Rooms and Sequences
Mike Ladd is the best-kept secret in Australian poetry. It’s not that he’s not well known; he is. It’s more that few fully appreciate his range and uniqueness as a poet living both in the Australian mindscape, and distinctly outside it. His sequence “Ninety-One Hotel Rooms” shows the consolidations of the wanderer, the merging of the familiar (a room is a room is a room), with change and cultural shift. The mediating voice of self is always there, but also under pressure. He is a poet formally on edge, seeking to bring order to disorder, and disorder to the polite management of any poem. It is not surprising to find he was in a punk band in his early days, and that he's a radio producer these days. Ladd is an iconoclast and icon maker all at once. The treasure among treasures in the diverse and pluralistic collection is the “Anakhronismos” sequence, which would have to stand as one of the most individual and challenging sequences in Australian poetry. It’s like a convergence of Lehmann, Beaver, and even Laurie Duggan's “Epigrams of Martial”. And then there’s that classic, “3 Studies of a Rotary Hoist”, de rigueur for anyone trying to unpick Australian nationalism, parochialism, and a concomitant sense of irony. Ladd is a larrikin and a poetry tactician. Experimental, formal, multi-voiced. And often in the same poem. A book of the year.
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