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This review is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

Cover of The Remedies
Valerie DuffA Single Dark Blue Flower The Remedies by Katharine Towers (Picador, 2016) £9.99

The Remedies is Katharine Towers’s second book of poems. Her first, The Floating Man, received acclaim in 2010 as the winner of the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize, a book balancing virtuosity with attention to detail. The Remedies begins with a poem about the poet’s father, who is, in fact, past all remedy. ‘Because my father will not stand again / beneath these swags of Himalayan Musk,’ she writes, she must create the corrective: ‘ […] I have it in my mind / to let the roses pull our house down slowly […] Then I’ll come back // to find its wreck of thorns and brick, my father / lying on the bed in which he died / and blinking in the petal-scented light.’ Transformation, with its evocation of fairy tales, powers healing.

The Remedies coheres around a passionate desire to reverse suffering. The mid-section is reminiscent of Louise Gluck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Wild Iris, in which a garden of flowers and plants speak. In Towers’s book, they are varieties used specifically to cure affliction (as outlined by Dr Edward Bach). In ‘Agrimony: a remedy for mental torture which is kept hidden,’ that flower, similar to the blooms in Gluck’s garden, speaks from an emotional centre both oddly human and other-worldly:


All summer I cough up
umpteen tiny yellow blooms.

I can’t help looking cheerful
but in my heart of hearts

I’m troubled.
If I could choose I’d bear

a single dark blue flower –
...


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