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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 272, Volume 49 Number 6, July - August 2023.

Cover of Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands
Joey ConnollySarah Wimbush, Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands (Bloodaxe) £10.99; Mark Pajak, Slide (Cape) £12
The Mainstream British Lyric

It’s rare you can trace a poet’s influence to a single writer, let alone a single poem, but a number of moments in Sarah Wimbush’s debut Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands seem traceable to a single couplet. The final lines from Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Prayer’ run:
Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
Which isn’t a bad choice for a lodestar: it’s more or less the jewel in the crown of a very specific poetic tradition. The gravitas-inducing pauses generated by the one-word sentences accumulate toward the release of the heavy rhyme, which works to lift the prosaic and secular (shipping forecast) into the epiphanic and spiritual (the prayer). It’s hard to think of a neater exemplar of the mainstream British lyric’s whole jam. Compare, from Wimbush’s book:
                … yearning
for the atchin tans where trees nurse the sun,
the places with whispered names:
Hagg Lane, Mission Springs. The Garden
or, four pages later
… the puff and pout, hands open, slapped.
These men who live by wiser rules.
Outsiders. Set apart. Kings in fact.
… above the whiteness he’d excite the air
with tiny circles. I imagined words
like: daughter, sharpen, write.
or, the final lines of the book
… the image of a man digging forever through a coal seam two foot thick. It is black lung and unwritten songs. It is soup kitchens, work vests, hewers. Picks.
But it isn’t true that Duffy is the only influence here. ‘Our Jud’, a rhyming sonnet anaphorising on ‘And’ in order to itemise ...

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