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Bloodlines

Sarah Wimbush
ISBN-13: 
9781781725948
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)
£5.00

Winner of the Mslexia/Poetry Book Society Women's Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2019

Bloodlines is an exploration of Sarah Wimbush's own Gypsy/Traveller heritage, a journey made by piecing together fragments of distant stories and a scattered language. Along the way, we meet people who are 'tethered to the seasons'; voices that reverberate with a sense of family and resilience, and always with that constant wonder of being part of something colourful, untamed and rare.

"There is a Romany saying, We are all one: all who are with us are ourselves; Sarah Wimbush's collection draws us into the world of Travellers with linguistic panache and delight." – David Morley

"Sarah Wimbush's exciting poetry has that rare ring of authenticity. Her language brings to life a lost world with startling vividness. It is the real thing."Carole Bromley

"Bloodlines asserts Carroty Kate, our Jud and Lizzie's right to have their mother tongue placed among the voices of poetry."Stuart Pickford

"A thrilling debut that kept me outdoors in the grassy world of communal lives. I love the formal dazzle and linguistic dare that spoke of defiance, survival and utter joy." Daljit Nagra

 

'Late Afternoon by a Hedge' by Sarah Wimbush

 

REVIEWS

Review by Maggie MacKay, Sphinx

Monday, October 19, 2020

Celebrating Romany culture

These poems vibrate and ripple with the intensity of their colourful characters like Kate and Lizzie, seasoned with the community’s language. The reader travels with the individuals as they go about their business, pitching encampment, foraging, threshing, and selling wares from calling baskets.

Our senses are heightened by an awareness of seasonal landscapes, preparation of food and by the imaginative insertion of Romany vocabulary. Each poem smacks of authenticity and insightfulness.

The title poem is shaped as a hooped earring, curving into a spellbinding commentary on the essence of Romany traditions. Repeats of ‘in the Bloodlines’ emphasise the genetic origin of ‘the murmur on the barval’:

In the Bloodlines there’s an acorn of swagger that
inflates into a barrel wearing a vest. In the Bloodlines
there is nothing to offer up to the Old World except
a pair of shammy bootees —
your past, their past. 

‘Carroty Kate’ introduces us to an unforgettable character, a fortune-teller who speaks of how her predecessors would be hanged ‘just for being’:

I get by dukkering at the next marketplace
with sheeps’ trotters
or a brass groat as payment for the reading,
my kissi belt strapped tight
to my left thigh. 

In ‘A Sund’y in Worksop’ a little girl describes the family’s day, the sound and song of her mother’s work and the men playing pitch and toss. She waters the pony, one of several and ‘metals wield and thud’. Her memory is unreliable given the constant travelling. The poem spills questions and changes of mind.

The child reappears in the sensory ‘I can see Sandbeck Hall’. Bartering second-hand goods within the Romany community, and with rain pouring down, her father calls at the servants’ entrance to collect

the onion sacks filled steel pans, rabbit skins, cast-offs
and two wide skirts belonging to old Lady Scarbrough.

‘The Calling Basket’ introduces original metaphors: needles are ‘hobnails’; cotton reels are ‘vardo wheels’; ribbons are ‘smoke signals for missies’ pigtails and china throats’. And, finally, ‘Mother Tongue’ celebrates the language in a playful dance: one to relish.

Review by Judy Darley, SkyLightRain

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Sarah Wimbush won the Mslexia/PBS Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2019 with this slim yet seductively insidious collection. Wimbush’s verses creep in under collar and cuff, sending shivers across your scalp.

Weaving in the salt and pepper of Traveller idioms, Wimbush draws us into a journey through her own heritage, where we meet heroes and queens of lanes and fields.

You’ll learn some gorgeous terms along the way: “nose warmer” for pipe, “hedge mumper’ for tramp, and “drum” for road, as well as less familiar words, such as “yog” for fire and “chokka” for shoes. Some felt familiar without me knowing why – “mush” for man, for instance, and “shushti” for rabbit. It all adds to the richness of the telling.

In some poems Wimbush conjures the litany of a life in just a handful of lines, such as with Our Jud, who “rarely missed a fisticuffing up the Old Blue Bell./ And that time calmed the lady’s filly bolting up the road.” Each sentence has the fireside flavour of a blustering anecdote, yet summons facets of courage, heart and honour beside the bravado. Any of us could be proud to be seen as clearly as Wimbush describes Jud.

And yes, there is romance in much of the lustrous imagery, but unfrilled and honest. There’s a nod to the rebellious, the eternally loyal and the larking, with hints of hardship and hard work among revelries.

The smallest details, selected with evident care, help to sculpt the impression of a three-dimensional world. Wimbush writes of ten partridge eggs shared between eight, “Each bite/ Fresh as today’s sunrise”, and of “twilight unfolding its flittermouse wing”, of sisters scouring “the slack” and “twisting gold into hats”, and of feeling “rain coming/ by the weight of the wind.”

This isn’t Wimbush’s first win with poetry – she’s previously won and placed in Poetry Book Society competitions. Mslexia’s judge, Seren editor Amy Wack, says of the poems, ”They are composed with an adroit technique, formal skill, a Chaucerian sense of exuberant action.”

It’s clear that this marginalised, tightknit community comprises a language Wimbush is fluent in, with a feel for words and how to settle them as skilfully as her ancestors turned pipes in jars to rushlights. Reading the pamphlet offers glimpses of sunlit verges and rising smoke, of hunger and humour and a sought-out separation from society that makes them as exotic on the page as mother-of-pearl buttons, threads and “a bud of lace.”

Sensuous, textured and riddled through with landscapes, these are poems that will bring you to your door to reconvene with seasons.

User Reviews

's picture

4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

I’d never heard of the poet before but I knew I had to read this pamphlet when I read one of the poems in an issue of MsLexia announcing the competition winner. This is a very short book and I read it fairly quickly, even though I took the time to read each poem slowly and carefully. The poems impressed me, vivid, rich and full of detail. I enjoyed every poem but the stand-out poems are the title poem, Gal, John Thomas, Breakfast and Our Jud. I look forward to seeing what else Wimbush has to offer.

08/04/2020 - 05:15

Comments

's picture

4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

I’d never heard of the poet before but I knew I had to read this pamphlet when I read one of the poems in an issue of MsLexia announcing the competition winner. This is a very short book and I read it fairly quickly, even though I took the time to read each poem slowly and carefully. The poems impressed me, vivid, rich and full of detail. I enjoyed every poem but the stand-out poems are the title poem, Gal, John Thomas, Breakfast and Our Jud. I look forward to seeing what else Wimbush has to offer.

08/04/2020 - 05:15
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