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A languid arc of female loving

The poems in this debut collection are filled with love and longing, delivered in a calm, wistful tone. It’s a romantic, gentle publication. The female body is always present, often wrapped in sensuous, languid language communicating tenderness and intimacy.

There’s also an arc in the degree to which love as a space between queer bodies is allowed to come to the fore, as if the whole is a journey of self-revelation or acceptance. In the opening poems, the queer references are oblique — sometimes literally shrouded.

In ‘Transliteration’, for example, the problems of using language to describe personal needs and identity are set out:

what if our fate
            was written around the body
[…]
shroud suspended above the skin
[…]
so it would take the right person to unspool us

The reader encounters a range of female characters, each in a context of complex relationships. The figure of Eurydice in ‘Eurydice Waits’, for example, is serving others and doing what is expected of her, whereas the speaker in ‘Trompe-l’oeil’ is concerned with the central question of family and acceptance:

                                                              My mother’s cousin says my poetry
is man-hating                    I wonder why she cannot flip it and name it girl-
loving

In ‘Shadow Symphony’ (near the centre of the pamphlet), we have what appears to be the manifesto (with a small ‘m’) poem, and a clearer picture of a personal journey:

Before you, there were sharp lines
                     between light and dark — now there’s
                                                                               mystery
                                                                               smudges
                                                                               greyscale

And a few lines later:

Breaking free of the prison of
                                             me before you

After this poem, the references to queer love become stronger, or clearer. But never strident.

For me, the stand-out piece is ‘Two girls peeling apples.’ This is a tender vignette of intimacy and friendship. The atmosphere is relaxed and trusting, an image out of time, as the two girls drop apple-peel into a bucket as they work:

The first of the evening’s
moths welcome-dance against the porch light

and we craft something without words or hands.

Tamsin Hopkins