Meat Lovers is a book of poems on food, farming, and romantic folly, blending compassion and cruelty to explore ordinary depravities, hunger and bloodlust.
The old station-holders used to castrate lambs
to wethers with their teeth – isn’t that your area
of interest? Hard men rousing on the muster
posing the evergreen question: to spit or swallow?
But think how tender those shepherds must have been
with their incisive surgery – the cutting kiss –
and all that bleating.
— ‘Mad Butcher’s Love Song’
This book takes a bite from the excesses of earthly flesh – first ‘Meat’, then ‘Lovers’.
‘Meat’ is a coming of age in which pony clubs, orphaned lambs and dairy-shed delirium are infused with playful menace and queer longings. Between bottle-fed care and killing-shed floors, the farm is a heady setting for love and death.
In ‘Lovers’, the poet casts a wry eye over romance, from youthful sapphic infatuation to seething beastliness. Sentimental intensity is anchored by an introspective comic streak, in which ‘the stars are watching us / and boy howdy are they judgmental’.
This collection of queasy hungers offers a feast of explosive mince & cheese pies, accusatory crackling, lab-grown meat and beetroot tempeh burger patties, all washed down with bloody milk or apple-mush moonshine. It teems with sensuous life, from domesticated beasts to the undulating mysteries of eels, as Hawkes explores uneasy relationships with our animals and with each other.
Tender and brutal, seductive and repulsive, Meat Lovers introduces a compelling new mode of hardcore pastoral.
‘Rebecca Hawkes is the unmatched empress of viscera. Thrillingly perverse, utterly compelling – you eat these poems like overripe peaches, or like your own tongue.’
— Freya Daly Sadgrove
I am hard pressed to think of a poetry collection that has affected me as much as this one has. I welcome the ‘meat’ and the ‘lovers.’ The poetic craft captivates, yet it is the glint and gleam of life, as young girl and as young woman, at times macabre, at times lust, at times vulnerable, always astonishing, that transports and impales. Meat lovers is a significant arrival in our poetry landscapes. Glorious.
Never has a book of poetry made my stomach swirl so consistently. Meat Lovers delights in creating other-wordly imagery, pulling sweet and sour together to inspire a half-repulsed and half-elated reaction.
I mean, I’m a suburban kid, and a vegetarian one at that, but the way Hawkes has drawn her worlds makes me want to sink my fingers (or teeth) into flesh, just to see the world the way she does. You’re left with the sense that you want to be as closely and lovingly observed as a lamb with its eye pecked out, or the blood-curdled milk of cows afflicted with mastitis - but also you don’t, because you don’t know what violence by or against you Hawkes will turn over... Oh God guys I’ve focussed so much on the Meat and left no room for the Lovers. Buy this book. Bite it. No really, bite it, alone in your room. No one will know. See what it tastes like.
It is everything I crave in a collection: wild and never pulling its punches while also honed and balanced in its craft. The kind of collection you point to and say, “I want to do that” (or maybe “I’ll have what she’s having”), Meat Lovers is a testament to one of the biggest talents on Aotearoa’s poetry scene.
Each poem mixes the wonderfully absurd and the beautiful in ways that will haunt and inspire its readers... In short, this book is an incredible debut from a poet who has earned her praise.