Best International First Collection (The Laurel Prize 2022)
A tenderly devastating look at our cows and ourselves by a remarkable new poet.
I am trying to go vegetarian but finding myself weak,
week to week browsing the meat aisle at a linger
close enough to chill my arms to gooseflesh. I only buy
stuff so processed it hardly makes sense to call it meat.
Saveloy, nugget, continental frankfurter;
whatever gets extruded pink beyond possible memory
of the preceding body.
— ‘The Flexitarian’
In this dazzling first collection, acclaimed Wellington poet and Canterbury farm-girl Rebecca Hawkes takes a generous bite from the excesses of earthly flesh – first ‘Meat’, then ‘Lovers’.
‘Meat’ is a coming of age in which pony clubs, orphaned lambs and dairy-shed delirium are infused with playful menace and queer longings. Between bottle-fed care and killing-shed floors, the farm is a heady setting for love and death.
In ‘Lovers’, the poet casts a wry eye over romance, from youthful sapphic infatuation to seething beastliness. Sentimental intensity is anchored by an introspective comic streak, in which ‘the stars are watching us / and boy howdy are they judgemental’.
This collection of queasy hungers offers a feast of explosive mince & cheese pies, accusatory crackling, lab-grown meat and beetroot tempeh burger patties, all washed down with bloody milk or apple-mush moonshine. It teems with sensuous life, from domesticated beasts to the undulating mysteries of eels, as Hawkes explores uneasy relationships with our animals and with each other.
Tender and brutal, seductive and repulsive, Meat Lovers introduces a compelling new mode of hardcore pastoral.
The old station-holders used to castrate lambs
to wethers with their teeth – isn’t that your area
of interest? Hard men rousing on the muster
posing the evergreen question: to spit or swallow?
But think how tender those shepherds must have been
with their incisive surgery – the cutting kiss –
and all that bleating.
— ‘Mad Butcher’s Love Song’
Rebecca Hawkes grew up on a sheep and beef farm near Methven and now maintains a tenuous work/work balance in Wellington city.
With poems widely published in Aotearoa journals, Rebecca’s debut chapbook ‘Softcore coldsores’ was published in AUP New Poets 5 for the reignition of the series in 2019. Meat Lovers is her first full-length collection.
Rebecca is an editor for literary journal Sweet Mammalian and the climate change poetry anthology No Other Place to Stand (Auckland University Press, forthcoming). She is a founding member of popstar poets’ performance posse Show Ponies and haphazard coordinator of the Pegasus Books poetry reading series.
When not writing, painting or gainfully employed, she can be observed painstakingly catching insects to feed her spoilt pitcher plants.
‘Rebecca Hawkes is the unmatched empress of viscera. Thrillingly perverse, utterly compelling – you eat these poems like overripe peaches, or like your own tongue.’ — Freya Daly Sadgrove
‘This collection presents a strong, distinctive, and, in some places, a startling and disturbing voice. Hawkes uses the everyday of supermarkets and butchers’ shops, farms and suburban streets. But there is often an unsettling sense of nightmare and gothic, and that unsettlement comes from an interrogation of the practices that we unthinkingly accept as normal, but are here imbued with a sense of menace.’ — Jane Stafford
‘Clearly, rubber gloves are one of the images Hawkes owns by right of obsession, but they will do nothing to protect you from the clinging smell of these poems, an irreverent blend of cow shit and red meat and mangroves and pomegranate and raw talent.’ — Joan Fleming on Rebecca Hawkes in AUP New Poets 5
Best International First Collection — The Laurel Prize 2022
Shortlisted — LAMBDA Literary Awards 2023 — Bisexual Poetry
Longlisted — Ockham New Zealand Book Awards — Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry
'The poetic craft captivates, yet it is the glint and gleam of life, as young girl and as young woman, at times macabre, at times lust, at times vulnerable, always astonishing, that transports and impales.' — Paula Green for Kete Books
'There are reflections on growing up on a Canterbury farm, from tail docking to the realities of meat processing to paddock-side questions about sexuality, plus a losing battle against the allure of animal products . . . You’ll never look at the word “pastoral” the same again.' — Laura Williamson for 1964
'Overall, a really thought provoking selection of finely crafted and lyrical poetry that captures so much of the psyche of the farming community in new and inventive ways, as well as providing an insight into the deep emotional and observational qualities of Hawkes herself.' — Chris Reed for NZ Booklovers