POETRY SPOTLIGHT: ‘When she washes her hair’ by Steve Brock

Live at Mr Jake's by Steve Brock

This week, we shine the spotlight on Steve Brock’s poetry collection, Live at Mr Jake’s.

Relaxed and laconic, Live at Mr Jake’s riffs on a mix of highbrow and popular culture references. Accessible yet literary, this collection celebrates a diversity of voices from Australia and beyond. Spanning four continents, the poems are equally at home in the front bar as they are on the literary trail in Paris or San Francisco. Cool and understated, Brock surfs the cultural interstices of the Latin American influences on his life and work to create a poetic vision transpacific in scope.

Post written by Poppy Nwosu

It is always a cause for celebration when Wakefield Press releases a new poetry collection.

This week, copies of Steve Brock’s new book, Live at Mr Jake’s, arrived into our warehouse, and I was very excited to pick it up and have a read.

I am not sure why (strange how preconceived notions can arise!), but for some odd reason I had decided this book would be loud and jangly, and filled with funny poems. In fact, the poetry inside this collection is the complete opposite. It is quiet and conversational. As the book’s description so rightly points out (which I clearly did not read properly … oops), the poems are relaxed, cool and understated.

'The Dust Settles', from Live at Mr Jake's by Steve Brock

I have picked two poems to share with you today.

‘When she washes her hair (for Angie)’

This one really struck me. There is something so quiet and still about it. It fills my head up with images, and I can almost feel the scene these words paint.

'When she washes her hair', by Steve Brock

I think it is beautiful, in such a quiet domestic and everyday way. I love it, because it puts into words such a small moment of beauty in an ordinary day. The kind of scene or moment that is usually impossible to describe or explain.

The poem also reminds me of a lyric from a favorite song by The Strokes. I spent my teen years listening to this song, and have recently rediscovered it (along with their very exciting  2020 album, which has been on repeat in my headphones!):

The room is on fire as she’s fixing her hair

For me, poetry is always like that. The words someone else has written connects to a feeling I have experienced, some past thought or idea, a nostalgia, or just an image.

Or at least, it is how I so often experience poetry.

‘Humble Wine’

And now, before I finish up today’s poetry spotlight post, I wanted to share a final poem that I really loved.

'Humble wine' by Steve Brock

I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I did!

Discover more about Steve Brock

Steve Brock published his first collection of poetry The Night is a Dying Dog (Wakefield Press) in 2007 and received a grant from Arts SA for the completion of Double Glaze, published by Five Islands Press in 2013. He is the co-translator with Sergio Holas and Juan Garrido-Salgado of Poetry of the Earth: Mapuche trilingual anthology (Interactive Press 2014). Steve completed a PhD in Australian literature at Flinders University in 2003. His work has featured in the Best Australian Poems (Black Inc.) and has been published in journals in Australia and overseas. His most recent collection is the chapbook Jardin du Luxembourg (Garron Publishing, 2016). Steve was a featured writer at Adelaide Writers’ Week in 2017.

Praise for Live At Mr Jake’s

Live at Mr Jake’s is immediately engaging and unpretentiously breezy. But don’t let that fool you. What seems simple never is. Steve Brock shows us that the everyday is where the important things happen, at home, in the office, on the street. His poems are shifty in the very best sense, they wander all round the world and into places where irony meets sincerity, upheaval meets grace, reading jostles against misreading. And it’s there that the magic happens.’ – Jill Jones

‘Sparse, elegant, moving, funny, Brock’s poetry demonstrates how much can be achieved when poetry is clear, direct and looks out at the world with empathy and sincerity. Live at Mr Jake’s is a superb gathering of observations and encounters, an engaging collection of finely-crafted snapshots.’ – Peter Boyle


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