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ONE of the best poetic debuts of the last couple of years was Hera Lindsay Bird’s eponymous collection with Victoria University Press. Her latest pamphlet Pamper Me to Hell & Back from Smith/Doorstop reads as DVD extras to that first book.
Lindsay Bird (pictured) writes about the hollowness of the world she finds herself in with wit and verve. The poems are crafted, stylish and very funny. Her poems are exquisitely ironic tchotchkeleh — either side of a mirror too mottled to see yourself in.
You know where the opening poem Bruce Willis You Are the Ghost is going — everyone does, apart from Bruce Willis — and Lindsay Bird, as in all her work, makes it a playful journey. Much gurlesque poetry misses the humour of life and situation and though there’re whispers of Chelsey Minnis and Franny Choi here, Lindsay Bird knows that a puzzle can be a toy as much as a question, and makes it her own.
She is from New Zealand and has a rare British reading at the launch of the Saboteur Awards on May 18 at East London's finest arts club Vout-O-Renees, on Prescot Street in Aldgate. I’ll see you there over the best espresso martini in the business. Awards are where we all stare into the void.
Scotland’s Iona Lee has finally got a pamphlet out, this one also eponymous — is it the new thing? Iona’s is with Polygon New Poets and an assured start it is.
She is one of the sharpest of the young Scottish poets gigging at the moment. Porky the Poet, who always has talented guest spots at his Edinburgh Festival shows, had the lass gigging with him for a week last year and top drawer she was too. Lee puts work into her writing and doesn’t buy into the myth of the spoken-word scene. She looks after the words and the words look after her.
Her collection has some darkness to it, she is young and Scottish after all, but ultimately it’s a celebration of living. As Lee knows, celebrations don’t last forever — we celebrate the good because we live through the bad. There’s always the hard toffee. The stand-out poem, Wet Hot Happiness, ends:
“Oh to be this safe and warm,/and this happy! This naked/and this nothing/and everything
all at once./Oh to wake up and want/To keep on living.”
Also cutting the mustard on the live circuit currently is Knottla lass Toria Garbutt, an altogether darker affair. There’s spark and triumph in her poetry and it’s the triumph of winning the fight.
Her book The Universe and Me is published by Wrecking Ball Press, who have been turning out some top-drawer collections over the last few years, Adelle Stripe and the delightful Dean Wilson's especially so.
A shout rather than a whisper, Garbutt's poems are in-yer-face northern. There’s a lot of rhyme here that often works fine live but can fall on the page. Despite this, the speed and power of her words power through: “Where t’words are still on t’wall/From 1984/THATCHER FUCKED US UP.”
The first poem Subway makes clear what she’s saying throughout. Garbutt’s line breaks carry through the insolence and passion of what she’s putting down. It’s as though Rupi Kaur had been written by Todd Moore and then kicked in the arse.
While Lindsay Bird toys with ennui, Garbutt takes the black of the nothingness so many working-class people have been crushed into, dips her pen into it and scrawls defiance.
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