Finuala Dowling

Pretend You Don’t Know Me

New and Selected Poems

Finuala Dowling

Publication Date : 27 Sep 2018

ISBN: 9781780374246

Pages: 65
Size :216 x 138mm
Rights: World

Pretend You Don’t Know Me brings together in one volume the best of Finuala Dowling’s funny, poignant and idiosyncratic poetry from four earlier prize-winning collections, with a section devoted to new poems. It introduces this popular South African poet to a UK audience.

Finuala Dowling’s debut collection, I flying, published in 2002, was an instant success in her native South Africa. Its accessibility, humanity and wit, as well as its beguilingly honest stories of home, parenthood, love, loss and desperation, won many new converts to poetry. The volume went into multiple printings, and won the Ingrid Jonker prize. Dowling’s subsequent collections, Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe and Notes from the Dementia Ward (winners of the SANLAM and Olive Schreiner prizes respectively), consolidated her reputation as an inventive sketcher of the domestic sublime. Her chapbook, Change is possible, sold out at the 2014 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Pretend You Don’t Know Me contains her iconic poem ‘To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair’ as well as Dowling’s tragi-comic cycle of poems on the theme of her mother’s dementia, and the hugely popular poems ‘Butter’, ‘I am the Zebra’, ‘To adventurers, as far as I’m concerned’ and ‘The abuse of cauliflowers’.  At the heart of the book are the funny and poignant connections we make with other people, and the lifelong effort to stay whole. 

Pretend You Don’t Know Me, by South African Finuala Dowling, is a witty and wise collection of new and selected poems. Her sequence about her mother’s dementia is very touching. Elsewhere, these vital works will have you crying with laughter.’ – Jackie Kay, The Guardian (Books of the Year 2018)

‘This book collects the South African-born writer’s funny and bittersweet poems, often blending tragedy and comedy within a few lines.  The works in Notes from the Dementia Ward, which were written in 2008, stand out for me… Dowling’s take is refreshing and poignant.’ – Antony Clay, Chase Magazine, Rotherham Advertiser [on Pretend You Don’t Know Me]

‘Dowling is redefining poetry, bringing her distinctive voice and wit to bear on a medium so often stuck in moody, broody times.’ – Arja Slafranca, The Star

‘Finuala Dowling is a brave new voice in South African poetry, filled with vitality, wit, unexpected rhythms and fresh ideas… Always accessible, Dowling’s poetry is never shallow.’ – Shirley Kossick, Mail & Guardian

‘Here is a woman who does not apologise for being human… Her work is entertaining, but not compromising. It brings affection and attention to everyday emotions and experiences. They are love poems fused with passion and generosity.’ – Don Maclennan

‘The book turns on the intimate… what you come away with is delight at being permitted access to this hugely talented poet’s life.’ – Top Billing


Finuala Dowling reads from Pretend You Don’t Know Me at Humber Mouth Literature Festival

In this excerpt from Finuala Dowling’s reading (with Helen Mort) at Humber Mouth Literature Festival on 7 October 2018, she reads five poems from Pretend You Don’t Know Me, three from her sequence ‘Notes from the Dementia Ward’ (‘Protection from Grief in the Dementia Ward’, ‘Widowhood in the dementia ward’ and ‘At eighty-five, my mother’s mind’), followed by ‘Wanting to get divorced #1365’ and ‘I am the zebra’.



Related News & Publicity

News & Publicity

Finuala Dowling's retrospective a Book of the Year 2018

Finuala Dowling's retrospective a Book of the Year 2018

South Africa's Finuala Dowling's first UK publication named a Book of the Year in The Guardian; Poem of the Week in The Yorkshire Times, 21 February 2019

Read More  |  View All






View Larger Text