“a girl in a blue dress” Rachel Burns (Vane Women Press) – poetry review

a girl in a blue dress Rachel Burns book coverThese poems present a wry look at life through a series of keenly observed vignettes, such as library where “all of us are here in this library/ because we have fallen down somewhere/ be it by pure bad luck, bad decisions or despair” and later in “Hail to the Library and the Thief” where a homeless man is searching for the newspaper he’d left on the reading table but is now missing,

“and I want to shake his head through the dirt and grime
but instead, I shake my head. He scrutinises my paper
glares at me, then walks away, shaking his head in disbelief
that in this library, the last vestibule of human decency,
lies a thief of a poor man’s broadsheet.”

Readers are left to ponder why a poor man would be so eager to read a Murdoch-owned newspaper, but there’s a principle at stake here. A venue that provides a connection for a disparate group of people and now someone has violated it.

Interspersed with observations of others are personal poems, such as a “Message to my 16-year-old Self” watching a film,

“the one where Richard Gere
carries Debra Winger
out through the factory gates.

I was that small town girl
waiting for the white knight
to come and sweep me off my feet.

Don’t wait, don’t you dare wait.”

The poem is also a reflection on the double standards dished out to girls. Boys are encouraged to lift themselves up while girls get taught that if they’re pretty enough or dream hard enough, their prince will come. There’s a mix of personal and external inspiration in the poem that might have inspired the title. The cover image is ‘Untitled (know as Blue Girl or Tess Dominski) by William Sommer (1867-1949 and the poem “Blue Dress” features a mother’s friend who makes dresses for neighbours’ children, this one “with upside down umbrellas// the pattern facing the wrong way.”

“She likes to finish the dress with you wearing it,
you stand head bowed while she stitches the hem.

Stone still, watching the needle and thread going in and out,
in and out, till she is done. You go outside and show off

your new dress to the others, playing hop scotch
and skipping games in the lane. Only you don’t join in,

you walk to the woods, towards the river, in your new blue dress,
with upside down umbrellas, the pattern facing the wrong way.

A pheasant spooks you out of your skin, hurling itself into the air,
the harsh rasping ricochets through the trees

the noise scraping at your insides, hurting your ears.”

The humiliation of standing in underwear with the treat of being pin-pricked if you dare more, the pattern being upside down – a suggestion the neighbour was a well-intentioned amateur – matched with the inability to join in games which are left to search for a peace that isn’t forthcoming ratchet up the shame of being poor and the sense of not fitting in. Home life didn’t seem to be much happier, in “Attempts on Dad’s Life”, Dad dares complain about the (boring) choice of dinner,

“She stabs him with the fork.

It isn’t an accident, another time
a small vegetable knife
a trip to Casualty for stitches,
there are countless attempts on his life

but still unheeded he enters the small
square kitchen, and we are helpless
to warn him as we sit at the table
like good little doll children.”

The children are silenced by intimidation and feel as if they are manipulated into playing a role of being seen and not heard. It’s not a family that allows its laundry to be washed in public. It’s also one where children don’t ask questions, which might have helped with the themes in “Catholic Girl Ghazal”, where Madonna is the singer and her song is about a teenage girl summoning up the courage to tell her father she’s pregnant by the boyfriend he doesn’t like,

“One by one, we all succumb to temptation, yet another teenage pregnancy
and the Catholic Church spits us out, slams the altar door, even Madonna’s

smile turns into scowl, we have brought shame on our families,
we are thrown like dogs into the street, a broken, fallen Madonna

and my friends say, Rachel, giving it up, you’re too young. I listen to Madonna
sing her silly pop song, Papa don’t Preach, and I laugh, but I keep my baby.”

More secrets are explored in “Ann (after L S Lowry)”

“Failing to please Mother he painted crowds of people,
the football match, the Miners’ Gala,

people gathered outside shops and churches.
He painted the mill towns, landscape and buildings

and people, always people. He hid Ann underneath his oil paintings.
He always returned to Ann. Her face haunting him night after night.

