#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · new release · Poetry

Poetry Collection Review: Punch and Judy by Kelly Van Nelson

Title: Punch and Judy: A Poetry Collection

Author: Kelly Van Nelson

Published: August 1st 2020

Publisher: Making Magic Happen Press

Pages: 186

Genres: Poetry

RRP: $22.95

Rating: 4 stars

Punch and Judy explores the tangled intensity of a toxic relationship. Kelly Van Nelson, brings her trademark gritty style to this modern poetry collection. She takes readers on the rollercoaster journey from attraction and desire of a couple initially meeting, through the turbulence of abuse at the hands of a puppet master, to eventually finding the courage to cut strings and break free. Punch and Judy challenges the taboo and delves into what goes on behind closed doors, bringing much needed conversation on domestic violence to the forefront of society.


Punch and Judy is an expressive, hard hitting and intense form of contemporary poetry from Kelly Van Nelson. Punch and Judy represents the second poetry collection release from Australian writer Kelly Van Nelson. Although deeply serious in tone, this is a creative and theatrical collection that will draw in both fans of the poetry field and new readers to this emotive form of writing.

Within the form of a progressive poetry collection, Punch and Judy dissects the rise and fall of a hurtful relationship. A barrage of emotions follows as Kelly Van Nelson traces the origins of a toxic relationship from the early days of attraction, to the progression of the relationship, to its eventual demise. Along the way we the see the puppet master gain full control of this relationship, with devastating consequences.  With themes of domestic violence, suppression, cohesion and control, Punch and Judy treads difficult ground. By releasing a collection of this subject line, Kelly Van Nelson hopes to open up essential conversations and thought patterns in regards to domestic violence.

Punch and Judy, published by Making Magic Happen Press, represents Kelly Van Nelson’s second foray in the poetry field. Now that I have finished this collection, it is clear that Kelly Van Nelson is quite the figurehead in terms of contemporary Australian poetry. I found Punch and Judy to be not only very lyrical and expressive, but also realistic and in touch. I was really forced to slow my reading down with this one and take in every word, line and poem. It was a refreshing change to adjust my reading style for this collection.

I profess to knowing very little by the way of poetry and the different techniques, as well as styles adopted by accomplished poets. With little background experience to go on, as I think my last encounter with a poetry collection would have been my high school English literature examination text, I am not sure I am completely qualified to oversee a review of this very raw collection. However, what I will reiterate is that Kelly Van Nelson’s writing is powerful, moody, targeted and emotive. Every word has been carefully selected and each separate poem has been thoughtfully produced. I was amazed at the sheer variety in terms of the different formats Kelly Van Nelson experimented with throughout her collection. There are lengthy and highly emotional poems. Then there are short, sharp and cutting poems that strike at the heart. Kelly Van Nelson also plays around with different formatting styles which really made me stand to attention. I valued every poem in this collection, each seemed to have a strong place to bear in the overall message of this book.

There is an overarching and penetrating gaze offered into the stages of relationship within Punch and Judy. The collection begins with the infatuation stage, until it eventually becomes toxic and oppressive. Although this is a dark and bleak look at a very negative relationship, we witness moments of courage, hope and ultimately resilience. Overall, I admired the way in which this very turbulent take on a modern day relationship was presented in the device of various different poems, across three key areas –  Tangled Strings, Puppet Master and Cut Loose. All the while the imagery cuts deep, for the reader to see, appreciate and take on board.

In this world of increasing domestic violence, continual images of toxic relationship breakdowns, unacceptable attitudes in relation to sexism and negative behaviours, it is high time that a progressive collection such as Punch and Judy is released in public sphere. Keynote literature such as Punch and Judy can help to lead the way in terms of breaking down barriers and it can work to change public perceptions in regards to relationship challenges.

Punch and Judy by Kelly Van Nelson was published on 1st August 2020 by Making Magic Happen Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Punch and Judy: A Poetry Collection, Kelly Van Nelson, visit here.

*Thanks extended to Kelly Van Nelson for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Punch and Judy: A Poetry Collection is book #104 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

6 thoughts on “Poetry Collection Review: Punch and Judy by Kelly Van Nelson

    1. She’s very good at her craft. I have very little knowledge of poetry to go on but this collection seemed creative and different. Thank you, I wasn’t sure how to approach this one review wise so your vote of confidence has helped!

      Liked by 1 person

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