The strongest of these poems tackle urban
living from the lower depths, upwards. Avoiding the money and bullshit
end of town, they make vivid the cruddy vitality of Sydney's clubs and
pubs; squats and public housing; fringe venues where non-commercial plays
are staged (receiving mixed responses, see `Alibi') and where poets
perform, sometimes winging it, as do `Angel & the Butch Balladeer'
in the eponymous (very witty) poem. A homage to a grandfather collages
evocative detritus-postcards from a First World War digger amidst the
accelerating drift of post-Second World War lifeways. History
is also shown via the gay scene and Mardi Gras—once a political march,
now a TV special featuring "camera smiles/ sparkle for sale".
Narrative poems, long and short (e.g. `urban blight', `living statues') are the book's best, with crunched-down syntax and some graphic images, plus trouble taken to nuance socio-emotional complexities: `top sorts' is about a shower tea in a pub, as rowdy and rough as the post-industrial backwater where it's set—yet as poem it's fresh, poignant, memorable. The focus is strongly on women, as in, for example, `elsewhere in the city', whose sharply drawn protagonists young, rebellious, seeking poetry and/or escape are treated empathically, yet stay in the mind as emblematic good-timers who've partied a shade too long and hard. They're self-betrayers, but the hustling, hyped-up city has also used and abused them. Rue, in these poems, is extended into collective life: the twist-endings clarify the bitterness that comes after energy, money and/or time have been spent on promises that entice and exploit but don't make good.
The poems are equally lively on country matters—'visitor at home' won the 2002 Leonard Teale Performance Prize at the Gulgong (NSW) Henry Lawson Festival. It's a rousing portrait of a man who "understood the way of wars"—ex-RAAF, terminally defensive, unavailable or plain brutal to the wife and kids. Cafe Boogie is an emotionally literate trip through some of the small-and-larger-scaled battlegrounds of contemporary life; it's big-hearted enough to laugh at some of the furies driving it — and bounce on.
— Kerry Leves, Overland
Café Boogie If you ever wonder what
big city life is like, part of the answer can be found in Jenni Nixon’s
Café Boogie. The big city is Sydney where Nixon, formerly an actor
with the Queensland Theatre Company, now lives and works as a performance
Interactive Press in Brisbane have brought out her book in their Emerging Author’s Series which “showcases the best emerging Australian literary talent.” The milieu Nixon writes about and moves amongst includes Sydney’s bohemian culture and lesbian and gay communities — part poetry slam, part Mardi Gras. That Jenni Nixon is a survivor is evident from the fact that her record of the city’s subcultures spans more than thirty years and from her chubby smiling face in the author photograph. Many of those she writes about were not so lucky. Their young lives were cut short by AIDS, drug overdoses, and violence. Nixon’s compassion is not overstated. It is enough to have noticed and recorded: ‘this is what being young is all about experimentation trust mixed with danger smell of leather stale perfume whips of pleasure words of pain sweet really.’
The poet is not out to shock but to entertain and this means to ‘tell it like it is.’ Her poem Visitor at Home won a prize at the Henry Lawson Festival in 2002: ‘a visitor at home brawling with mum waiting to go back to the club to be with men who understood the way of wars.’ Although there are a number of formal poems, including a villanelle, most of the work appears on the page as dense blocks of text punctuated by spaces, as in the examples above. They demand the poet at the microphone — the vitality of performance — but lacking that, I was entertained and not a little moved by such an intelligent observer of the nitty-gritty in the city. Jenni Nixon makes it plain that she is not just a spectator, but a participant.
— Robin Fry, New Zealand Poetry Society
Jenni Nixon’s book is a journey of salvage through some hard lessons and difficult times, told in a way that is atmospheric and immediate, often with a wry twist. Café Boogie is full of earned work that celebrates awareness gained whilst honouring the losses and counting the costs, including some significant deaths of family, friends and muses taken by age, AIDS or addictions. It is about people who “make up for loss with more loss”, where self-acceptance is the harder road. Nixon’s background in theatre and performance are obviously influential in the writing. Using bold phrasings and syntax, determined to keep it real, she records a life lived in and around Sydney’s bohemian culture and lesbian and gay communities from the 1970s to the present—the drugs, gossip, politics and drama; the loves, friendships and lost time. Although mainly narrative in her style, Nixon does not shy away from political protest; she cuts to the chase and not even the Dalai Lama or her own milieu and persona escape.
— Jill Jones
Nixon is a captivating performer. Her poetry of city and country life is sharp, can be poignant and is full of fun. This is exciting, different and memorable.
— Blue Mountains Gazette
Café Boogie is one of those rare poetry
books born out of performance that works well on the page.
These are poems that have been crafted over a number of years but without losing the sharpness of experience that comes with an intimate knowledge of life in a major urban centre (in this case Sydney, Australia).
Nixon gives voice to the marginalised and dispossessed in our society, but with a vitality that goes well beyond didacticism and surface observation.
She confronts some of the most gut-wrenching issues of our day and finds the poetic in them.
Jenni Nixon is one of Australia's premier performance poets and is renowned for her riveting spoken word perfomances. Now you can enjoy spoken word versions of her captivating book Café Boogie as high quality audio.
The CD also features a digital version of Café Boogie, complete with attached audio files, and with new poems and several additional illustrations by Nixon.
With her long history of performance work, Nixon saw
the production of this CD anthology as a natural progression from Café Boogie.
The poems were professionally recorded at The
Lab by Chris Hancock and the result is a high quality audio anthology that
is playable in both home and portable CD players as well as in a computer.
Jenni Nixon is a graduate of the Independent
Theatre, Sydney, and worked as an actor for many years. She toured with the
Queensland Theatre Company, delivering classic and contemporary plays along
with a poetry program.
As a performance poet Jenni has read at a wide range of events in Sydney, Melbourne, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains.
Her poem “visitor at home” won the 2002 Leonard Teale Memorial Prize at the Henry Lawson Festival, Gulgong, NSW.
Café Boogie was Commended in the IP Picks 2003 competition for unpublished poetry manuscripts.
Jenni lives in Sydney and is an active poet/performer at diverse venues.