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Savage, Rebecca TamásThe jacket is two colours. The background colour is a medium shade of purple. The lettering, and an illustration of what could be grass with seedheads rising up from the bottom, is a sort of beigey pink. The title SAVAGE is centred in the top third in large gothic caps. Below this, also centred, the name of the author in very much smaller lower case.

Clinic, 2017  £5.00

Poetic licence

There’s a lot of sex in Savage: quite hard at times (for me) to pin down, and violent. The first poem is called ‘BDSM’, for instance: ‘everything is about consent / mostly no one consents to pain’. Overall, the poems paint a world where desire is the central pivot. Appetites percolate to the surface as social norms recede, leaving us in a vivid, urgent world – once we acclimatise.

Although I wasn’t anxious to stay, I liked the fact this world turned, partly at least, I think, on female desire. That said, it’s against a backdrop of sexual violence. The poems seem written ‘from the body’: visceral and vulnerable. The inscription at the start reads ‘Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood’ (Zora Neale Hurston). This sets the pace for a strange cannibalistic universe where it’s not quite clear how or where dysfunction and desire meet. And where thoughts that perhaps communally we try to push down, force their way to the surface:

Everyone knows that everyone is dying.
As usual I imagine his death, my falling to the damp
floor of the hospital, tying black curtains to the windows...
        (‘Volcano’)

In the second half of the pamphlet, poems are tethered to names of famous historical women (called here ‘Mystics’). Still, the underside bubbles up with pain and sex and desire:

You are large and disgusting,
I am thin and disgusting.
You are entirely lovely, standing there,
your stink of death, your lazy, precious eyes.
       (‘Simone Weil’)

There’s a lot of shock in poetry these days – but, then, maybe there always has been. I wonder why? Is it because it’s a zone where disturbance can be confronted without too much risk? This poet, for one, seems to relish the licence. Savage won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Rebecca Tamás does have a turn of phrase, a way with imagery and a keen eye and palette. I’ll finish with the last poem, ‘Joan of Arc’:

Still, stay,
human animals.
Stay so I can smell
your familiar
and tender
human foulness.

Charlotte Gann