Of Llamas and Piranhas by VALERIE VOLK

Though the poems in this book take the reader on a South American journey from Chile to the Galapagos, it is not just another travel book. It’s a personal invitation in the form of a poem a day to join the writer in strange and exotic places. The spectacular beauty of cascading water at the Iguassu Falls, a weather beaten face in a Peruvian marketplace, the roasted guinea pig on the Last Supper table in Cusco Cathedral’s altar picture  – these were among the triggers for the daily poem. Of Llamas and Piranhas is an individual record of moments that became memories.


Read more cover comments below...open and collapse each review by clicking on the title.

COVER COMMENT: Antonia Hildebrand (Editor: Polestar Writers’ Journal).

Valerie Volk has an eye for the fine detail. The quirky insight is something her poet’s eye latches on to and the result is poetry that is dazzling in its attention to the complexities of human nature and of nature itself. Volk delves into these complexities and uses them to craft fine poetry that lingers long after the book is closed.

COVER COMMENT: Rob Walker (Poet and critic).

Valerie Volk’s collection of poetic postcards from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and The Galapagos is a literary record of her tour of South America. It’s also more.

Toy town houses crammed together which seem products of a child’s paintbox also bear messages of dissent against Pinochet. Of llamas and piranhas alludes to an arc of history from the Mayan and Mapuche, through the conquistadors to the Girl from Ipanema and slum tourism of the favellas. Volk observes dancers who came to sculptured rest/poised in each other’s arms, camera-snapping tourists in the bird park more like the hungry vultures /than the voracious birds and Christ the Redeemer who needs a cleansing from the hazards/of the modern world. 

In her observations and reflections of animals – including humans – Valerie doesn’t judge: So, after all,/we are a part of one vast world/where interlocking parts/create a jigsaw whole.

These poems will spark an interest whether you’ve visited this beguiling continent or not!

COVER COMMENT: Mark Worthing (South Australian author and editor).

In Of Llamas and Piranhas Volk walks us through the jungles of the Amazon, the ruins of Machu Picchu, the crowded streets of Buenos Aires and the churches of Santiago with the alacrity, concision and passion that can only be experienced through the eyes of the poet.


Of Llamas and Piranhas - Excerpts

from En route – flexitime

But ah ... We find that time has shifted.
By sleight of hand magicians might well envy
we have returned into the previous day;
it’s ours to live again.


from Takes two ...

Like love, it can be beautiful.
Like love, one starts this new adventure
graceless, awkward, learning
how to be together, to move
in harmony, to lead, to follow
as the music tells us.
Like love, it needs us to become a pair
or, as that old song says,
Takes two to tango, two to tango,
do the dance of love


from The comfort of the familiar

This is a place of hidden dangers:
flesh-eating ants wait victims,
the anaconda writhes its coils,
darting head of a young boa
scents the air towards us.
We move among these perils fearfully ...


from Walking with tortoises: Galápagos

These giant creatures,
remnants of another world,
ponderous, slow,
leather necks extending,
or hunkered down inside
the monstrous armour of their shells,
remind us what a passing moment
is our life.