People often asked him, Who is this woman? Who is Ann?
His reply is evasive. As if he eluded the truth, even from himself.”

This poet, however, is not elusive. Rachel Burns’ characters are recognisable, their portaits built in a judicious choice of a telling phrase. She speaks clearly often in a confessional tone which interlaces innocence and experience, allowing key details to build an outline for readers to fill in. “girl in a blue dress” reaches beyond the personal, also telling the stories of others with compassion and understanding. No one’s the butt of a joke or a punchline here and characters are given space to not only speak but do so in their own voices. “a girl in a blue dress” is a strong debut.

“a girl in a blue dress” is available from Vane Women Press

Emma Lee the Significance of a Dress launch 7pm 11 March 2020 Leicester Central Library LE1 6AAThe Significance of a Dress book launch Leicester Central Library, Bishop St, Leicester LE1 6AA from 7pm. Free Entry.

Book Trailer at Arachne Press: https://arachnepress.com/books/poetry/the-significance-of-a-dress/.













they lit fires/lenti hatch o yog Raine Geoghegan (Hedgehog Press)

Raine Geoghegan they lit firesA slender pamphlet that acts as a recording of oral histories of Romany people in England, for example “Under a Gooseberry Bush” (Romany words: mulo, spirits of ancestors; rackleys, women; patrin, leaves tied or left by the roadside as signals to let family follow a wagon)

“I was named john ripley, after me dad, the ‘ead rom came down and blessed me, ee tied a little bag of rowan berries round me neck to ward off the bad mulo and to bring kushtie bok. all the rackley’s put a little coin in me ‘and, as was the custom. luckily me aunt and uncle ‘ad left patrin signs along the way so we ‘ad plenty of folk to wet me little ‘ead, it’s not everyday a chavi gets borned under a gooseberry bush. ‘course I never ‘eard the end of it, me mum and dad teased me rotten and when I tells folks they don’t believe it, mind you, it set me up fer life, gave me strength and I’ve ‘ad a bloody kushtie life, I can tell yer. me mum used to tell me this story over and over, to tell yer the truth, I’ve loved tellin’ it as much as ‘earing it.”

It’s always tricky using non-standard English as some readers may not make the effort to follow the text and, in some contexts can appear disrespectful. However, use of standard English here wouldn’t accurately record patterns of speech and risks taking away the stories from those telling them. A triolet, “Koring Chiriclo 1” reflects on a time when Romany’s [sic] were forced off the roads into houses they were saddened by the fact that they could no longer hear the cuckoo sing,

“I’ve loved to hear the cuckoo sing.
I’m a Romany, always travelling
from Huntingdon to King’s Lynn.
I’ve loved to hear the cuckoo
since I was a chavi in a sling.
Summer, autumn, winter, ah spring.
I’ve loved to hear the cuckoo sing.
I’m a Romany. Always travelling.”

Elsewhere, “Dirty Little Flower Girl” is a comment by a bully to a Romany girl at school. The Romany doesn’t tell but her mother knows what happens as the bully lashes out and leaves bruises on the Romany girl’s legs,

“she marched me to school. we went straight to the ‘ead teacher’s office. I ‘ad to wait in the corridor, there was a strong smell of polish. I sat there for ages, I saw mrs frances go it, on the wall in front of me was a picture of the rounders team, I thought I’d like to be in that team, they all looked ‘appy and friendly. after a while me teacher came out, walking fast, looking down at ‘er feet. me mum came out. She grabbed me and took me to the class room, she said,

“‘it’s done and sorted, now go and learn my babe.'”

The Romany girl never got to join the rounders team. It records the stigma and prejudice Romanies face through the eyes of a child, written off as stupid and afraid to complain of being bullied for fear of not being believed and making things worse.

