Amanda Stewart's 'Kitsch Postcards'

Kitsch Postcards
I/T: Selected poems 1980–1996
stack level too deep
By Victoria Innell on October 2017


In Poetry and Gender: Statements and Essays in Australian Women's Poetry and Poetics, Stewart writes, 'I am interested in displacement, hysteria and rupture within meaning. Forms which release the ironies of meaning.' 'Kitsch Postcards' is one of many of Stewart's poems that play with, and challenge, what we may accept as 'known' or traditional.

The idea of what it is to be 'Australian' is 'ruptured' by the poet, exposing the ironies and superficialities embedded within, for example, symbols of national identity. From the opening paragraph, Stewart suggests that the concepts and symbols associated with national identity are merely restrictive containers, and this is reflected in the square shape of the opening paragraph. Here, 'Australia' is weakened by repetition and a sense of confusion - indicated by spacing and the movement between 'is' and 'am'.

This is followed by the poet's frantic cataloguing of all things 'Australian': 'Lucky, sunburnt, kangaroo, koala, wombat'. Stewart suggests that such 'lists' reflect the 'mindless mimic[s]' of our world and the way in which knowledge and meaning are often blithely accepted: 'We become creatures of imitation'.

In the following stanzas, Stewart continues her 'rupture of meaning' harnessing techniques such as irony, 'their picturesque slaughters', and juxtaposition, 'desert', 'sea'. However, towards the end of the poem, Stewart begins her move towards greater abstraction: 'suns flare in the navels of the sunburnt./Europe, New York and north west gravity'. Stewart argues that such a move reveals the poet's voice amongst the mimicry of society. It is a 'vulnerable' voice that argues that whilst we 'become creatures of imitation. We are not.'  

Suggested further reading:

Stewart, Amanda, "Statements" in Poetry and Gender: Statements and Essays in Australian Women's Poetry and Poetics, (eds.) David Brooks and Brenda Walker (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1989), pp. 63-65.

Hazel, Smith, 'The Transformation of the Word: Text and Performance in the Work of Ania Walwicz and Amanda Stewart', in Representation, Discourse and Desire: Contemporary Australian Culture and Critical Theory, (ed.) Patrick Fuery (South Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1994), pp.221-238.