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This review is taken from PN Review 262, Volume 48 Number 2, November - December 2021.

Cover of Red Gloves
Yvonne ReddickWild Homesickness

Romalyn Ante, Antiemetic for Homesickness (Chatto) £10
Rebecca Watts, Red Gloves (Carcanet) £9.99
Antiemetic for Homesickness (Chatto, 2020) and Red Gloves (Carcanet, 2020) gain a topical urgency in our age of pandemic and climate breakdown. Romalyn Ante’s book was published during full lockdown, a debut that commands attention by evoking the NHS front line. Its author ‘works as a registered nurse and psychotherapist,’ the back cover tells us, and Ante’s poems provide a fascinating window into the lives of diaspora nurses.

Ante combines medical terminology with images of fruit, blossoms and bodies, creating characteristically original metaphors: ‘amongst the haematoma of flowers’. From the first poem, specialist terms such as ‘anti-emetic’ and ‘prophylaxis’ rub shoulders with the kamote (sweet potato) and kangkong (water spinach) of Filipino gardens and cuisine. ‘Names,’ which won Poetry London’s Clore Prize, has a shifting poetic form to mirror the travels of a family scattered between the Philippines, Britain and Oman: ‘Riverside. Manila. London. Kurba’. Survival, endurance and healing are crucial foci – ‘And the strongest part of me/ is the scar I hide underneath my fringe’. Ante joins Ocean Vuong in echoing Frank O’Hara, but her influences are global. References to Yi Yang-Yong appear alongside Filipino songs, gunita script, and nods to Neruda.

The book is steeped in ‘The sanctity of blood’, a turn of phrase encapsulating family relations, the healing arts, and the blood of suffering. We are introduced to a grandfather who was a shaman, to the vibrant traditions of the dance festival, and the fabled nun. A mother who has to leave her children to fly abroad is visualised as the manananggal, a woman who ...

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