Atwood’s language is vivid, sensory and infinitely accessible. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was my introduction to speculative fiction, which contained a compelling, earthy realism that I couldn’t find in science fiction at the time. Following this, I read every Atwood novel I could get my hands on, as well as her short stories and poetry.
I first became acquainted with T.S. Eliot as a Year 11 Literature student: his bleak and brilliant ‘The Hollow Men’, ‘The Wasteland’ and one of my all-time favourite poems, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ with its introspection and urban isolation. Eliot expressed modern life, post-war despair and disillusionment in striking and very new ways.
Shakespeare’s bending of language and poetic action pulled me in from the first read. The character of Hamlet fascinated me in particular, especially as I was reading the play as a teenager – a time when I was beginning to truly see the flaws and unsteadiness of those around me. This play addresses the struggle between thought and action so well depicted in other literature I started reading at the time, including T.S. Eliot’s selected poems.
I could not put down Allende’s first novel, ‘The House of Spirits’. Set in Chile and spanning four generations of her family, Allende infuses each character with a sense of mystery while fully realising them. Written in 1981, the book started out as a letter to her grandfather, who was dying. Allende’s novels were my introduction to magical realism and led me to fellow South American Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his explorations of solitude.
The first book I read by the late Australian poet, Dorothy Porter, was her verse novel ‘What a Piece of Work’ and it packed a punch. This was the first verse novel I had read at the time, written in the voice of a psychiatrist working in a mental hospital,who becomes more broken and villainous as the book progresses. It was my introduction to Porter’s bold, passionate style and led me to her other poetic works, including her haunting ‘The Monkey’s Mask’.
Amanda Anastasi is a poet from Melbourne, Australia, whose work has been published in journals and anthologies locally and internationally. Her books are ‘2012 and other poems’ and ‘The Silences’ (a chapbook with Robbie Coburn; Eaglemont Press, 2016). She is Poet in Residence at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub until 2022, where she is writing poetry addressing ecological issues and the climate crisis. Her next poetry collection, ‘The Inheritors’, is forthcoming.