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This review is taken from PN Review 259, Volume 47 Number 5, May - June 2021.

Cover of CitadelCover of What Survives is the SingingCover of Magnolia
Ian PopleFlowers, Food & Strongholds
Martha Sprackland, Citadel (Liverpool University Press)









Shanta Acharya, What Survives is the Singing (Indigo Dreams Publishing)









Nina Mingya Powles, Magnolia (Nine Arches Press)
‘Fierce’ and ‘intense’ are words which have been used already about Martha Sprackland’s poems. I, myself, am quoted on the cover blurb as pointing out some of the slightly gothic quality there is to the writing in Sprackland’s earlier Rack Press pamphlet, Glass as Broken Glass. That fierce intensity arises, in part, from a centripetal quality to the perspective of the writing. The ‘I’ in the poems feels very much as if it is the authorising consciousness of them. And that I pulls sensation in with what feels at times, considerable greed. A pun about vampirism would be a step too far, but there is an urgency to the writing which is beguiling and strong. Even where the poems are small narratives, the perspective feels that of the author. This is true even in the poems in the collection which feature Juana, Joanna of Castile, imprisoned for madness in the sixteenth century.

That centripetal feel is often reinforced by Sprackland’s use of a very urgent present tense, as in ‘An Entertainment of Broken Lentrillas for Juana at Seventy, Incarcerated at Tordesillas’: ‘She works with minute patience / to manufacture fragrance / in notes of heat and dust / from branches of the herb / which then her wings disturb / and spill its camphor must / into the waiting silence / her pale and odorous trance / pervades even her absence.’ There is an ambiguity about the word ‘wings’ here; they could be a metaphor for free, inner life that Juana has in prison. Or the wings could be those of a real bird ...


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