“they lit fires” is a collection of monologues, triolets, haibun and songs, collecting stories and characters giving a view into Romany lives. Each a vignette of an aspect of a life spent moving on, selling small goods to raise funds and passing on knowledge of herbs and customs down through generations and generally being met with suspicion and stigma. However, a pamphlet doesn’t really give enough space to expanding the pieces into a fuller collection, a recorded oral history of a misunderstood way of life. Raine Geoghegan treats her subjects with respect and empathy, giving snapshots of insight into their lives.

They lit fires/lenti hatch o yog is available from Hedgehog Press

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover imageThe Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee is available for pre-order from Arachne Press.











“Patience” Nina Lews (V. Press) – poetry review

Nina Lewis Patience book cover“Patience” concerns memory and preservation of memories and former ways of life before they are lost or destroyed in the name of progress. An old warehouse with “houses set like baby shoes around its feet”, originally built for the workers to live in, meets its “Demolition”,

“The implosion brings the right-hand side down.
Bonded warehouse engulfed in exothermic sugar clouds.

The building disappears:
baby shoes obliterated from view,
until the dust settles.”

It’s left unclear as to whether the houses are earmarked for reuse or have also been abandoned. The domestic language of “sugar clouds” suggest they still could be lived in once the dust has settled and been cleared. The repetition of “baby shoes” is a reminder of family and legacy but also could be a reference to Hemingway’s six word story where the baby shoes are not worn, creating a sense of loss. In another poem, “Shrink-wrapped”, beloved objects are protected against loss,

does not touch
these objects,
fingerprints, easily wiped.

She would wrap you
in clear plastic
if she could. Protect you
from deterioration.

Force away
the hands of time.”

Here the problem isn’t legacy: the objects are protected and will be passed on, but the implication is that, wrapped in concern about preservation, these objects are not enjoyed and used either. The subject of the poem is so concerned with the future, she doesn’t live in the present. It also raises questions about what we preserve for future generations and whether future generations will continue the preservation or demolish the objects. Those of us in the present can’t control what future generations will choose to keep or discard. A similar concern of keeping valued objects preserved and enjoyed is raised in “Keep the Light” about an oil painting of purple flowers,

“The picture can’t be silenced,

still asks for my hand. I get up,
reach into the frame and pull a flower;
stamens leave an oily trace
on my skin, iridescent trails highlight my fingerprints,

identify my existence in this room,
this place my whole life fits into:
the twelve squared metres
haven of bed and wall.”

The current dweller is leaving their imprints on their property. These may or may not be preserved into the future. But for now the room is home, lived in and enjoyed.

There are poems about elderly relatives and caring for those with dementia. In “Tesseomancy” a granddaughter inherits her grandmother’s teacups from which the grandmother used to read fortunes from tea leaves,

Always stir the blend to consistent tone,
embrace the warmth, allow it to resonate;
nurture the rising spirit.

She empties her mind of frequent thoughts:
imagines those dark leaves, the iron of experience.
The house grows cold.

She swirls the dregs three times,
allows her grandmother to conjure the situation.
Leaves in her hands.”

“Patience” is a reminder of the value of connection between generations, legacies of objects and character passed from the contemporary to the future. The poems show sensitivity and an acute focus, exploring different aspects of an overall theme. Their gentleness acts as an invitation to the reader to engage with and interpret the poems. Their pace is measured which combines with a calm tone to explore grief, loss, legacy and intimacy. The title, “Patience” is apt. These are slow poems to enjoy at leisure.

“Patience” is available from V. Press.

“The Significance of a Dress” will be published by Arachne Press on 27 February 2020.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image


“About Leaving” Ian Glass (V. Press) – poetry review

Ian Glass About Leaving book coverA collection of poems on aspects of leaving: a wife and mother leaving a family home, where a husband adjusts to becoming a single parent, and children growing up and leaving for university. “Absent” begins, “I understand why/ our children are worried./ They have not been to school,/ and you won’t get out of bed.” It ends,

“My heart runs slow as

our children sleep.
They have not been to school
and my heart runs slow as
I understand why.”

