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Human Looking

120 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published October 2021
ISBN 9781925818857

Human Looking

Andy Jackson

Winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award

WINNER: Prime Minister’s Literary Award – Poetry 2022
WINNER: ALS Gold Medal 2022
SHORTLISTED: Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – Poetry 2022

A ground-breaking insight into the experience of disability, from a distinguished poet who has lived with Marfan Syndrome, including severe spinal curvature, and whose poems give voice to those who are often treated as ‘other’ or alien. 

The poems are visceral and intimate, they comfort and discomfort at the same time – empathy for the other seems to falter, only to expand and deepen.

The poems in Human Looking speak with the voices of the disabled and the disfigured, in ways which are confronting, but also illuminating and tender. They speak of surgical interventions, and of the different kinds of disability which they seek to ‘correct’. They range widely, finding figures to identify with in mythology and history, art and photography, poetry and fiction. A number of poems deal with unsettling extremes of embodiment, and with violence against disabled people. Others emerge out of everyday life, and the effects of illness, pain and prejudice. The strength of the speaking voice is remarkable, as is its capacity for empathy and love. ‘I, this wonderful catastrophe’, the poet has Mary Shelley’s monstrous figure declare. The use of unusual and disjunctive – or ‘deformed’ – poetic forms, adds to the emotional impact of the poems.

Brutally honest, without a whiff of self-pity, Human Looking illuminates our bodies and all that is beautiful and difficult about them. These poems have heft, lyrically and emotionally, yet they soar.
Christos Tsiolkas

Jackson puts himself on the line in a way few poets dare, and his vulnerability and fierceness are transformative. That’s why he is one of the best – most necessary, most powerful – poets in Australia today.
Maria Takolander

These poems exist as wounds, as ‘perfect riddles’, as desire, as song…looking closely at what we consider to be wholeness and beauty, and their imperfect, sometimes hidden counterparts.
Eileen Chong

Compassion is, and has always been, the distinguishing feature of Andy Jackson’s work…[a compassion which is] hard-won rather than casual; unflinching rather than sentimental.Geoff Page, The Australian

Sharp and brilliant…[Jackson’s] poems provide a more capacious account of the aesthetics and experience of the human body, displacing the ‘normal’ body from the centre of our attention and expanding the possibilities for human looking. Measured and dispassionate in tone, the poems nonetheless burst with anger and joy…With powerful poetic skill and infinite compassion, this book illuminates the world differently and gives us a new way to see.Judges’ citation, ALS Gold Medal

Jackson’s book is an extraordinary poetic exploration of his own disability…His poems are blistering in their power, wonderfully subtle, objective and with no self-pity.
Judges’ citation, Prime Minster’s Literary Award

About the Author

Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson’s first collection, Among the Regulars, was shortlisted for the 2011 Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry; in 2020 his collection Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold was shortlisted for the John Bray Poetry Award. He has featured at literary events and arts festivals in Ireland, India, the USA and across Australia, and has co-edited disability-themed issues of the literary journals Southerly and Australian Poetry Journal. Andy Jackson works as a creative writing teacher and tutor for community organisations and universities.

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Andy Jackson on ABC 7.30



HappyMag: Best Books of the Week

Readings: The best of Australian poetry 2021

Interviews and conversations

Book launch: Andy Jackson in conversation with Jill Jones

The Garrett: At home with Andy Jackson

On Being: Andy Jackson on the Poetry Unbound podcast

Bendigo Advertiser: Andy Jackson following his PMLA win

 Why Write?: Andy Jackson speaks with the Chair of Writers Victoria

Australian Book Review: Poet of the Month

Related News

Andy Jackson wins 2022 ALS Gold Medal

The award judges described Human Looking as a ‘sharp and brilliant collection…with powerful poetic skill and infinite compassion, this book illuminates the world differently and gives us a new way to see.’

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Andy Jackson: a note on Human Looking

There are two ways of saying ‘human looking’; one with a hyphen, the other with a comma. In other words, these poems are about how we judge others to be human yet not-quite-human. They’re also about the humanness of the gaze, the vulnerability of the person doing the looking.

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Our new-look poetry series

‘Whilst designing, I seek to decipher meanings in abstract visual configurations in response to the literary work, as well as to determine how abstract an image can be and retain meaning for others.’ Jenny Grigg describes the process for designing Giramondo’s new-look poetry series.

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