18 Feb 2024

Bringing the dance floor to the poetry book: Sylvan Spring’s Killer Rack

From Culture 101, 2:30 pm on 18 February 2024


Sylvan Spring

Sylvan Spring Photo: Ebony Lamb Photography

Poetry and music at their best share a trick: the ability to be both celestial and grounded; dealing with the particulars of our lives, yet moving into abstraction. They can be at once very personal to their writers, but also build community. 

This is certainly true of Te Whanganui-a-Tara poet Sylvan Spring’s first book Killer Rack, recently published by Te Herenga Waka University Press. As novelist Pip Adam writes on the back cover, Killer Rack is “somehow intimate and communal in the same breath, and wild and compassionate”


Photo: supplied

Sylvan Spring is both a poet and musician. Killer Rack even comes with an accompanying album version available on Bandcamp, where Spring and friends put some of the poems to music. 

The book’s design mimics the cover of a piece of 45-inch vinyl with the poems inside split into a ‘side A’ and a ‘side B’. The verse itself reveals musical obsessions ranging from the dreamy orchestral pop of Scottish alternative group the Cocteau Twins to ‘00s Dutch Eurodance popsters the Vengaboys. 

While popular culture is important to Killer Rack - there are even poems directly addressed to Charlie’s Angels stars Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz - it’s also a vital and sexy expression of being yourself. In this case a trans-masculine non-binary person. One poem is entitled ‘Cis people aren’t normal they’re fugly: A pamphlet for coming to terms with the fact that transsexuals exist and maybe you are one’. 

“Being trans is a divine glow-up,” Spring writes in the poem.

Sylvan Spring’s Killer Rack still manages to reach out to everyone dancing in the nightclub.  

 Sylvan Spring shared some poetry and music with Culture 101’s Mark Amery.