Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

"My Darling from the Lions" by Rachel Long (Picador, 2020)

She spends over 3 pages thanking people.

Some fun details and episodes, but few complete successes. "Apples", "Open", and "The Clean" don't have much, except for the odd line. There are some puzzling formatting choices (why is "Helena" formatted so oddly? I suspect formatting doesn't matter in this book; "8" forgoes capitals, and replaces most punctuation by spaces, yet uses line-breaks). "Red Hoover" doesn't do enough, considering its length.

I like "The yearner". "Portent" has its moments.

A few short lines on an otherwise empty page (and these pages are wider than the usual A5 format) stake a claim for attention that too few of the short poems deliver. Some of these pieces (e.g. the "Open" squibs) would make good first paragraphs of stories. They seem like cop-outs here. Pieces like "Danielle's Dad", "Interview with B. Tape II", and "Self-Portrait with Baby" have almost an opposite problem. Because of length and style they need to be compared with microfiction/Flash, but then the line-breaks spoil things.

"The Omen" is tidy. "steve" is ok. The final few poems (except for "The Sharks and Victoria Beckman", which mostly works) don't work for me. Here are some quotes -

  • Beg forgiveness for the thing you haven't done yet (p.21)
  • The cow's udders are marigold gloves blown out of all proportion (but then it continues with Stuffed with Barbie's jeep, Duplo, plastic fruit) (p.39)
  • A diary isn't a diary till you won't show anyone (p.49)

Other reviews

  • Emily PĂ©rez (Rachel Long’s debut collection, My Darling from the Lions, interweaves accessible narrative poems with surrealist ones to explore a mixed-race speaker’s arrival into womanhood. ... Five nearly identical versions of the poem ‘Open’ occur in the book’s first section ... Long’s collection follows a speaker through a labyrinth of childhood and adolescence only for her to emerge into the labyrinth of early-adulthood. Abuse, racism, and misogyny erode her sense of self-worth; complex, imperfect role models like her mother help to restore her.
  • Rishi Dastidar (She is especially good at making the unfamiliar feel perfectly right and natural)
  • Keira Brown (Long regards herself as a razor-sharp and original voice on the issues of sexual politics and cultural inheritance that polarize our present situation. Each poem seems to be as equal as the other in terms of value on the page)
  • Martyn Crucefix (filled with chatty, slangy storylines, some close to sentimental, others genuinely shocking, ... the extraordinary ‘Helena’ ... Funny though ‘Sandwiches’ is (and the poem is destined for many anthologies, I’m sure, where it’ll be taken out of context), the poem needs to be read alongside ‘The Yearner’ ... Rachel Long finds unexpectedly effective ways to address the issues of racial discrimination alongside her main concerns in this never less than accessible collection.)
  • lonesomereader

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