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A Body Made of You Paperback – 4 Jan 2011
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Melissa Lee-Houghton's highly original and innovative debut might be considered an epistolary tour-de-force, split into fifteen sections dealing with Others identified only by their forename. It is an extraordinary achievement and a must-read book for 2011. - Chris Hamilton-Emery I feel alive when I read Melissa's poetry. It is raw, anthropological and sassy. - David Caddy The most fascinating, beautiful poetry collection I have read in years ... so damn beautiful that it made my chest physically hurt. - Jen Campbell [Lee Houghton's] words are soaked in this tension between body and mind, between who we are supposed to be and the god-awful gorgeousness of who we really are. - The Hipster Book Club The fearlessness of the voice in these poems is exciting, as is the wealth of surreal imagery, which - like the images in a dream-world - make a strange, sideways sense. - Ink Sweat & Tears A kind of echolocation or sonar is employed here - often lengthy, the poems return again and again to the human body, building off its peculiar there-ness, its mixture of solidity and elasticity. - Jon Stone
About the Author
Melissa Lee-Houghton was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester in 1982. Her poetry, short fiction and reviews have been published in literary magazines such as Succour, The Short Review, Magma and Tears in the Fence. She lives in Blackburn, Lancashire.
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The collection isn’t a comfortable or easy read. Melissa criticises those who ‘employ psychologists and spiritual healers to say and do all the really terrible things for us.’ Dauntlessly she explores all avenues of life and the nature of relationships, in particular sensuality and sexuality. A lot of the difficulty stems from her use of paradox. In ‘Carbon’ she says ‘I do not write to you, but of you, / because the paper that we write on / is our perishable skin.’ The words make sense as they’re read, yet the meaning is elusive. Another line intriguing yet unfathomable is ‘as Goya held fast to / what death is to madness then / so you are to flesh.’
Melissa also makes interesting use of contraries and the surreal. ‘Clowns’ opens a topsy-turvy world where she and Nate play drag queen and clown. Humour walks in hand with deep frustration. Undressed, Nate continues to wear clown shoes, seeing her as a playmate rather than recognising she is ‘the kind of animal’ that ‘could never be tamed.’ Behind the comedy lies the very relatable tragedy of misunderstanding sprung from the impossibility of knowing other people.
Like the picture on the cover, A Body Made of You presents a corpus of fractured bodies, only partially known, giving voice to the raptures and frustrations of relationships whilst retaining their mystery. There remains a lot to ponder in this book- many lines I don’t understand, and will probably interpret in different ways at different times. I think this is a good thing and signals the longevity of this brilliant first collection.