an Australian journalist and writer. Twitter: @we_forgot