Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize
The Secret is a book of mystery and magic. Opening on familiar ground – retelling stories from the Bible, Celtic mythology, small-town rumours and urban mythologies – it gradually moves beyond its borders to narratives of Central America, drawing on figures such as the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, and the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
In this unusually innovative first collection, Zoë Brigley considers many secrets – between man and woman, mother and daughter, teacher and pupil, rich and poor, North and South, familiar and strange. Using a large variety of poetic forms, her writing oscillates between global languages and minor ways of speaking. The book is split into three sections that spiral further away from ideas of home towards the discovery of gifts in other cultures.
‘This is a daring collection, and unlike any other I have read. It is musical, strange, intelligent, original poetry. The thought and structure and the textual layering are complex, but the simplicity of the language (which weaves Spanish, Aztec and Welsh into the English) carries the reader through and over the tangled currents of history, mythology, science, and stories from everywhere.’ – Gillian Clarke
'This is a first collection of ambition and originality, filled with engaging experiment and, for the reader, the continual delighted surprise of success… The poems display a precise control of sound, image and refrain at the same time as they embody a powerfully feminine sensibility, asserting its fluency with myth, cultural theory and the metaphysical… Brigley's use of Welsh is especially exciting, plaiting it through English to give her lines an intricate musicality. This culturally charged gesture forcefully reminds us how proximate the unfamiliar can be, while the exoticism of the Mexican setting is skilfully grounded in this poet's distinctive field of concerns. The radical reconsideration of the apparently strange (and of what we assume to be customary) is one of poetry's necessary taks, and it is essayed here with some aplomb.' – Lavinia Greenlaw & W.N. Herbert, PBS Bulletin
‘A glittering and ambitious new voice, Zoë Brigley combines a poised and cool intelligence with a fierce integrity.’ – Deryn Rees-Jones
‘The Secret explores Welshness and marginality, drawing on myths from the Mabinogion to Mexico, via Magritte. These poems have a spell-binding power – lapidary, erudite, ambitious and stunningly original.’ – Pascale Petit
‘And just when we think that there are no secrets minding the hearth of poetry, along comes a poet like Zoë Brigley who not only lights the fire of the imagination but whose warmth guides us from the cold night making blossoms even from snow. Her mapping of unfamiliar and familiar territory is both invigorating and refreshing, refracting the gleam of tradition with innovation. Here is a bold poet whose footprints leave an enticing trail.’ – Menna Elfyn