In the Poetry Bundle: 2
Dragonish, by Emma Simon. With an introduction by Caroline Bird. Loss, love and various severed body parts are scattered throughout Dragonish. The poems are rooted in family, friends and home while also reaching into other worlds: the circus of possibilities, an earth-bound heavenly host, London’s dryads and a nineteenth-century French brothel. Infused with a warm humour, tinged with darkness, the poems tempt the reader to peep beneath the surface of things.
“The milk cried on the doorstep. We toasted blackbirds,
crunched their burnt wings. Watched jam drip
through the egg timer.
Was it eight already? Outside overcoats
and umbrellas quick-stepped the wind.
No-one could tell the time from the telephone
having done its worst, it bit its tongue. We washed faces
in cold light that rained from the ceiling,
knew you could drown in an empty bath.
The great tractor wheels of the day lay on their side.
The engine rusted in parts, like a jigsaw we’d had
of The Haywain. It was all corners. No-one knew where to start.
We cut up newspapers for small talk. Snapped lumps
off the morning and evening stars,
dissolved them in the multiplying flower vases
overflowering with black tea. Our hands
clumsy as hooks as we pinned headaches
to our faces for smiles.”
Page count: 36 | Publication date: 16th March 2017 | ISBN: 9781910139646
A warm and snouting thing (2019), by Ramona Herdman.
A warm and snouting thing dances delicately between the sizzle of sex and the ambiguous stability of commitment and family. These poems emphasise the physicality, not only of desire, but of the human and natural worlds which surround and shape it. Herdman’s voice is always precise, even at moments of the most brazen intimacy. There are tales of teenage self-confidence and adultery averted – but there is space here, too, for a settled life with a salad spinner, and a long-term lover’s belly. The poet skilfully negotiates the twin pulls of the familiar and the unknown, generating a forceful and compelling charge from the energy of flight resisted.
“It was the buttons, luscious as sex,
mother-of-pearling down her back.
It was the run of buttons made you want to look
under and undo them with a jade-handled buttonhook.”
Page count: 36 | Publication date: 14th September 2019 | ISBN: 9781912915293
Paisley (2017), by Rakhshan Rizwan. With an introduction by Leila Aboulela. Rakhshan Rizwan’s debut collection simmers with a poised, driving anger. Drawing on the rich visual and material culture of her home region, Rizwan unpacks and offers critical comment on the vexed issues of class, linguistic and cultural identity – particularly for women – in the context of Pakistan and South Asia.
“Her mother’s letters arrive on yellowing papyrus from Lucknow and mimic the way she speaks: using the formal address app instead of tum. She lifts the affections, admonishments from the page and holds them close, smelling the black India ink and jasmine scent of her mother’s hand; she sees the breaks in her train of thought, marked by blots of stray ink when she held the pen stationary. She washes down her mother’s words of sandalwood and melancholy with warm tea. Her unborn child kicks the quaint figures of speech and sucks the cloying Urdu with its small, webbed hands. Honeyed phrases of an exiled language like savoury sweetmeats that a traveller brings back, wrapped in an oily newspaper, a little cold but still fragrant with a hint of saffron, a caress of cardamom, from across the border, from busy markets in Delhi, in Amritsar, in Ludhiana. Names, so familiar, of cities now invisible.”
Page count: 96 | Publication date: 28th September 2017 | Paperback ISBN 9781910139493