The Liquid Air, Andy BreckenridgeThe jacket is pale blue with a hand drawn design that at first looks like a map of coast and land, then you see it is a face in profile, with an eye closed and flowing hair. Text is centre over this, first the title about one third down, then the author's name in the middle. Both are in bold black lower case, fairly small. The publisher's logo is in a small circle just up from the bottom. The illustrators name and credit is right at the bottom, hand printed in small reddish caps, the same reddish line that is used in most of the face or map design.

(Illustrated by Chris Riddell)

Hybriddreich, 2022   £5.00

The extended metaphor at home

This slim illustrated pamphlet (just eleven pages of poems) very clearly inhabits a domestic setting, with poems of affection and anecdote featuring family and friends.

For example, ‘The Night You Were Born’ is dedicated ‘For N.F.B’ and tells them the story of their birth:

That night she’s on all fours in the birthing pool,
with small red clouds like angry sea horses,
and you, half out head first and still submerged.

‘The Accidental Tattoo’ is ‘For A.J.B’ and tells of a minor bike accident:

The hired bike was rusty and the bolts
shook. A mile into the journey you
came off. The grazes on knee and elbow
were brushstrokes of angry rust

This clarity gives room not only for similes throughout (as shown in the quotes above), but also for extended metaphors that bring whole poems together.

In ‘The Night You Were Born’, we’re in a world of water. This suggests to me that the birth is that of a first child and so the whole family is entering a new unfamiliar element, as experienced first by the baby itself (who might be in familiar liquid in the birthing pool, but will soon be hauled up into dry air):

That night she yells: ‘Get it out, it’s drowning,
drowning!’ The midwife smiles: ‘The baby has
never known air so hasn’t learned to drown.’

Then the metaphor widens to include the parents:

The day before, in the shopping centre
we buy a giant wardrobe big enough
for a family of otters. The night
before I dreamed […]
Thirteen ticks stuck fast gorge on me. One cuts
gills and punches out limbs and hauls itself
over the edge towards the water.

Many of the other poems here follow a similar pattern. ‘The Accidental Tattoo’, for example, uses the grit stuck in a minor wound from a bike accident (the tattoo of the title) as a metaphor for how memories persist, while ‘Going Back’ uses not washing as a metaphor for attempting to hold time still. The technique of extended metaphor is happily at home here.

Ramona Herdman