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Brood

Rhian Edwards
ISBN-13: 
9781781724217
Publication Date: 
Monday, March 13, 2017
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Brood is the new pamphlet from poet Rhian Edwards. Winner of all three categories of Wales Book of the Year in 2013 for her debut poetry collection, Clueless Dogs, Bridgend-born and based Edwards is known for her dazzling performance style and her vivid, often acutely personal poems.

The new pamphlet opens with ‘Birds of Rhiannon’ introducing us (via a nod to the famous medieval Mabinogion story where magic birds, said to bring people back from the dead, console the heartbroken Celtic princess Rhiannon) to a darkly resonant tone that echoes from the myth:

Before I was mortal, I was haloed
in feathers, my trinity of familiars;
whose birdsong was legend, serenading
the dead from their dreams,
lullabying the living to torpor…

The centre of this new pamphlet is a ten-part poem, ‘Pied Margot’ based on the mnemonic rhyme for groups of magpies ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy…’. This long poem charts the progression of a troubling relationship from infatuation to disillusionment, alongside the birth of a much-loved daughter.

There are unflinching descriptions of arduous pregnancy, as well as miscarriage, that remind us that this stage of a woman’s life can be as risky as a battlefield. Also, any parent will recognise the irritated joy of ‘Kiss’ where a child becomes an expert at ‘delaying the damnation of bedtime.’

Meanwhile, birds are at all times present: hovering, chattering, casting their shadows, they are both tricksters and familiars in these hypnotic, spell-like poems. Welsh artist Paul Edwards has provided some beautiful charcoal drawings of magpies inspired by this atmospheric sequence, which feature throughout the pamphlet.

Other poems feature Gulls, Red Kites and ‘The Universal Doodle’ of a murmuration cloud of starlings. This pamphlet Brood is an apt follow-up to Clueless Dogs and leaves us eager for the poet’s next full collection.

 

REVIEWS

Review by Vicky MacKenzie, New Welsh Review

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Brood is an exquisitely produced pamphlet which includes several dynamic charcoal drawings of magpies by Welsh artist Paul Edwards. It’s a fitting title: there’s the sense of ‘brood’ as the offspring hatched from eggs, and as a verb meaning to nurture and protect young. There’s also the sense of ‘brood’ as mediating on something, especially unhappily. All these meanings of the word are at play here, since whilst the obvious theme is avian, the poems also explore pregnancy, child-rearing and the breakup of a marriage. The central sequence, ‘Pied Margot’ (another terms for magpie), follows the folklore saying about magpie numbers, beginning with ‘1. Sorrow’, ‘2. Joy’ and so on, until the heart-wrenching ‘10. A Bird That’s Best to Miss’ which details the pain and distress of miscarriage, ‘the silt of near life’.

Edwards relishes mixing registers and tones: red kites are the unexpected ‘flight of false moustaches’ and a pregnancy test kit is the unromantic ‘piss wand harbinger’. Rather than accepting her partner’s ex-fiancée’s diamond, the poet wishes she had accepted a proposal ‘with the regalia of a Coke ring.’ Her imagery is never less than fresh and witty, and this pamphlet dazzles with wit, honesty and linguistic verve.

 

Read the full, three-book review on the New Welsh Review website.

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