A logical continuation from Albrecht’s debut chapbook pinky swear, handshake is a space of anxious play. It combines conceptual photography with sharp and disarming poetry, investigating personal and public tensions between environment, desire, isolation and fear in the wake of the devastating East Australian bushfire season of 2019-20 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Intertwining the earth(l)y material with the metaphysical, handshake grasps onto what is ‘real’ in a grounding exercise against panic.
Sopping wet, this is a book pickled in sweat, salt water, and tears. The pages of handshake glitter and sparkle, crystalline and blue. They focus and unfocus on the sorrows, but also the sticky pleasures and absurd moments that constitute a lifetime. Albrecht’s kaleidoscopic poems and photographs will shake your hand and leave it damp, like the salty lick of the ocean.
Albrecht’s tautly composed intermedial work holds open breathing room for our climate’s changing atmosphere, which blows through, shaking the camera, blurring lines, breaking borders, to map an (eco)poetics of separation-in-connection, the only pulse that counts. Taken on their own, the poems feel utterly contemporary, while taken in concert and in tension with the digitally manipulated photography, they carve out an aesthetic space ahead of their time.
Claire Albrecht’s handshake tilts, precariously and joyously, between a series of poems and photographs, text and empty space, its gaps and transitions becoming places to breathe, to pause amid today’s turmoil of crises and anxieties. The poems and photographs don’t explain each other, yet there’s something compelling and uncanny in the way they interrupt and unsettle, as they gesture past the immediate to something larger. At the same time, the book’s poems are fully grounded: sweaty, salty, fleshy, smoky, and naked (a lot), alternately provoking and playful, cheeky and sincere, uninhibited and seriously articulate. handshake is the real deal: irresistible, disarmingly candid, highly charged, genuinely exciting.