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On not feeling averse

How anyone could think about maggots without shivering, I do not know. However, Helen Clare manages to do just that. I read her poems about bugs, moths, caterpillars, bluebottles and many other creepy-crawlies (no spiders though) and did not feel sick. My skin did not crawl. I read about things I’m strongly averse to without feeling … averse.

Entomology is a set of sonnets recounting memories or images involving insects. But usually insects are not the focal point. Perhaps keeping them on the periphery is what allows the poet to leave out the toe-curling details.

Calliphora vomitoria: Bluebottle’ is my favourite, although a bluebottle is one of the most annoying insects. When I think of ‘Bluebottle’, I think dirty, I think disgusting, I think big, and I think annoying. The Latin name sounds apt!

But the poet says

My mother once told me they had my brother
because she found me in the conservatory
talking to bluebottles.

There’s no conjuring my usual bluebottle connotations when handed this image of innocence. The associations are many, but for me, none of them are of bluebottles. They’re of family and small, lonely girls in their own little worlds.

It fascinates me that Helen Clare has used creatures which usually conjure fear and revulsion to portray none of these emotions. Perhaps she has different insect associations from me. Maybe she even likes them. I do, however, enjoy that she writes about them without too many gory details. She never makes me grimace.

After reading I’m left wary. I feel as if I’ve been lulled into a false sense of security where insects are not ... monsters.

Poppy Jarratt