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Hello Keanu! A Poetry Anthology

Hello Keanu! A Poetry Anthology

Author: Edited by Sarah Yeung and Emily Sun

Publisher: Momolo Books

Published: April 2024

A long time ago, the world was not particularly keen on Keanu Reeves. It’s hard to believe that now, but it’s fair to say that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, in particular, was viewed by the intelligentsia of the day as a cultural apocalypse, almost prophetic in its ability to signpost the way for future slacker comedies such as Wayne’s World, Encino Man and pretty much the entire cinematic career of Pauly Shore.

Pauly’s career has not aged well. On the other hand, Keanu’s has blossomed into the realm of the iconic. Even as he starred in fairly dire movies through the nineties, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he cemented his leading-man status thanks to films such as Point Break and Speed. By the time he led the cast of The Matrix in the late 90s, the jury was in. Keanu was bankable, likeable, and an intrinsic part of the life journey for any Gen-X lost soul looking for a viable role model. Soon after, stories of the tragedies that beset Keanu and the kindness he displayed on the back of that became legendary all over the internet. It seemed that the intelligentsia had been wrong about both his cinematic output and his character. Indeed, they had been so busy prioritising perceived intelligence that they had forgotten being kind was just as important.

Hello Keanu! A Poetry Anthology celebrates the career of one of Hollywood’s most dynamic, seemingly approachable superstars of the past thirty years. As books go, it’s unashamedly affectionate. As a reviewer, I’d have loved more contrast and critical engagement within the collection. Still, as editor Emily Sun says in the book’s introduction, ‘..After scouring the internet for any controversies that could potentially derail our project, we only found more evidence of his humility and care for others.’

The collection is at its best when it’s experimenting with form, be that via the beautiful illustrations that bookend the collection by Damien Goerke and Natalie De Rozario, the meta-memory creation within the title poem, written by Scott-Patrick Mitchell, the striking hand-motif and wordplay of Alex McKeown’s ‘Neo Ne No One’, or the cultural crisscrossing of Miriam Wei Wei Lo’s ‘breaking out/fitting in’. At all points, we very clearly see what all the fuss about is concerning Keanu Reeves. Put simply, he was ‘real’ in an unreal time. He represented diversity at a time when such things were a footnote at best. In the wake of 9/11, he led us back to kindness and compassion, even if that space was only temporary, and even now, he still shines out as a personable, thoughtful figure in an industry too often ruled by surface, sheen and triviality.

Hello Keanu! represents a wonderful assortment of Australian voices who feel the love for an actor and kind person in our sometimes harsh, indifferent world. It’s hard not to feel that same love for Keanu after reading the book, or indeed, for any of the writers here who so willingly opened their hearts and minds to a different, more relatable kind of hero.


Reviewed by Laurie Steed

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