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This Is Not A Rescue

Emily Blewitt
ISBN-13: 
9781781724095
Publication Date: 
Thursday, April 27, 2017
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£9.99

‘Here is a riotous, cacophonous and wonderful book. Here is an important new voice in British poetry.’
– Jonathan Edwards, author of My Family and Other Superheroes.

 

This Is Not a Rescue is the eagerly-awaited debut collection from Emily Blewitt. These poems move in various registers, keyed to their subject-matter. There are pieces that take a playful approach to the author’s native Wales (‘How to Explain Hiraeth to an Englishman’, ‘How to Marry a Welsh Girl’) which resist cliché by subverting our expectations. Similarly, there are several sharp, satirical poems about modern office life; these paint a familiar scene, redolent of boredom and lechery (‘When I Think of Bald Men’, ‘The Question’).

The author’s coolly intelligent wit is to the fore in ‘Devouring Jane’, which updates Jane Austen’s heroes for a 21st-century Elizabeth Bennet. There are also a number of instructional poems, survival guides for the modern heroine: ‘Woman Poet’, ‘Self-Defence’, ‘Things My Dance Teacher Used to Say’. These contrast with some intensely personal lyrics that touch on childhood trauma, on depression, on sexual and domestic violence (‘When in Recovery’, ‘Sometimes I Think of Chapel’, ‘Forgiveness’). The revealing honesty of these pieces makes for compelling reading.

There are also poems inspired by popular culture, for a TV and internet-saturated age: ‘The Walking Wed’, ‘On Watching Paranormal Witness’, ‘Boba Fett and the Sarlacc’.

Perhaps most striking, however, are the number of startlingly beautiful love poems: ‘The Philobrutist’, ‘I Threw Myself at You’, ‘We Broke Up’, ‘Navigation Points’. Often a poem will initially seem to be about a landscape or an animal – say, a bird (‘Honeyguide’) – but this ostensible subject matter is a mere prelude to subtle declarations of passion, of yearning, of desire. 

Also here are two sequences: one inspired by crows, and the other by a favourite cat. The author’s appealingly wry, thoughtful manner, a delightfully circuitous wit, and her pointed intelligence, make this book one of the best and most entertaining debuts you are likely to read this year. 

REVIEWS

Review by John Redmond, New Welsh Review

Monday, July 3, 2017

...Carefully constructed and shot through with good-humour, this is a book which radiates charm. At a time when political poetry seems ever more in the ascendant, these poems are refreshingly free of public commentary. Here is a book which nears no trace of Brexit/Trump – our contemporart ‘one story only’. The lyric self that is displayed here is an uncomplicated one built principally out of family and romantic relationships. Closely observed men – and cats – are favourite subjects and a number of poems are given over to their categorisation:

Every office has some –
you know the men I mean. The ones that are reluctant
to fly; the ones that hiss when threatened.

To the degree that the book has any politics at all, then to adapt a phrase of Clifford Geertz, it is a politics of the skin’s edge. The poems are relentlessly physical, and at the same time, worried about the body.

...

Blewitt’s influences are of the mainstream – the beguiling title-poem struck me as pitched somewhere between Rich’s ‘Diving into the Wreck’ and Sexton’s ‘Her Kind’. There are also hints of Plath, Duffy and, in the sequence, ‘Gifts from Crows’ (which features a talking crow), of Hughes. There are some blemishes – some of the poems are too slight or too flat and there is occasional recourse to off-the-shelf poeticisms: ‘his eyes / are ocean’. Overall, though, this is far from being a pretentious book. The author, who partly specialises in nineteenth-century literature, actually makes less of her academic hinterland than might have been expected. Abtruse references are few. The personality that the reader encounters is natural and recognisable – a major element of the book’s appeal...

Read the full review on the New Welsh Review website.

 

Review by Kitty Donnelly, Mslexia

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

This Is Not A Rescue begins with a statement. However, this is a collection full of questions: some dark, some humorous, many intertwined with the natural world and all in tune with the conflicts and complexities of present day living. The mythology of the female writer is explored from the first poem onwards. She is a changeable figure, this woman, sometimes martyr (“consume me with fire”), sometimes vixen (in her “blue-black jeans” and heels like “a stiletto pressed to the artery”). She’s both ancient and modern, vulnerable and predatory.
Themes of predators and prey return throughout the collection. In ‘When I Think of Bald Men’, Blewitt uses the metaphor of vultures skillfully, with both humour and a more sinister undercurrent. She also exposes similar issues in ‘The Question’ (cleverly left unanswered) of sexual consent. She conjures the ‘office creep’ in both these poems, exposing his nature for what it is: the frustrated animal who fosters rage within the cage of his own inadequacies. To me (perhaps because I’m soft) she also managed to convey a sense of pity, of the need for social inclusion and the consequences of this being stifled and turning to bitterness.
There are significant references to sexual abuse running through the collection that repeatedly asserted themselves, unable to be ignored. ‘Sometimes I Think of Chapel’ is full of innocence lost. The child’s enthusiasm and “frilly socks” are juxtaposed with the mother’s experience (“what uncle did to her”) and her conviction and resilience: “…let her never learn to kneel”. I felt this was a powerful statement: supplication is not an option. This theme returns as a clever twist in ‘On Watching Paranormal Activity’. The poem begins as a descriptive account of a TV series and ends with a question: what if the ghost, the demon, is in fact “a favourite uncle” creeping into the bedroom?
“It takes a bit of grit to make a pearl” the dance teacher says in one of the later poems and that phrase summed up the collection to me: like the split-sky of a horizon: half day, half night. If I had more of my word count left, I’d mention the sparking Welsh humour and cadences, the striking animal metaphors and the overwhelming triumph of love and tenderness. It’s all there to be discovered.

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