Rebecca Goss, Girl (Carcanet/ Northern House, 2019)
Rebecca Goss’s Girl sparks with light, electricity, bodies. This collection of spare, precise poems, characterised by Goss’s distinctive control of her material, not only explores what it is to be ‘girl’, but what it is to be bodily; to be in relation; to be alive. It is a book of freckles, knuckles, the curve of the body in water. It is also a book about relationships: between mothers and daughters, between lovers, sisters, friends, and between older and younger selves. These relationships, however, are not softly lit. The opening poem, ‘The Lightning’, introduces us to the mother, struck by lightning, ‘mouth spitting rods of light’. The book is bursting with light: ‘fiery’ whispers and ‘fingers trailing sparks’, bright celestial objects, bulbs popping their filaments, hooks fizzing on the grille of the dodgems.
Girl is also full of surprises, from the playful delight of ‘Ants’, where a pregnant woman is lifted, on her yoga mat, by a host of ants, and paraded around the hall – liberated, weightless, free – to the marvel of human encounters, where a woman tries a coat on with her husband, sliding her ‘slim wrists’ into the arms of a beautiful coat, ‘a swing of black ribbon and felt’, before returning to her son, ‘wasting in hospital’. This sonnet bravely faces the complexities and contradictions of life through everyday realities, where ‘Parents of the almost-dead cannot always be bed-side’. Goss’s generosity shines here, as in the overall collection, where the mother ‘leans to kiss a dumb mouth and carousels ...
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