There is nothing more truly depressing as a working poet than being asked to review a debut collection so wonderful that you immediately decide to pack it in and start whittling or metal detecting.
Neale's work has already been published extensively in a wide range of literary magazines and she was the winner of the 2019 New Poets Prize and it’s easy to understand why.
This slim collection, 36 pages, is divided into two sections – Part 1 with its frontispiece of a dark and decaying cityscape focuses on violence, the violence of men towards women, the violence of bad sex, the violence of sexual predators and the damage that women do to themselves in surviving toxic relationships.
Neale’s language is deceptively simple, but there is a clear sense that not one single word is extraneous. This is writer using huge restraint to describe very difficult things. Her use of descriptive language is extraordinary and leaves images that burn into your memory.
The poem “Can you draw him for us” about a sexual predator contains this striking image:
so she outlines the lamppost instead
where she saw the man waiting
It cranes over him like a surrealist showerhead
The collection's second section, which is illustrated by an image of city brought to life with plants and life, explores the rebirth of relationships and love, with mother, sister and new lovers. Poems about love and acceptance and the possibility of new love avoid being sentimental or mawkish.
Even romantic love is handled with a light and deft touch. In “Being told that you are loved,” “It’s the closeness of coffee bean handfuls, it’s danger and relief, it’s the hairless tail escaping the bird beak.”
This is a beautiful selection of poems, buy it, tell other people and yes, I’m jealous.
About the reviewer
Cathi Rae is currently completing her MA in creative at Leicester University. She is a performance poet and spoken word artist and a multiple slam poetry winner and is allegedly working on her second poetry collection. Books about serial killers, unlikely heroes and blood are amongst her secret reading pleasures.
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