Book review: How Decent Folk Behave by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke’s latest poetry collection, How Decent Folk Behave, arrived in the post recently. The book is a thought provoking collection of contemporary poems ranging across topics including climate change, domestic violence, parenting, feminism, Black Lives Matter and the pandemic.

Her words are clean, clear, simple, provocative and powerful as you’d expect from someone who comes from slam poetry roots. In How Decent Folk Behave, she reflects on the intersectionality of feminism, race, class and violence, shines a light on refugee detention, as well as young people in the age of digitisation and climate woes.

hannah and them kids died brutal
we don’t know ’em all from soap
but it aches my soul to muse on it
so babe, your mama needs to know
that a good man
exactly the man you’ll be
will lead a bad man home.

Beneba Clarke’s work is wide ranging and offers a fresh perspective on recent world events. Her short stories Foreign Soil won the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award amongst others, her memoir The Hate Race (2016) won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, and her first poetry collection Carrying the World won the 2018 Victorian Premiers Prize for Poetry. How Decent Folk Behave earns its place amongst her award winning works.

Grab a copy. How Decent Folk Behave is a great book to open at random and read out loud at your next soiree.

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