Alison Brackenbury, Aunt Margaret’s Pudding, (HappenStance Press, 2018)
Even poetry readers with the most puritan of tastes would struggle not to be charmed by Aunt Margaret’s Pudding, Alison Brackenbury’s latest collection (published by HappenStance Press). Sweet and soothing, without ever falling prey to sickliness, the collection brings to life the world and work of Dorothy (Dot) Eliza Barnes, Brackenbury’s paternal grandmother, who worked as a cook before marrying and settling into rural Lincolnshire life as a shepherd’s wife. Like the ingredients list for the titular steamed pudding, the book is a pleasing sum of its parts: poetry, an original and updated recipe book, and a prose biography of Dot. In it, Brackenbury approaches the task of telling Dot’s life (and through it, her own culinary and personal heritage) with a generosity, an eye for detail, and innate musicality that is characteristic of her work. Brackenbury has published ten collections of poems and is currently putting together a new Selected.
These are intimate poems that comfortably inhabit the domestic spaces of the Edwardian house and rural farm. However, the collection deftly explores how the kitchen was – and remains - the hub around which the personal, social, economic, and political all revolve. Although it wears its historical credentials lightly, Dot’s and Alison Brackenbury’s family narrative is shaped and interwoven with the events that run parallel to the collection of each recipe, as ingredients become symbols of the deprivations and needs that gave rise to them. In ‘All Change’, for example, the second poem in ...
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