This is Victoria Pugh’s first full collection, although her poems have appeared in anthologies and have won competitions. It is full of witty and accomplished poems with insights into the interface between self and the world. Perhaps the most immediately striking are those one could describe as ‘myth’ poems – sometimes surreal fables about the world that show how adept Pugh is at the poetic task of ‘making strange’. I would include in this group Love God, Nature Boy, Moss Man, The Dancing Girl (although it follows a more predictable trajectory), and Biscuit Man. The title poem, seemingly rooted in fact and charting one woman’s tragedy, has, nevertheless, the same mythic power as these others – here distinctly feminist.
In the jauntily titled poems in this volume the mundane and the fantastic co-exist, and what can lie beneath the surface of modern urban life is excavated. Poems examine how we relate to the natural world – by becoming aware of the beautiful floral design on old glazed tiles in a shop, through the messages implicit in a graffiti’d face, the living aspects of a box under a woman’s bed that grows ‘a pair of wooden lips,’ the senses in which, as one title has it, You are What you Keep, or indeed the ways in which older women are sensuous, as in Nude.
There are some strong images: stepping on snails is ‘Walking on small cream crackers,’ escalators ‘pour down from the first floor’ and ‘splash in the glass bowl of the entrance hall.’ And I liked the ambitiousness of poems like Living in Comfort and The Four Minute Warning. This is an intriguing collection. I have one tiny quibble, though: I can’t for the life of me work out what the significance of the title of the poem Moody Cow is …
written by Joan McGavin, Review from South Magazine (edition 40)