Creature Without Building, Ray Vincent-MillsThe jacket is mauve. Text for title and author is centred in white caps, the title over two lines at the top, the author's name near the bottom, and above the publisher's logo which is in black: V. In the middle of the jacket is a tall rectangle containing a slice of a full colour photo of a face, looks like a woman's with mouth open shouting or screaming. Appears to be wearing glasses or goggles over the one eye you can see. But mostly what you notice is the energy of the open mouth and its white teeth.

V. Press, 2022     £6.50


I’ve read individual poems that make use of the strikethrough before, but never a collection that uses it so consistently to explore hesitation, power and permission around language.

In my reading, several of the poems here are written in a transmasculine voice, with the strikethrough used on words that relate to the assumption of others that the speaker is/was female, as in ‘Woman in waiting (or so they thought)’:

6ft they said,
cake-batter thighs,
a woman in waiting.

In ‘Like mother unlike daughter’, this is juxtaposed with exploration of what language is permitted around race:

It’s odd to be raised by a white woman
When you are not one
When everyone looking at you is expecting
An opinion
On the N word
And whether I can say it
Whether they can
With eager eyes and misleading lips
Nigga please

‘Nick names / / Dessert options’ starts with a list of dark-coloured desserts, with the implication that these might be used as nicknames for darker-skinned people. The dual meaning is underlined through the strikethrough in the poem’s final section:

     But maybe I want to be
Dolloped with whatever’s in season.

One of my favourite poems here is the tender, morning-after poem ‘Black, one sugar, please’, in which the speaker reflects on what they do and don’t say to a new lover who offers a crass line when talking about coffee:

Strong, dark and sweet.
Just like you.

Normally the punchline is just muscle memory.
I roll my eyes,
or say good one,
and think bad thing.
your voice is gentle.
There is no crowd
and I brush it off.
I’ve heard that one before.
You look down, say, I’m sure you have.
And I’m not sure why I lied,
as no one has ever said strong before.

I like the ambiguity of the strikethrough in the title — for me, it perfectly enacts these unsure lovers, hesitating as they try to say the right things.

Ramona Herdman