The pantoum structure enables the poet to circle around his subject, not reaching a full understanding but each repeated line takes on a slightly different meaning. Initially that the children haven’t been to school is an irritation, until the narrator understands they are concerned for their mother, when relief that the girls are asleep becomes a sorrow that the girls are coping with something beyond their understanding. Once the mother has left, the man considers, “How a Man Might Become a Mother”,

“Forget familiar work, and weave
instead a spell from supper
and bed-time stories

strong enough

to soften fear
and calm the winds that
howl around this house at night.”

It’s an acknowledgement that parents can’t fully protect their children – the “winds that howl around this house” – but can offer sanctuary and become, “Signs That a House is a Home”,

“The sound of rain is exciting.
You don’t worry about tomorrow.
You don’t feel alone.”

The theme of finding strength in a family and creating a safe place for children, even those who grow up and leave, to return to is as strong as the notion of leaving. The poems benefit from a programmer’s precision with language, but also offer texture and an openness of interpretation. The start in personal experience but open out into a universal concern: the effect on children of a parent’s absence and a desire to ensure home feels welcome. For all its apparent lightness, “About Leaving”, probes the intense experience of loss and recovery with honesty and concern.

“About Leaving” is published by V. Press.


“Light and Dark” Dan Sherven (Close to the Bone) – book review

Light and Dark Dan Sherven book cover“Light and Dark” is set in a sleepy Canadian small town where policeman Eric knows today will be different because there was a murder in a restaurant, the first this year even though it’s already October, and his ex-wife wants to talk about contact arrangements for their five-year-old-son. Their marriage broke up because Eric was wedded to the job, although he’s not yet made detective. This murder could change that. The victim is an older Indigenous widow who was a waitress at the restaurant. The only lead is her 911 call where the murderer’s grunts were audible on tape.

Dan Sherven is not the first thriller writer to explore both detectives’ and murderer’s viewpoints, however, he takes the unusual step of identifying the murderer after the opening scene. “Light and Dark” isn’t a whodunit, more a whydunit focusing on the desperate measures taken by desperate people, how police work is a combination of boring data gathering in the hope a pattern or clue emerges, tip offs from members of the public and sometimes sheer coincidence.

The murderer is a delivery driver who uses a bicycle to get to work, partial to cocaine, who has been in jail and is desperate not to go back. He’s also a former gang member but not of high enough standing to be able to rely on the gang for protection against a murder charge. He’d been chased into the restaurant by a rival gang and decided to wait until closing time to leave. Unfortunately he hadn’t checked the employees had also left and he waitress was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Her death triggers a domino-fall of actions taken without thought to consequence: quick fixes that are sticking plasters on a wound that needed stitches. The waitress was related to a member of another gang. It doesn’t take the police long to figure out gangs might be involved and they’re eager to wrap this up before things escalate. Their suspicions confirmed when another gang member’s body is found in an alley. The detective thinks it might be racial violence until Eric points out that the waitress’s death might have been racial but a white man could not have lured an Indigenous gang member down an alley.

Coincidences abound. The lead detective knocks down a cyclist who was making an illegal turn. Readers, but not the police, know this is the murderer but all the police can do it take him to hospital and watch him get discharged with concussion. A few hours later, the police identify the waitress’s family members, discovering a grandson is a gang member and decide to visit him, unaware that this gang member is also the murderer’s coke dealer. To be fair, the murderer doesn’t make out the family link until he’s captured by his dealer who tales him a traditional tale about Witikos who were “people that committed unspeakable acts and got transformed into Witikos as a punishment. Witikos are giant, devilish and enveloped in ice.” Police, following up a lead, interrupt the tale, arrest the dealer and put the murderer under police protection. The murderer tells police his capture was part of a gang intiation but Eric doesn’t buy it. However, with no evidence, there’s nothing he can do.

