book review

Review: Flood Damages by Eunice Andrada

2 July 2018

When I read the blurb for Flood Damages, I knew Eunice Andrada’s story was one I needed to listen to, so, I immediately began sneaking her into the spare moments of my life.

Whether I was on the tram reading the alternate texts on my aunt’s lightening cream or lying in bed reading bedtime stories for my stretchmarks, I could always be drawn in by Andrada’s voice, effortlessly weaving together themes of colonialism, violence, faith, womanhood and dissociation from her own skin.

I suppose that should come not come as any surprise, considering her poems are centred around her identity as a Filipina-Australian woman, where she is confronting these issues on a daily basis both internally and out in the world.

Organised loosely into three sections ‘flood damages’, ‘pilgrim sweat’ and ‘water births’, Andrada shares with the audience the traumas deportation, violence and rejection has imprinted on her as well as her incredible mental fortitude in forming a strong personal identity that is both entrenched in but also beyond those vulnerabilities.

Written mostly in free verse, Andrada plays with the length, spacing and line breaks in her work. Occasionally she writes in full prose, at other times, she only writes three lines on a page so you are confronted by negative space. Whenever she gets a chance, Andrada is interjecting her native tongue into the poem where it is applicable. Even as someone who does not understand Filipino, the way she blended the languages and cultures together in her work like it does naturally in her life, enriched the pieces in their authenticity.

A quirky visually-experimental poem is named photo album, where Andrada scatters the words across the page like a collage of photos, so the reader is lead to imagine the “dusty-eyed woman” who was shelling a “hard -boiled egg in empty room, Singapore, 2001” as well as the “woman (right)” watching as “her lover (left) paint a foreign sky, unknown location.” Every line in the poem felt like an invitation to the reader to shift their gaze onto the next.

Spanning from her guilt and frustrations with not knowing her mother tongue to a defiant ode to the dark cunt for men who have shunned her body, Andrada expertly navigates her fear, anger, frustrations and pride, revealing the complexity of her existence, enough to fill a book, beyond stereotypes and assumptions others may have assigned onto her throughout her life.

It is particularly impressive that over three dozen odd poems, Andrada never once deviated into the cliché. Admittedly, there are moments in the story where the language becomes difficult to follow, particularly if you are unfamiliar with Christian symbolism or Filipino culture although I did not find the obscurity in small parts inherently negative as they may hold greater resonance for another reader.

Ultimately, as an award-winning poet and lyricist with experience performing her work on the international stage, Andrada is no stranger to dissecting and distributing the personal to an audience. Although the book will likely be more poignant for anyone who has gone through similar experiences to Andrada, I would almost encourage you to read the book even more if you have nothing in common with her. Flood Damages is a perfect opportunity to see the world through a different pair of eyes, so you can compare it with your reality and reflect on the similarities and differences.

 

Title: Flood Damages
Author: Eunice Andrada
Pages: 86
Publishing Year: 2018
Publisher: Giramondo Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-925336-66-5
Retail Price: $24.00


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