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Comfort Food

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  23 reviews
In this fresh and distinctive collection, Comfort Food offers a close inward focus and an exquisite sensitivity which bridge van Neerven's Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage. The melding of cultural experiences offers access to a unique and vibrant bicultural experience. The textures and sensuality of the poems' imagery create a portrait of a young woman's life and her ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published July 1st 2016 by University of Queensland Press (first published May 25th 2016)
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Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ellen van Neerven occupies a unique position as a writer of both Indigenous-Australian Munanjali, as well as Dutch, heritage. Her restless, dryly observant voice crisscrosses borders and identities - both internal and external - with an effortlessness and agelessness that far more established poets should envy.

(At p. 3, from "Whole Lot"):
"what we eat comes from our roots
if we stop sharing there will be nothing"

(At p.32, "Goan Fish Curry"):
"I also saw those spirit dogs
and poetry travelled with
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Ellen van Neerven is a writer of Mununjali Yugambeh (South East Queensland) and Dutch heritage. Hear van Neerven read from their poem, Oyster Shell Necklace, here

Comfort Food is a poetry collection that will evoke your senses while reading as the poems draw heavily on imagery and sensory associations with food and culinary culture. They reference and draw on experiences within Australia and internationally, the poems moving seamlessly between these and sh
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
'Comfort Food' is poetry that builds in strength as one reads on: ensnared by a language that is more collective than it is separate, a testament to how poems can weave together and make a world. ...more
Cass Moriarty
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it

I was fortunate to attend the launch last Thursday of Ellen van Neerven's poetry collection Comfort Food (published by UQP). Madonna Duffy from UQP and Sam Wagan Watson - a renowned Indigeneous poet - along with Krissy Kneen, all spoke highly of Ellen's new work, with Sam using as many food-related analogies and metaphors as he could think of! This book is indeed food for the soul - a satisfying and sensual collection of poems, all relating to the theme of food, and bridging Ellen's Yugambeh her
Hmm. I bought this last year after the author got a massive swathe of harrassment on social media following the appearance of one of her poems in the HSC english exam. I didn't actually like the poem very much, but thought I /would/ have as a teenager, and certainly it was by no means a poor choice for the exam. I've liked some of her work in Meanjin or Overland, so I ordered the collection.

By and large, I found it kind of... flat. Over-relying on line breaks, and often not particularly striking
Sarah Yeung
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Intimate and evocative, yet bold. Hugely impressed with van Neerven's ability to contour language around the most subtle emotional registers and deep, complex layers of time and history in few, but hard-hitting words. ...more
Susie Anderson
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I started the year with a 1076-page tome about the building of a Gothic cathedral in medieval England (The Pillars of the Earth) and have finished it with a 96-page poetry collection by a Dutch-Aboriginal young woman. Quite the shift! Unfortunately, this was one of the rare books I didn't enjoy. Poetry is already a challenging form and requires some effort from the author to lead the reader along with them. The last poetry collection I read, The Hijab Files was easy to immerse myself in despite ...more
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Van Neerven has been on my watchlist since I read Heat and Light, but somehow I'd managed to completely miss this collection until now. These poems are thoughtful and beautifully composed, with some of my favourites being Whole Lot ('there are different kinds of time') and Meteorite ('sometimes you stare at the sky and wiish to be what you were').

I've got to add that the food title of some of the different poems made me extremely hungry...
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is a very pleasant read. The poems can be taken as they were written or analyzed to involve the context of Neerven’s experience AND that’s when it gets to a strong and powerful voice. It’s a beauty.
Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
'can I say/white people really bore me sometimes' - from 'Chips' ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-ebooks
I really enjoyed this collection, my favourites were: Finger limes, Pie, Chips, Coffee in Toronto, Cashew tree, and September. Seriously considering getting a physical copy at some point!
Alex Creece
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Punchy and sensuous.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Camille Barr
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A pleasure to read with such vivid language that evokes emotion through the imagery it creates.
Mar 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
well, this fucken ruled. Ellen van neerven my new hero.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
Such sensuous, interesting writing. Loved how she acknowledged artworks, songs and even tweets which inspired the poems.
Emory Black
I'm so glad I bought this. It's the second book of poetry I've ever read (at least, that I can remember). I found myself getting to the end of a poem, then reading it again to see if context/meaning had changed and if I could extract more images/ideas from it because I wanted more. Thank you Ellen. ...more
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
uni read


My favourite was ‘Bricks and Lightning’ (pg.40)

Really well written
Each poem in one way or another can connect to each other - which creates a great depiction of identity and the quest for who you are.

It can be assumed that the writing is from a personal experience which evokes emotion through to the reader/ audience.
- which highlights a contemporary Indigenous perspective
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very small poetry collection from an aboriginal Australian woman.
Some were beautiful and impressive. Others did not resonate with me. However as a whole the collection is worth the time and energy to enjoy.
I will definitely look out for more from this author.
Favourites include Invisible Spear.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, diversity
The rhythm in these poems is the kind I like best where thoughts flow line to line breaking barely for a breath, tumbling down the page. Most are short, evoking a single idea or image but a few are more complex. My biggest challenge was cultural -- I had to think to put context to some of the Australian words. But the poems about food? Those rang so very true, like "five minute meals" in which she uses "miso soup just past expiry" which brought to mind the hasty decisions we make when hungry, "I ...more
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
a lump-in-your-throat book
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Ellen van Neerven is a Brisbane-based writer. She is the 2013 winner of the David Unaipon Award. Her first book, Heat and Light (UQP) was released in 2014. Divided into three sections, it is inspired by the intersection of familial history, location and identity.

Ellen’s writing has appeared widely in publications such as McSweeney’s, Review of Australian Fiction, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, Ora Nui

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