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The Agonist

4.56  ·  Rating details ·  97 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Winner of the 2016 Thomas Shapcott Prize for Poetry and the 2018 ALS Gold Medal. With its wildness and originality, The Agonist is an exhilarating collection. Exploring the languages of anatomy, etymology and incantation, these poems spark conversations about fracture and repair, energy, love and danger.
Paperback, 104 pages
Published August 28th 2017 by University of Queensland Press
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Robert Lukins
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully capturing that intersection of the mind, the will, and the body; a wonder of a thing.
I've never really had any interest in reading poetry simply for the fact that I just don't get it. As such, I don't feel qualified enough to give this a star-rating or a proper review, because this collection deserves a lot more than I can offer. Much like art, however, you don't always have to understand the artwork to be able to see and admire its beauty. And this collection sure is damn beautiful.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“The Agonist” is a book that questions the physical world, a collection that opens with an illustration by Henry Vandyke Carter from Gray’s Anatomy and then moves to an epigraph by Emily Dickinson, this is a world where the physical meets the metaphysical

The more I think about your body, the more I know
it is no longer your own: your heart is a house
with the doors left open: your brain is the basement

Filled with smoke. The skeleton hidden under the flesh
of floorboards. A stranger roaming the hall
Jessica Gregory
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. Shastra's striking poetry is a visceral, enchanting journey through the stories of the body and bodily violence. Beautiful and haunting, like a violent lullaby. ...more
Cass Moriarty
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best poetry is at its most beautiful when read aloud, the sounds exploding from the tongue, the rhythm beating a steady accompaniment to the words, the metaphors creating imagery that bolsters our imagination.
Shastra Deo was awarded the 2016 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for her collection The Agonist (UQP 2017), and one of the great delights of this anthology has been listening to Shastra read her poems aloud on several occasions. Her voice is unique and arresting and her tone is engaging.
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: auslit

This debut poetry collection from Shastra Deo was such a refreshing read that I read it in virtually one sitting! I was blown away by how immediately I connected with this collection, drawn in by the beautifully crafted and highly readable prose. The collection, divided into three parts, teetered between broad themes of the body and war. A sense of haunting kept emerging and was so aptly captured in the selection of quotes introducing each of these sections.

For me, this collection felt like a se
Joseph Schreiber
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I should think I need to spend a little more time within the pages of this collection before forming a review of some sort. I want to say this is compulsively readable, pulling and pushing even the amateur enthusiast like myself to return again and again. The imagery is visceral, often graphic and gruesome, drawn from anatomy and physiology, zoology and entomology, war and magic, with results that are simply extraordinary.

Further thoughts here:
Vehka Kurjenmiekka
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Dark, passionate, scary, fierce, utterly beautiful, devastating. This is a difficult collection to describe, since the poems speak best for themselves.
Sally Piper
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This original poetry collection explores mortality, pain, fear, loss, love and those we hurt in the name of it. Playful in parts, incisive in others, but always courageous in its explorations of human emotions.
Chris Lynch
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this like my life depended on it. Maybe it did.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I do not understand poetry (most of the time), but I love the sounds of the words, and the images they conjure in my mind. A dear friend - a poet - has told me that it is not important to understand; it is all about how the words make me feel. And so, Bravo! to this work of words, which gives me goosebumps, which - time and time again - makes me think, "I wish I'd written that".

TJ Wilkshire
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shastra's collection of poetry is stunning and haunting. Her poems bring back the story telling of poetry. It follows you around your home, unable to shake it off and will leave you pondering for days. ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I went to write the Agnostic instead of Agonist, and I think the scalpel like skeletal prose of this poetry is agnostic, a kind of secular celebration of biology science lives and excretia. Quite extraordinary. I can see why it won prizes.
Sharon Dodds
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exhilarating collection of poems which opens the mind and inspires thoughts and feelings.
I found Shastra's poetry very interesting and thought provoking. This is a book that I will read over and over.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2018
Well that was pretty remarkable. In amongst all the viscera and gore of this collection, emotion becomes just another biological process, but none the less magical for it.
Megan McGrath
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Emory Black
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sometimes, some poetry is a little bit beyond me and I think that's okay. I think that this collection was just out of my field of understanding at times. Sometimes, because of the words and references that were made, other times because I felt like I wasn't sure what was happening or what the point of it was. I can sometimes struggle with these sorts of things; sometimes emotions are confusing to me. I did enjoy a large portion of it. I enjoyed the images that the author created and I enjoyed s ...more
Adam Byatt
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Poets have a way of making the everyday activities we particpate in appear familiar and unfamiliar, often in one line. And this focus on the individuality of our lives manifests itself in a shared awareness of how we experience, or even cataegorise, those moments of our lives. We live our days perhaps not always aware of the moments we are breathing through until introspection and reflection reveals truths, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes reassuring, always revelatory.
Shastra's collection rev
Satendra Deo
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Amazing debut collection. Vivid in imagination and rich in complexity, these poems, in the blink of an eyelash, will transport the reader to Beirut, Odessa, Sarajevo and Shiloh. Be sure to feel the hurt in the limb or heart of the soldier even when no such limb or heart remains. Be sure to feel the pain in the knuckles of the boxer even when the bout is done.

Like an onion there are many layers to Shastra's writings. The reader can take away a different perspective depending on the situation they
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A lovely read! The imagery in this book feels tactile and raw, ancient, supernatural. I will definitely coming back to this for inspiration, I deeply enjoyed reading this and look forward to filling it with notes
Venero Armanno
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful collection, a complete joy.
Declan Fry
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Visceral, haunting, otherworldly. A Cronenberg film for all the senses.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating poems. Deo has a unique approach, and the bloody/bodily images abound through these poems. I learnt a lot about different bodily organs!
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The precision and invention of these poems is brilliant. I've just reread it today and ooft, I enjoyed it so much in new ways the second time around! ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wondrous first collection, containing multitudes. The Agonist is vast and lush, brimming with its own myths and strange narratives, filled with the beauty and horror of blood. Sharp and rich, there is so much here to speak to the soul.
H.C. Gildfind
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Feb 11, 2021
Jimmy Gardiner
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Mar 25, 2019
KA Rees
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Oct 31, 2018
Liliana Eckhardt
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Mar 27, 2018
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Aug 24, 2018
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Shastra Deo was born in Fiji, raised in Melbourne, and lives in Brisbane, Australia. Her first book, The Agonist (UQP 2017), won the 2016 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and the 2018 ALS Gold Medal.

Photo © TJ Wilkshire

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“Be sure to separate the kneecap
from the tendon and ligament
and grind it to dust
in a mortar and pestle.
Do not let them beg.
Do not let them kneel at the door.”
More quotes…