As a poet who recently and joyfully placed the word "bosky" into a piece and who has written on The Children of Lir, a collection located in landscape, rurality and the re-imagining of fairy tales is clearly right up my street - or should that be "breaches" (to steal from the poem “Into the Woods” in this collection). If you can imagine Angela Carter, but a reined in, hyper-controlled Carter, where every word is perfect and carries superbly judged weight and musicality – this collection is precisely that.
These are fairy stories that dig back into narratives of blood and skin and teeth, where happy endings are de-railed and deconstructed. The girl raised by wild dogs ("Teeth") returns to the pack and turns her back on “the bones of polite behaviour.” The boy who hides to watch the fox's wedding ("The Animal Bridegroom") is spared his life, but loses language – a word a day until he is “as silent as any beast and lonely.” Even The Frog Prince ( in "The Frog Prince") is "a damp squib of a boy from the wrong side of Tunbridge Wells."
The motif of pins and needles run through many of these poems – the prick of memory in quilt made by a mother – needles to ask needle sharp questions – the path of needles and the path of pins and the task of making impossible fairy tale clothing, "seven nettle shirts seven years dumb in a tree" ("Brothers").
This collection comes from The Emma Press, a Birmingham-based small press, who specialise in producing collections of poetry, short stories, children’s books and art squares where design, layout and illustration are an integral part of the reading pleasure. The illustrations in this collection, by Reena Makwana, are as perfectly executed as the poems themselves.
Cathi Rae is an award-winning and widely published poet. Her collection Your Cleaner Hates You & Other Poems was published in 2019. She is currently funded by M4C to work on a large scale collection on voicing the marginalised.