Review of Amanda Anastasi’s ‘The Inheritors’ by Roxanne Bodsworth

The Inheritors

There has been a lot already written about this collection of dystopian eco-poetry but what most stood out for me was the relationship that Anastasi constructs with the reader, like a shop assistant holding up a mirror, speaking to the consumer but very rarely using first-person, keeping herself outside of the frame. These poems are not about Anastasi but about the world we need to see and what might become of it.

She sets this up from the first poem, ‘Newcomer’. There are fine poems that stem from the tradition of a poet watching their sleeping offspring and wondering about the future, even fearing it, while treasuring the moments of innocence. Yeats’ ‘A Prayer for my Daughter’ wishes her those things that will make her life smooth and comfortable, fearing the repercussions of growing up with too much beauty and strong opinions. Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘A Child’s Sleep’ is a moment when the poet is able to share in the illuminated quietness of the child’s repose. Eavan Boland’s ‘Night Feed’ is about the liminal moment between night and day, between sleep and wakefulness, between the self-possessed needs of infancy and adult responsibility.  However, while ‘Newcomer’ joins this tradition, it also unsettles those tropes of nurturing and hope. It may be a parent or a sibling or just a visitor that watches the baby who “writhes / like a cupped spider” but is peacefully “years from spotting and unpicking / the expectations sewn into her birth.” There is no prayerfulness, no wishes made, no treasuring of a moment, as though close bonds should not be sought or claimed when the future is to be dreaded rather than anticipated.

Rarely throughout this collection does Anastasi depart from that observational distance where she records what is happening rather than taking part in it, as though her prime positioning as the poet is to be a witness to a world that is destroying itself. ‘When the Night Takes You’, another poem where the narrator watches a sleeping child, moves the reader to a place of startling vulnerability as though they are the one being watched in their sleepfulness.

I wait at the outside of your dream.

For you, the tangible world is illusion

and the place you now inhabit is all.

You battle where I cannot tread,

muttering indecipherable certainties

with the conviction of a boy playing

It is only in ‘Regeneration’ that she invites you in and it is a lovely poem that carries a faint trace of hopefulness. Reading poetry is a sensual experience and this one lifts the reader above the ominous darkness of the others.

Join me where the cinders meet

the last patch of green, beneath

the verandah set to topple, where

the smoke least stings our eyes.

Anastasi’s writing has an aesthetic clarity much like Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging that gives careful attention to the balance of form and content to create a stark beauty. This is especially true of her Monostich pages punctuating the collection with one-liners that resist only being read once over, pushing the reader into a more profound meditation of a world that is off-kilter.

A bee lands on a nectar-less flower.

‘Monostich I: The Turning’ is the most powerfully direct collation, ending with:

The recluse has joined the protestors.

The latter collations take on more of a dystopian feel that barely holds short of becoming too didactic.

You cannot live without what you’ve destroyed.

The poems that resonate are the poems that the reader can relate to, such as ‘Koala Holds Up Traffic’ and ‘Bat Piles’ and ‘The Invasion’ where animals inconvenience the human population within the boundaries of their established territory and there is little empathy shown for the animal that has lost so much of its home. These are the poems that can shift the reader’s perspective in small but significant ways to achieve their objective of engendering a greater environmental consciousness.

As the philosopher, Val Plumwood wrote, “Writers are amongst the foremost of those who can help us to think differently.” In this collection, Anastasi certainly does that.

Writer bio:

Roxanne Bodsworth, Image by: Kathy Allen, Purple Possum Design.

Roxanne Bodsworth (RTB) is a poet, celebrant and farmer living on Bpangerang country, Victoria. She achieved her PhD in 2021 with a feminist reconstruction of Irish mythology in prosimetric form. Her poetry has been published in several journals under the pen name of ‘Therese’ and her second verse novel, Unforgiven, was released in February this year. Further details can be found at

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