Biter by Claudia Jardine is a meeting of sexy, funny, ancient, and modern. Within its poems you will find musings on protein from semen betwixt translations of ancient Greek poems, all wrapped up with enough comedy to keep you turning the page. This is Claudia’s first book, but her second collection after her contribution to AUP New Poets 7, and with it she proves she is a poetic force to be reckoned with.
The collection has poems drawn from personal experience, with direct references to Claudia’s family, relationship, and life. But dotted throughout are the translations of several ancient Greek poems, reframed through Claudia’s comedic lens. The nuances she has found are delightful, and each translated poem is a little punch of cleverness.
The book is laced with Claudia’s charming humour. For instance, there is one poem on page 23 of the collection that made me hork with laughter in the kitchen of my workplace. I loathe to include it in this review for fear of spoiling it, but please, find a copy of the book and laugh with endless abandon when you come across it. You’ll know when you’ve read it.
In ‘Potholes and K-Holes’ Claudia writes, “someone washed their hands under the septic tank tap by accident/and had to respawn at an earlier save point,” another line that made me chuckle. The idea of experiencing such disgust that you revert to an earlier self is genius, and I can always appreciate a video game reference in a poem. I think sometimes with comedy in poetry, it can detract from the meaning or weight of the poem, but I think moments like this are easy embellishments within Claudia’s writing. It never feels too fraught or dense; always just right.
Another instance of this is in ‘My Sister (a Cancer) Generously Gives her Dog to Our Parents’ where Claudia writes, “my sister has a nice name/doesn’t mean i like it when my mum looks me in the eyes/and uses it on me.” There’s a common feeling of relatability throughout the collection, clearly evident here as I think this is a feeling any sibling can relate to. To cushion sibling rivalry and affection within one breath takes precision and talent. Of course, I cannot list every moment from the collection like this, but I promise the pages will take your hand and lead you through them.
It’s rare that a book has both such precise silliness and wonky sexiness, but Biter revels in it. The pages will flip themselves, and the poems will stay with you for a long while. Why don’t you sink your teeth in?
Featured image courtesy of Auckland University Press.