All the Naked Daughters, Anna Kisby
Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2017 £5.00
The orange pith of feminism
This debut pamphlet from Anna Kisby (and, indeed, from its publisher) makes a stunning entrance. From the first poem, ‘The Fallen Alices’, to its last, ‘Tortoise Missus’, the reader is taken on a journey imbued with a feminist slant that is neither too laboured nor too hidden. These are subtle, yet punchy poems which both excite and question.
Familial relationships (usually feminine) abound – unsurprisingly in a pamphlet entitled All the Naked Daughters – but this is an exploration of womanhood in its entirety, through the lens of history. The reader encounters females dropping suicidally into the Thames (‘We swell, we open and close like telescopes’ from ‘The Fallen Alices’) and suffragettes – ‘Film reel shows you fly / up from hooves like a scrap / of matter’ (‘Purse’).
An air of quiet but insistent rebellion runs through the work in twenty well-hewn poems of both lived and imagined experience. For example, there’s the poet’s particular vision of Bob Dylan performing in Paris ‘living the phrase we locked eyes’ with the benefit of mature hindsight. Elsewhere, in ‘In the Studio of Madam Yevonde, the female photographer’s subjects are celebrated with their ‘nails murder-red’, swigging Eau de Cologne, ‘a bosom of lilies afloat / a technicolour pond’.
‘Orangematic’ is a fast-paced romp through the seventies to the present day which uses the leitmotif of oranges, both the fruit and colour, where women ‘suck their teeth of pith’ and emblematically take in ‘everything her own mother / could not, readying to spit it all out’. These last lines somehow evoke the spirit of this collection: the absorption of a woman’s (and women’s) past experiences which have been digested and presented to the reader afresh (in a rather more stylish and edifying form than spit).
The raw immediacy of this debut goes ‘against the grain / to show its bloodstains’ (‘Purse’) both poetically and empathetically. Whether the use of this phrase is a happy coincidence or the publishers have deliberately lifted these three words to name their newborn press I don’t know – but Kisby’s pamphlet hopefully heralds the nascent careers of other equally accomplished poets, feistily writing ‘Against the Grain’.