A review by jaclyn_sixminutesforme
How Decent Folk Behave by Maxine Beneba Clarke


The poems breathe the same locked down, battle-weary air that we’ve all exhaled in varying degrees over the past two years. They capture nuance, politics, experiences, and saying they “speak to now” grossly undersells how stunningly captured each observation is. They articulate the realities of policy on those most deeply impacted, the disproportionate realities and lived experiences of racism and colonialism and disasters (natural world and pandemic alike).

There’s an infinite wealth to let sit with you in this, but one I wanted to share because I think it will resonate with y’all as readers, and as people watching policy in this space - Clarke writes:

“art is at the heart
of all that we are”

and in this poem, “the memory of your better half,” reminds us of the flippancy of where “art” sits in the national political agenda (it sits in the same portfolio as infrastructure). In the same breath, Clarke takes us to the healing and even preventative health benefits of art, the way art and arts spaces bring meaning and connection and joy.

The poem “my feminism” is one I found particularly striking, and would recommend to those following what is happening in the #AusLit poetry space this weekend! Clarke captures feminism on a trajectory through time, an inclusive learning journey that constantly aspires to elevate while acknowledging it’s inevitable flaws.

I can’t recommend this enough, it’s the kind of poetry that will bring you comfort while simultaneously stoking the fire in your belly.