Review: Notes

Poetry, Rachel Lau, 30 pgs,, $8

Artist, writer and radio producer Rachel Lau compiles poetry written on their phone in this lovely zine. It embodies its medium, taking on the look and feel of the phone on which the poems were composed.

The form and name of the zine come from the out-of-the-box app Notes, available on Apple devices. It thoroughly assumes the clinical, sanitized trappings of Apple paraphernalia, with white glossy paper and rounded corners, like a manual found tucked inside a freshly-opened iPhone box. On its cover is the familiar icon of the Notes app. The poems within consist of screenshots of the app interface, straight from Rachel’s phone, like a paper iPhone in the reader’s hand. On the closing page, Rachel explains how writing poetry on their phone was a practice of writing for themselves.

The poems are mostly brief, with concise, measured words speaking to the experience of oppression, invisibility, longing for comfort or belonging. Fraught reflections on identity arise, like when Rachel writes, “Dear diaspora heart / Going back to the motherland is complicated / China is not some dreamy ancestral land, not an idyllic place untouched by the wretched.” Elsewhere, Rachel expresses solidarity, “for all my women ancestors / with no name to call but ‘wife’ / washed by pacific ocean promises.” These are words that speak to thoughts and concerns out in the analog world, or in the heart, or across history, beyond the confines of the digital tool they’re recorded in. The zine is a poem in and of itself with the way it plays with the ubiquity of smartphones, their familiar aesthetic and the human thoughts, dreams, doubts and wonderings that we bring to them.