antennae scratch sky by Þórunn Erla Valdimarsdóttir

Book review
21.10.2010
Words by Emily Burton
Divided into sections (‘Intro’, ‘Death and Life’, ‘Cosmic Dreams’, ‘Day to Day’) with colour-coded titles, ‘antennae scratch sky’ touches on life cycles, animal instincts, sexuality, cosmos, fruit and the meaning of the word “motherfucker”. The 64-page book contains some good, some bad poems behind a cover sporting drawings of what looks like a fat flamingo and a sad, radioactive bunny.

The poems’ are peppered with Greek gods’ names and vague personifications of death, life and beauty, like in the poem ‘Centaur,’ but which lacks the ingenuity of more descriptive poems like ‘Sabbath’ in which Þórunn describes snowfall as “Unwritten snowy paper/ in the homedrive/ makes a marring sound./ An Arabic snowpoem/ written by tires.” The poems that begin with simple ideas and expand out create more poetic congruency than the those that begin with vague ideas and try to tie in intricate details.

One example where the simple to complex construction works is in the poem ‘Beyond the Line’. The poem begins with the image of a woman throwing fruit waste into a compost and connects it to the process of a decomposing human body. “...no pollutive pyre/ or costly grave. It would serve humans best/ to be stewed into compost/ reviving dead forests and deserts.” The poem describes the metamorphosis of a lifeless human body into an apple, maggot, bird and back to an apple, etc. The language of the poem turns an old idea into something new without being overly complicated.

The two biggest problems with the book are the lack of punctuation and centre alignment of every poem. Some of the longer poems like ‘mama’ and ‘you’re a good poet/ I can see it in your face’ read more like stream of conscious and could greatly benefit from a more “streamlined” construction instead of centred alignment. Centre aligning every poem, without explicit reasoning, seems lazy and uninventive.

Þórunn’s more playful poems (with some serious undertones) like ‘Folk and Felines’ describing the differences between dogs (who view humans as gods) and cats (who think they are dogs) are much more enjoyable to read than some of the heavier poems like ‘mama’. The poem ‘mama’ rambles on about how “motherfucker is a negative concept/ making it seem bad to service her/ let’s make it beautiful, and being a bitch too” for nine pages. Unfortunately, the controversy overrides the lyricism. The poem lacks poetic forcefulness to merit such a complex topic.

Some of the descriptions of fruit relating to human sexual organs are pretty hilarious, especially in the poem ‘L’amour dans le jardin/ or a fantasy about edible pulpy plants’. Avid poetry readers might not be too impressed, but for the casual one, ‘antennae scratch sky’ is worth a read. 

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