on 23 January 2004
I was wary of this book at first – how else do you respond when the official Book Synopsis begins with the words “Brilliant young woman poet joins Cape list”? But for once, the hype is justified.
I’d read her first book, “Tattoos for Mother’s Day”, so I knew she had ability. An interesting quirkiness, a hint of darkness in her poetry. It was a quietly competent first book. But so often the second book (or album, or film) is a real disappointment.
But not here. This is a stunning book – her range, her technique, her deftness in expression all point to the development of a real poetic talent.
“The Apprentice” opens with:
“I married a big man with clumsy hands,
whose touch left me fingerprinted with bruises ...”
“... I turned
and took his hands, set them free.”
Or there’s “Losing the Dark”:
“... away from the glare
that opens you like a knife. How all the birds
might sing themselves to death.”
Her work ranges from the macabre (“St Nicholas and the Salted Boys”) through the sexual (“Shadow Photograph”, "The Apprentice") to the political (“Soulless”). There are fables ( “Lifesaving”, “Holy”) and excursions into other characters (“A Hangman’s New Career”, “Mr Smiley”).
She is funny, she is accessible, she has a sharp mind and an eye for the oddness that lurks in the most ordinary things. She makes you look at the world as though for the first time. She is a real poet.
Carol Ann Duffy summed it up: “Buy it – and then buy it for a friend.”
Neither of you will regret it.
on 3 October 2006
She's like a Morrissey without the jangle, a spinner of shiny stuff from the grey peri-urban detritus of glum suburbs. A dead mother arrives as an unexpected guest, school girls meet up for strange sensual bonding rituals, and empty shops take on a rude and urgent poignancy. In this deeply moving collection Sprackland swoops from discarded Barbie dolls to sinister bishops and underwater communication cables, yet ends it all on yearning for innocence, spontaneity, and a curious urge towards the secretive. These startling poems have a lovely way of slapping unusual words together to make compelling noises, and in this way they zoom from micro to macro in seconds, retaining deep focus throughout. I can't wait for the next collection.
on 17 June 2015
I have always had a love hate relationship with poetry but I still try to read a handful of poetry books a year. This jumped out at me at our local library and it's a handy quick filler of a read.
This honestly has to be one of the best collections of poetry I have read. There's not really a damp squid in there. Jean Sprackland's writing is fresh and quirky and, in places, reassuringly northern. Her writing reminds me of Billy Collins who is still my favourite modern day poet.
A few notable crackers: Hard Water, Caravan, Shocks, The Man Who Comes To Collect The Bottle Bank, The Light Collector and the unique and disturbing A Baby In The Filing Cabinet. I'd say the Light Collector is the pick of the bunch.
Overall a fab collection of poems.