and they are covered in gold light, Amy AcreThe jacket is black with text and image in white. The title is in huge lower case letters mostly justified left, two words per line except the last. But 'in gold' is slightly indented. The bottom right hand corner shows a drawing of an open penknife. The author's name is written in handwriting on the main body of the knife.

Bad Betty Press, 2019  £6.00

Madonnas and Kat Slaters

This pamphlet’s title poem, ‘Mary’s Holding Jesus, Not Like a God but Like a Baby, Like I Would Hold My Baby, and They Are Covered in Gold Light’ takes on the Madonna archetype:

mary is doll white
mary with a lamb
spread banquet for the men while she waits outside

That last line is an interesting turn — in this pamphlet, you’re prompted to read with a feminist’s eye, and it is indeed immediately followed by ‘but they won’t know his yawn like a baby owl’. And the poem moves on to the (once) unspeakably female:

mary doesn’t remember what sex with god felt like
only the sting of something snapped
mary doesn’t feel holy stuffing pigskin in bloody knickers

It ends with Jesus moving beyond Mary, like any child leaving their mother, particularly boys moving into male privilege:

when he blessed her
she wanted to spit in his face
tell him boy
i’m the one who wiped away your shit

It sits alongside other poems examining the female experience, like ‘every girl knows’, which is grimly, grottily teenage:

smell of monthly embarrassment, suede platforms, scapegoat thighs,
dandruff and blackheads, porn lips, skin lipstick, yid nose, cheap bra, cheat
heart […] best days of your life enjoy it and stop crying look it’s top of the
pops and kat slater.

And ‘When Your Name Is a Knife’, the sequence that takes up eleven of this pamphlet’s twenty-five pages, is a portrait of an extraordinary woman:

her body is divergent
wrapping your relative smallness and
heteronormative femininity in a pink
ribbon of all that is good and invisible


her body is fearless
reclaiming paradigms
she stares you out

slung over the windowsill middle finger
plugged in between tectonic thighs

The poem ends with the woman confronting the ‘you’ with a knife and demanding money. It’s typical of this publication in that it gives no easy answers:

when she told you
she was repeatedly raped
as a child you wept for her

now you’d push her face
into the sand

Ramona Herdman