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GIRL GOLEM by Rachael Clyne
Rachael Clyne’s poetry, full of physicality and dramatic openness, accumulates a series of tensions within a free-spirited, Sixties identity and Jewish heritage. Attentive to narrative angle and migrant experience, she allows characters to emerge over generations, showing how they mould into a new cultural identity. In its quiet and carefully crafted ways, Girl Golem shows the sweep of history and the importance of a tolerant country that offers salvation to those persecuted abroad.
– David Caddy
Rachael Clyne’s poems inhabit a shadowy and uncomfortable space where all is not as it seems – people become pieces of furniture and rooms have sinister personalities. A complex work of many layers – these thought provoking and deftly crafted poems are a playful and powerful examination of identity, sexuality, heritage and family dynamics. Clyne skilfully conveys a sense of disquiet and alienation, a sense of being other, both within the dysfunctions of the family, but also within the context of the wider world.
– Julia Webb
With its impressive scope, ranging from the Holocaust, nuclear fallout, and immigration to domestic life and childhood, Rachael Clyne’s Girl Golem thoughtfully explores our tactics for survival: in resistance, in the imagination, in mutual care. In these evocative, spirited poems, Clyne implicitly argues for faith in our own humanity and for the richness of difference.
– Carrie Etter
The night they blew life into me, I clung
bat-like to the womb-wall. A girl golem,
a late bonus, before its final egg dropped.
I divided, multiplied, my hand-buds bloomed,
tail vanished up its own coccyx, the lub-dub
of my existence bigger than my nascent head.
I was made as a keep-watch,
in case new nasties tried to take us away.
The family called me chutchkele, their little cnadle,
said I helped to make up for lost numbers –
as if I could compensate for millions.
With my x-ray eyes, I saw I was trapped
in a home for the deaf and blind, watched them
blunder into each other’s craziness. My task,
to hold up their world, be their assimilation ticket,
find a nice boy and mazel tov– grandchildren!
But I was a hotchpotch golem, a schmutter garment
that would never fit, trying to find answers
without a handbook. When I turned eighteen,
I walked away, went in search of my own kind,
tore their god from my mouth.
ANDROGYNY by Kevin Reid
A joyful, painful, poetic exploration of gender, sexuality and the state of being human. Kevin Reid is a skillful poet who evokes not just his pleasure in transgression, but also his losses, his love, grief and his growth. Alert, delicate and honest, Androgyny is a delight.
– Clare Shaw
Androgyny is a marvellous collection. The poems are open-hearted and fearless, tender and sure-footed. They stay with you long after you’ve read them: We didn’t spit feathers. We held them / between our teeth and smiled.
– Cliff Yates
These poems are like painful bodies beneath a spotlight, unapologetic, writhing with delicate breaths. Kevin Reid speaks to my gender, which is nature, and to my manhood, which is illusory, and despite the hurt music of these cool meditations, makes me feel safe but alert. Love like fog. People with the brightness turned all the way up. Angels, if you will.
– Bobby Parker
Thanks for these his and her hands,
for these nipples numb to a touch,
a soft scrotum that can’t get enough.
Thanks for the long rogue hair
on my smooth thigh, for the dance,
your annoyance because I was a man.
Thanks for this skin, her skin, his skin.
You have a figure girls would love
and those hands aren’t for dyking.
Do you shave your armpits?
I’m barely human.
BLACK BICYCLE by Lesley Quayle
With her musician’s ear for the cadence of voice and phrasing, Lesley Quayle gets inside the skin of a range of characters in Black Bicycle with energy, compassion and inventiveness. She teases out layers of meaning from every narrative, using sensuous but precise language, coming up with the perfect word, the revealing ending. She has an acute instinct for detail and nuance which makes you want to return to this gem of a book over and over again, because you will always discover something new.
– Rebecca Gethin
Lesley Quayle’s character portraits run the gamut from the picturesque to the grotesque via the intimate and the epic – some whisper, some sing, some shout but all have voices that echo long after your first hearing.
– Brett Evans
He was a natural right-hander,
flanked wide and true.
I had to push him to the left,
force clockwise on him,
Stay calm, don’t rush him,
let commands follow like a soft wind,
his world the close thicket of sheep,
the tapering outrun, stealthy in behind them.
The lift, the fetch, balancing the flock to me,
his eyes fixed, hearing nothing but my voice.
Steady. Walk Up.
He moves like dark water.
The old flock mother tows them towards me,
tolling her brood music so they can follow,
away from the wolf at their heels.
AFTER EDEN by Stella Wulf
A vibrant and original poetic voice is clearly discernible in these poems, and though they sometimes express delicate nuances of mood and feeling they are also highly robust. Studded with carefully framed, strikingly vivid, and often memorable images, these poems animate landscape and the human interaction with it through energetic and highly expressive uses of language. The use of assonance and rhyme is always unobtrusive and natural, the use of the speaker is poised and incisive, and narrative, often drawing on elements of myth and fairy tale, is expertly interwoven and integrated with the voice of the poem. Many of the poems are also shot through with a seam of dark humour, and the collection as a whole is highly readable and rewarding.
– Brian McCabe
From the valleys of Wales to the fields of France, Stella Wulf paints with words. This exquisitely crafted collection draws the inner lives out of objects, in the perfect detail we see whole lives. This is poetry that balances light on the edge of your cup and draws a slow finger along your back.
– Angela Readman
After Eden is a polished and assured first collection, tough and smart, sexy and fragile, haunted by plume-hushed owls and lit by cool moons and hard bright stars . Stella Wulf writes with a painter’s eye for the shape and colours of landscape, and the creatures (like crows and foxes) and the people that move through it. Her poems have a sensuous relish for texture, a language of slant rhyme and consonance that insists on being read aloud and listened to. It’s lovely.
– John Foggin
Drawing From Life
He scribes the arc of her face like a neat incision,
shades-in the soft edge of jaw. Later, he will contour hollows,
accentuate planes; for now he has her measure.
Like an emperor he thumbs her body, divides her
into abstract parts making volume from space, ellipse
of inner thigh, serpentine scoop of waist and hip.
He weighs the invisible in the curl of fingers, cup of palm.
What seduces him is the scythe of light that slices her back
carves a trapezius in her Carrara flesh,
the plunge of shadow that etches her spine,
draws a sickle moon beneath her buttock’s rise.
He is lost in fine lines between truth and distortion,
erasure and creation, the hatchings of his obsession.
Rapt with numinous revelations, his pact with darkness
and light, he draws her out of himself.