Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Polly Clark shows the complex and often brutal making of a self in her poems, from first passions, through losses and disappointments, to attempts to understand and forgive origins. The forces which shape who we are take on many personalities: surgeons, horses, Amazon parrots, Pontius Pilate and huge beetles all have lessons to teach about loss, bereavement and the shaping of a fragile identity. Who decides who we are and what we will be? Her journey encompasses diverse locations, from her native Canada to Hungary and Edinburgh Zoo, from the hospital bed to the zoo enclosure, demonstrating that places can be as important as people in shaping our internal landscape.
‘Not many poets have worked, as Clark has, in a zoo. Animals, in their violence and strength and beauty, play an important part in her repertoire of reference and subtly inform her presentation of human experience, from birth to death, from ecstasy to profound grief. But this isn’t comfortable poetry. Clark wastes no words, makes no concessions to timid readers: offers instead moments of vision of tremendous intensity and charge. These are poems of an alert imagination and a strongly original mind, poems that run along the dangerous edge of things, risky and skilful as an acrobat. What you get from Clark is the electrical impulse, rather than the narrative voice – poems to stiffen the hairs on the back of your neck. A breathtakingly assured ﬁrst collection’ – U.A. Fanthorpe
‘Polly Clark has mastered the necessary art of saying two things at once. The surface of her poems maintains a bright, even brisk tone; it’s full of fresh, unexpected phrasings. And yet the imagery points to a darker underbelly. It’s a poetry in which our certainties are tested and exposed as brittle’ – W.N. Herbert, PBS Bulletin