Poetry Book Society Recommendation
House of Tongues is concerned with acceptance and refusal, power and the lack of it, silence and the refusal of silence. It’s also a book full of the sadness and exhilaration of leaving – of saying an often ambivalent goodbye to people and places, a job, friends lost through illness, sex, innocence – and of the precarious process of patiently setting out again.
Far from remembered in tranquillity, the emotion here is re-enacted in the book’s surprising coda – a series of poems set in the Swedish Hanseatic harbour town of Visby and based on its many colourful stories, from medieval to more modern times. In these poems, tongues mix and entwine in the mouths of unlikely personae in an atmosphere of vengeance and betrayal that throws a retrospective light on the more contemporary themes and material that form the body of Susan Wicks’s latest collection.
‘Wicks can be both a fearless and arrestingly tender kind of writer, unafraid of taking a thought into uncomfortable, raw or unexpected places... confessions and punishments, banishments and betrayals, all are rendered in the mouths of the past or looked at from the aftermath of the present. Seeming to rise darkly in pitch at the end of the collection, they adjust our sense of the easier poems, and further deepen the focus of this mysterious and powerful book.' – Paul Farley, PBS Bulletin, on House of Tongues
‘A poet of deceptive power, who can transmute everyday objects and events into poems with an understated numinous edge.' – Kathleen Jamie, PBS Bulletin
‘A fine poet, with an eye for detail and a gift for conveying the earthiness of everyday experience.’ – Jo Shapcott, Independent on Sunday
‘Few poets writing today go into [family, its personal ties and sorrows] in so detailed and tender a way. Or so frighteningly.’ - Alan Brownjohn, Sunday Times
‘Wicks remains [at her best when] attentive to the curious mechanical details of modern life, juxtaposing them with its magical transformation scenes.’ – John Greening, Times Literary Supplement
Susan Wicks reads eight poems
Susan Wicks reads eight poems: 'Ha Ha Bonk', 'Buying Fish', 'The Clever Daughter', 'Persephone', 'My Father's Handkerchiefs' and 'Night Toad' from Night Toad: New & Selected Poems (2003), followed by two poems from her 2011 collection House of Tongues, 'Pistachios' and 'Cycling to See the Fish-ladder'. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Susan Wicks at the Arvon Foundation's centre at Totleigh Barton in Devon in November 2009.