Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Have a nice weekend I think you’re interesting, Lucy HoltThe jacket is very dark blue. In the middle in huge paler blue caps the words New Poets Prize. 'New' is in italics and thinner than the other two words. Below this, centred, in white lower case, the title of the pamphlet is spilt over two lines. Below this in small pale blue caps, the author's name. No images.

Smith/Doorstop, 2021  £5.00

What does it mean to be a woman today reading the slogan...

A consistently witty, defiant, uncertain/certain young woman’s voice makes assertions throughout this pamphlet, and a lot of what it says is describing the speaker in terms of her experiences. It’s as if she’s stacking up a CV of everyday life ‘to have a consistent sense of self’ (‘Women I know but in real life’):

I’m doing my joke
about how I only date the sons of mothers
who have appeared on Woman’s Hour

    [‘Entertaining’]

I’m just anecdotes
and all the flats I’ve ever lived in

    [‘My entire life’]

These are contrasted with various enjoyably surreal types of woman presumably being presented to this speaker as ways to be: ‘a woman made of gorse’ (from ‘What good is a muesli woman’), ‘COS woman’ (from the poem of the same name), ‘What does it mean to be a woman today / reading the slogan lingerie for women who don’t do lingerie’ (‘Lessons in gifting’). She resists these with delightful (temporary) certainties: ‘there is no such thing as girlfriend material / I only made you up’ (‘What good is a muesli woman’).

I enjoyed the delicious female details nodded to in passing: ‘the backlit mirror’, ‘eyelash curlers / [that] are terrifying to men’, ‘my short torso / my indelicate waist’, ‘cheek textures’, and had fun wondering whether some of these things are increasingly things men notice/do too: ‘picking lint from jumpers’ — maybe; ‘mothers-in-law’ — definitely.

Overall, this pamphlet gives a brilliantly exact sense of young womanhood right now, wittily weaving in contemporary and everlasting details. I’ll end with three of them:

I am gently furious there is so much to learn

    [‘Lessons in gifting’]

the email thread isn’t a real thing
dining al desko isn’t a real thing

    [‘Ghosts I’]

In the third decade of the twenty-first century
you have stopped shopping for clothes
there is a group chat for all mankind you are admin

    [‘There is no word for this in German’]

Ramona Herdman