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This review is taken from PN Review 267, Volume 49 Number 1, September - October 2022.

Cover of Queen of Hearts
Rory WatermanHannah Hodgson, Queen of Hearts (Smith Doorstop) £5 Safia Khan, Too Much Mirch (Smith Doorstop) £5

I’ve frequently been impressed by winners of the Smith Doorstop New Poets Prize, as readers of these reviews might have surmised, though much depends on the selector, who changes every year. This year it was Kim Moore, a poet who was ‘new’ herself not so very long ago, and in this review I’m going to focus on two of this year’s winning pamphlets (or, rather, selected ones), both by young women. The cult of newness gripping poetry publishing at present isn’t always a good thing: too much comes out too soon, and too many poets are neglected after the first flush of youth, or because they first publish when they’re not in it. Hannah Hodgson and Safia Khan, however, feel more than ready. Their particular and individual circumstances might have something to do with why.

Hodgson’s primary subject, across two pamphlets and a first full-length collection from Seren, is her life-limiting illness. That simple description doesn’t do her justice, though, and the poems in Queen of Hearts are usually multifaceted in ways that keep things interesting as well as moving. ‘Not All Bombs Get Dramatic Conclusions’ is a case in point, witty and horrific at once: ‘The foam cubes hiding in the ceiling are liquid-stained’, so psychiatrists
point to the ceiling instead of inkblots. It’s blood I say,
we’re below a theatre. The drains backed up last night,
and we evacuated the ward. A kid shouted By smelling
particles of shit are in your nose! Until a nurse flushed
his nasal cavity with saline ...

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