Other Women’s Kitchens

Alison Binney
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
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Winner of the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2020

Other Women’s Kitchens is Alison Binney’s debut pamphlet of poems and introduces us to a gifted new voice who writes with flair and feeling about coming out and coming of age as a gay woman in 21st century Britain. Winner of the Mslexia pamphlet prize for poetry, the collection explores the challenges of discovering and owning a lesbian identity in the 1980s and 1990s and the joy of finding both love and increased confidence in that identity as an adult. An adroit admixture of the heart-wrenching and the humorous, the book features shaped and ‘found’ pieces, traditional narrative and compact prose poems. Beautifully entertaining, pointedly political and often very funny, Other Women’s Kitchens is essential reading. Seren is thrilled to be presenting this author’s first collected work.


Watch Alison reading from Other Women’s Kitchens at the online launch on National Poetry Day 2021!



Review by Sarah Wimbush, Butcher's Dog

Monday, October 25, 2021

Heart-rending and at times deliciously humorous, Alison Binney’s 2020 Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition winner: Other Women’s Kitchens (Seren 2021), is a lifelong journey of self-discovery as a lesbian in an often hostile and antiquated world.

Binney sets her stall out in the powerful opening poem, ‘The way you knew’. This deeply resonating anaphora perfectly illustrates a schoolgirl's struggle to navigate the sexual politics of late 20th Century Britain:

… the way you
knew not to wear your hair short the way you knew how to walk how
to talk how to French kiss a boy and why you had to and more the
way you knew for sure if anyone knew about you you were dead.

The torment of living within the constraints of other people expectations continues achingly in ‘Every time I came home’, delivered in deft couplets:

Soon, every time I came home
someone was having a baby, a crop

of grinning children on the fridge. I had nothing
to bring to that table. I pushed their questions

around my plate, going to bed hungry,
dreaming of other women’s kitchens.

One of the most astonishing poems is where Binney reveals a plethora of institutionalised prejudice in ‘Testimony’. This found poem satisfyingly takes the form of a cross, with the content sourced from the testimonies of LGBTQ+ Christians who shared experiences of coming out in their church communities:

you have a hole in your
soul your breasts belong to
your future husband we
had a board meeting and
decided that you can no
longer serve you are not as
well-dressed as I thought
you would be that lifestyle
makes me want to take a
shower your life is an

But the pamphlet is not all visceral gloom, far from it. Binney has a delightful sense of mordant humour and fabulously considers the practicalities of being a lesbian in ‘Late’, first published in Butcher’s Dog issue 15:

When Jess pointed out the Tesco car park
where she’d snog married women
on the back seats of their second cars
in the 1900s, reclined on two-kilo bags
of easy cook rice, I knew, as always, I was years
too late

At ‘On Wonder Woman’s island’ there is a clear sense of a gear–change, the poems becoming blustery and self-assured and it suddenly feels like Binney is beginning to find her feet:

the women are all leather and deltoids,
sword fights and whirling hair. They
call You are stronger than you know

‘How we knew’ is another pivotal poem; from here the poems have a definite sense of self-confidence and belonging:

Then you knew and I knew and the evening
stretched before us, the air fat with so much
knowing it hurt to breathe,

However, ‘Opening’ wittily illustrates a world that changes slowly and cannot help but convey a sustained lack of acceptance and approval:

Every Christmas I wonder what my aunt is thinking
sending us separate cards, in separate envelopes,
with separate stamps, to the same address,

but as the final poems become anchored in a relationship, vulnerability is superseded by an overwhelming sense confidence and happiness in ‘fuel.wizard.drape’:

that three metre
square of Lammas
Land where we
first told our
love, my lovely

The pressure to conform is relentless in these poems and that makes the much hoped for joyful ending double the thrill. Binney delivers in a sparse non-judgemental way; she states the facts and explores emotions with exquisite detail, dark humour and very little punctuation which evocatively allows the poetry to speak for itself. This debut pamphlet feels like a sensational beginning, in every sense.

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