Bright read cover with 'New Poets Prize' emblazoned on itTakeaway, Georgie Woodhead

New Poets List, 2021, Smith/Doorstop     £5.00

Mixing the mundane with the life changing

This poet is a master at depicting how the everyday necessities of survival exist in parallel with the most life changing of events. This, for instance, is from the title poem:

After the explosion, we got a Chinese takeaway and sat
pulled up outside Asda crunching through prawn crackers

The detail of the everyday is captured in a matter-of-fact manner — with a twist. In ‘Backward’ we learn:

I was born in a house where everything happens
backwards. My sister sits cross legged on her rocket ship
duvet cover sucks salty water back into her eyes.

And then we are dropped just as casually into: 

        Downstairs my father heals my mother’s wounds
by pulling bruises from her eyes with his fists. She snorts

a little dribble of blood back through her nostrils as if it's nothing.

The father is seemingly replaced by boyfriend ‘Tim’; some perfectly economic characterisation follows:

                               He believed
that chewing
              a toothpick meant he didn't have to clean
his teeth.

And the romance progresses in a few lines — ‘He moved his CDs / onto the second shelf in the living room’ — until the poet leaves us hanging with:

      He says he is like a father
to me, sits on the side of my bed
and puts his hand
                    on my thigh.
He looks me in the eye and says,
                                        ‘I mean it’.

The nearest we get to compassion for these alienated men is in ‘The Boxer’, again with some precise yet perfectly painted characterisation:

Before he gave it all up for pay monthly insurance, parents’
evenings, buy-to-let mortgages[…]

he used to be a boxer, used to dance around the ring, fists held high

Now he is ‘sipping cheap beer / watching Sky Sports over the curve of his belly.’

This is a pamphlet by a fresh and gifted young poet, looking at the world through a mature, compassionate lens with a developed talent for precision and engaging storytelling.

Jane Thomas