10 August 2015

The Invisible Girl by EE Nobbs

First of all, I have to come clean - I know the poet whose book I'm recommending here. But that's not why I'm writing about it - I'm writing about it because it's great!

Elly Nobbs' The Invisible Girl won the 2013 Doire Press Competition, and reading it, one can see why. Her poetry is rooted in rural Canada, with poems about family, and cattle, and collecting firewood; but it zooms its way through science and science fiction as well, in poems ranging from the microscopic (amoebae) and the infinite (space).

In Re-Write, she raises questions about reality and truth; and what a poem is, and what it's for. The poem recounts a family disaster when the cows died, but starts

We're supposed to lie in poems:
so here's one 

Threading the poem through with repetitions of 'I suppose', and the dreadful concrete details of the cows' suffering -
...their stomachs
blew up like olive green balloons
and her father
stuck their bellies with Mom's carving knife,
let out the fermented gas, called the vet -
who couldn't help. Kaput. Like that.
- the speaker holds off till the very end to reveal which part of her story was the lie.

In The Cure, the small world of the speaker echoes the smallness of our everyday experience:
Days are like zoos. It's unnatural
and tiresome under the grey microscope
in this tiny room where I get paid 
to tally invisible dead
insects in brine...
but in Space Ship Captain, the poem from which the collection's title is taken, when a girl is assigned the task to
invisible bits of
things into piles -
one room's for wings
with black holes; 
nonsclerotized bits with no pronotums
must go some-
where else
she decides to do something else with the bits, and makes herself an 'Apollo Saturn V rocket'. By Act II the 'Invisible Girl' is breaking into NASA, and by the end, she's off on her travels, and, at least to herself, invisible no more.

This collection is sparkling with wit and weirdness, and at times as playful as a puppy, but its concerns are deep and universal. It's a magical collection, and well worth ordering all the way from Canada. As Bill Greenwell says, 'Elly Nobbs writes like Emily Dickinson on Mescalin'. Who could ask for more?

The Invisible Girl is available here.

6 August 2015

Epithalamium and The Poetry School

I'm very pleased to have a poem of mine here on the Poetry School's Campus website. It's a poem that had its roots in my daughter's wedding four years ago. My future son-in-law being an animal lover, the couple decided to theme their tables around animals that mate for life. Four years later, on a course tutored by the award-winning poet Steve Ely (Oswald's Book of Hours and Englaland are published by Smokestack) one task was to write an Epithalamium, a poem celebrating marriage. The brief was wide: it could be ironic, subversive, surreal, or an un-ironic and joyful celebration. This was the result, and I was delighted to be asked to share it on Campus .

'Epithalamium in Twenty Six Creatures' is very different from most of the stuff I've been writing recently; but that's the joy of courses and workshops - they can send you off in unexpected directions. And they're also great if, like me, you're recovering from a bit of a block!

In my commentary on the poem I talk about riddles. If you're interested, here's an early blogpost of mine (from 2011) on the subject of that and much more!