Bermuda and the Other Islands is an inventive and adventurous collection, not afraid to reach out, grasp language by the neck and give it a good shake. If this sometimes results in excessive obscurity, the collection nonetheless impresses for its ambition, not only in the matter of linguistic acrobatics, but also in its subject matter, which roves across Bermuda, Noosa, Currumbin, Coolangatta, as well as the'other' islands of childhood, the body, geometry, politics, history, food and dahlias.
Judges Report, Mary Gilmore Award, 2000
Juliana Burgesen-Bednareck is Australia's poetic Jean Rhys. Like a Creole philosopher, she confronts us with honest, passionate vignettes and a sharp intelligence. She captures systems of local magic that operate nowhere else as in the islands of the Western Atlantic and Caribbean while, at the same time, transporting us to other real and imaginary shores around the globe. And Burgesen-Bednareck wields her tools well a gutsy rhythm and a brazen sexuality of words. In Bermuda and the Other Islands we voyage through the tangled sargasso that nets islands of the mind, the yearning for lost outposts of tranquility, the mystery of making maps in the mind and with our bodies: I'm Bloody Mary in a grass hut, growing / her own Bali H'ai, wee islands of giant urticaria / popping out on every square perch of kid skin,/ (from 'Weekend at the Beach House')
Here out of Brisbane comes a fresh, delightful, outrageously
with-it word-artist. At work in these pages is a swift wit, a dealer in
dazzlers, a trickster. Look for her five supple bamboos and three
cowlick clouds will cross the sun before you make your next move. Track
her pounce on puns she's not for being pinned down. But never
say that this poet is not serious.
What is particularly arresting and evocative is Burgesen-
Bednareck's seemingly effortless versatility of tones, matched by a stringency
of voice ranging from the streetwise to the urbane to the vulnerable: Amongst
the tea leaves and Hesperuses of love, within the welter of my eelish kind
nature bound, and culpable of hurricane birth.
Her ear for the demotic, alongside the juxtaposition
of vivid, feisty, often startling images with their hold on the sensuous
and the sensual, makes for ironic, telling renderings of this life as we
know it. There is wit, humour and a fierce intensity as Burgesen- Bednareck
leads us into the surreal: the poems crackle with immediacy, suppleness
and vision offering wry recognitions, but always a sense of going
places whatever the risk, waking up 'to the sieve sound of white surf' or
'becalmed in the lee of the Sargasso sea / without comprehensive insurance,
captain or coupling
Juliana Burgesen-Bednareck has looked into 'the eye
of the hurricane' and doesn't let us forget it in wonderful, challenging
poems that are unsettling, resonantly wide-ranging, generously-observed,
and wry. A book to savour and enjoy.
Juliana Burgensen-Bednareck's volume is a catch-if-catch-can, not for timid readers. It's probably best to simply dive in and swim to any poem that captures the imagination. There is sufficient variety to give you a good workout. The sum of the poems is the sum of the writer a chameleon, used up from hiatus to hiatus: 'At last, under this pergola, I am the long arm/ of my own law. Ugly, orangutan useful/ I interrogate nothing. Nothing interrogates me.' ('After the "Holiday of a Lifetime"')
This is secure writing, often powerful and dense, but it is not always likeable or comfortable, not always immediately accessible. At her best, Burgensen-Bednareck gives us finely tuned moments:'No ducks are dabbling/ in my backyard pond,/ the eels have seen to that,/ made queers of them all,/ and on the man-made island/ at the epicentre of my little/ man-made soul, a giant/ bamboo spirit guide conceals/ a squeaking something,/ somewhat bigger than a/ field mouse, but equally brown.' ('Parking')
You'll probably either love or hate this writer's work. There is much here to play with or puzzle over, and oddly, between the lines, the insecurity of family and feelings.
Jan Turner-Jones, Imago
Rumour has it that Juliana Burgesen-Bednareck
aspired to being born in Brisbane circa 1952. However, there is no official
record of such an event. Rumour also has it she graduated from the University
of Queensland in 1975, as a remover of ingrown toenails and lancer of itinerant
boils, but there is no record of this either.
Her first book, the scurrilous Mission Brown Chihuahua, written as Anna Cameron, was published in 1993. Prior to this, she appeared in journals and anthologies in the challenging dual roles of the Evans twins, Emma and Gayle.
Juliana has variously been described as
a poet, dramatist, syncopated sapphist, actor, disreputable cousin of Mr
W H Auden, assemblage artiste, auteur, and 'elder' activist, depending on
the vantage point and age of surviving witnesses.
Some of the above descriptions could well have been intended as insults, some as compliments. Which is which is which is up to the taste of the reader and their times.
Our third title in the Literature Series, which was launched at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September, 1998, is Bermuda and the Other Islands by Juliana Burgesen-Bednareck, also known as Anna Cameron.
We are delighted to mention that it was Highly Commended in the 2000 Mary Gilmore Award competition.
The book is arresting in its originality and dramatic expression
and uncompromising in setting the horizons of its subject matter.
Juliana Burgesen-Bednarecks poetry does not claim to travel from Bermuda to Bali to Bali Hai. It simply island hops from one adopted land to another detouring around a few rent girls and boys, lipstick dykes, members of the bar and national disgraces, along the way posing the sticky question, Is it possible to know where you belong without even knowing your place?