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This review is taken from PN Review 249, Volume 46 Number 1, September - October 2019.

Cover of Their Lunar Language
Rory WatermanPamphleting
Diana Anphimiadi, trans. Jean Sprackland and Natalia Bukia-Peters, Beginning to Speak (PTC);
Rakhshan Rizwan, Paisley (Emma);
Charlotte Eichler, Their Lunar Language (Valley);
Steve Ely, Jubilate Messi (Shearsman);
Carol Rumens, Bezdelki (Emma)

I love poetry pamphlets, at least in theory, which is partly why my co-editor and I recently decided to turn New Walk magazine into the pamphlet publisher New Walk Editions. Among myriad other things, a poetry pamphlet can give us an early glimpse at the work of a new poet who isn’t yet ready for a book, can allow an established poet to gamble on a new direction or present a discrete shorter project in its own covers, or can provide an easily digestible selection from a writer new to us, but not new elsewhere in the world. I’ll use this review to give space to recent examples of all these things.

The blurb to Rakhshan Rizwan’s debut, Paisley, claims that it ‘simmers with […] anger’ and ‘offers critical comment on the vexed issues of class, linguistic and cultural identity – particularly for women’. Her poems are in fact far more multifaceted and skilful than those by many of her more lauded contemporaries who often seem to think a poem can more or less get by on critical comment alone. Rizwan is a Pakistani who has moved to Germany to study; for the most part this pamphlet looks back to where she is from, and at herself looking back, and does so insightfully and inquisitively. ‘Buffet’ is one giddy run-on sentence:
we sit stirring the brew,
vapours of warm melted sugar rising,
we stir in the evening news,
and drown ourselves
in the tiny
teacups of our
collective conscience.

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