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Awake Despite the Hour - Book Review

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Published March 1st 2013
Awake Despite the Hour is a poetry collection by Paul Mitchell, which was published by Five Islands Press in 2007.

The selection overall is entertaining without being pretentious or difficult to understand. Take my favourite piece for example:

My Wheelie Bin's Big Day

The title: My Wheelie Bin's Big Day refers to the time of the week when the garbage is collected. In the context of this poem, however, the ritual of the bins going out is contextualised as a wedding ceremony.

There are two stanzas in this poem, both with eight lines. The first stanza shows the night before the bin is wheeled outside and the second shows the following day when the rubbish is collected.

This poem is free verse and there is no internal rhyme or intentional meter to follow. Despite this, there is euphony in the word 'promise' which ends the first stanza with a sense of irony. The letter 'O' is a perfect symbol of how 'hollow' the promise is on paper; the promise of the groom (collection truck) honouring his vowels.

The first line introduces a different way of looking at 'bin day'. It reads: 'Full of everything I can offer her, she will go to her groom'. This poem deals with taking the bins out and applies a satirical comparison of love and marriage, where the wheelie bin is symbolic of the narrator's daughter and the groom is the collection truck.

The diction in this poem ranges from proper English, where formal speech during a traditional Christian/Catholic Australian wedding would be expected, to more conversational speech from the voice of the narrator (father of the abject wheelie bin).

The tone is both amusing and serious. The notion of bins getting hitched is absurd, but the allusion to Australian relationships gone wrong (losing money, possessions, confidence from a divorce or being left at the altar) reiterates that this poem does mean to commentate on contemporary Australian society as well as entertain the readers.

Enjambment runs sentences onto the following line almost consistently and makes for some interesting, alternative meanings. One clever example: 'She reaches the nature strip and stars/hold their breath.' This is clever on Mitchell's part as 'stars' can be read as 'stares'. Also, the pun '… she went/lid over wheels for him…' is an ingenious and entertaining attack of the cliché: to fall head over heels.

One word worthy of a stand-alone mention is 'surprised'. Again, the wheelie bin is subject to personification and that line makes a brilliant observation of an emptied bin left open after collection.

The last line: by her emptiness. I wheel her back into my life.' This leaves us with two images, the obvious connotations, bringing the bin back, and a father comforting his daughter.

Paul Mitchell turns an everyday observation, which most would simply overlook, into a funny, yet serious read. The comedic relief, the underlying message and the harsh reality of it all merges into something quite profound and accessible.
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Why? Brilliant and hilarious observations
Where: Readings or via Paul Mitchell
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