Eric’s ex-wife, Bridget has moved on and is living with another man. However, she’s currently unemployed and job hunting. Slipping away from police protection, the murderer, unable to return to his gang for their help, finds himself on his own in need of money and means to escape. He drifts into Bridget’s neighbourhood, finds the window above her garage open and breaks in to steal the car keys for the SUV in the garage. Now Bridget’s involved, Eric has to step back and watch his dreams of becoming a detective drift away like smoke.

Now there are two gang members on the run: the murderer and the dealer. The latter comes off worse. Initially he stays at a motel, paying in cash from coke deals. After a tip off the police find the motel and the dealer slips away, sleeping rough and walking to the outskirts where he finds a house to break into to get food at least. He’s rescued by another gang who reckon having the dealer as a member gives them one up on their rivals. Meanwhile the murderer knows he has to ditch Bridget’s SUV and find another vehicle. He breaks into a farmhouse and gets car keys and a gun. Knowing he’s on borrowed time once the theft is reported, he holds up a gas station for supplies and switches to another vehicle. He figures he has two choices: stay on the run from both the police, the dealer’s old gang and new gang, or return to where he came from. The dominoes are still falling and the plot builds to its climax.

Eric is neatly positioned: not yet cynical and world-weary enough to be the wise detective waiting for the murder to slip up, but not naive enough to be the amateur sleuth. He’s a reminder a grunt-work gets results. Policework is about knowledge, observation and recognising a good tip. In time-honoured fashion, he gets taken off the case at a critical point but gets recalled when Bridget’s boyfriend reports her missing. Eric’s instincts save the day. The two key gang members, murderer and dealer, live a hand to mouth existence, their bad choices triggered by structural racism (both are Indigenous peoples), poverty and low expectations which pushed them into joining gangs to start with. Their decisions are credible and have a logic arising from their perspectives and backgrounds.

Dan Sherven’s writing is engaging and focused. Action unfolds at a balanced pace. Some of the coincidences stretch credibility: targeting Bridget once was believeable, but twice is a stretch. However, “Light and Dark” is focused on motives, criminal logic and how crimes get solved more than a neatly wrapped story arc. It’s a pretty solid foundation for Eric’s first case.

Kindle Edition available from 27 December 2019.
Publisher’s Website: Close 2 the Bone


“#Love Like Blood” Sascha Akhtar (Knives Forks Spoons Press) – poetry review

'#LoveLikeBlood' by Sascha A. Akhtar (76 pages)“#LoveLikeBlood” explores contemporary concerns, especially the desire to belong whether hanging out on social media or overcoming racism. Some poems have a kaleidoscopic feel: fragments presented for the reader to see different perspectives, where others looke more traditional. From the title poem (the quote marks are used in the poem),

““I have a tiger in my arteries”
“In my vena cava”

“S/he manoeuvres sofly, so as not to kill me”

C://Aorta//Prowl//Wide Eyes//

“there it is”


.                       mpth
.                                          um
.                                            p”

“ ‘ … & self-preservation rules the day no more … ’ ”

As. we. move. towards. no. end.

(we learn)

.                                                  to die

“ ‘ … strength and beauty destined to decay … ’ ”

There’s a nod to the Killing Joke song in the phrases “As. we. move. towards. no end.// (we learn)// to die// strength and beauty destined to decay” acknowledged in an epigram. Whilst the poem carries the essence of the song, it doesn’t carry its rhythm so it’s a fresh take on an existing idea. An unquiet heart scans its surroundings and stalks, camouflaging its true nature. It’s a strong image of being an outsider, trying to merge with a society where you conceal desires to fit in.

Social media is explored in “Ida Hexe”,

“I will die with memories of things you said

on facebook that I chuckled at or things
that you left me, a crying emoji at that thing
I said when I was dying of heartbreak. And
they will be real memories because they were
felt, things related to the felt impression of your
energy, even if it was from the past. And even
if I haven’t seen you in say 20 years. They are
not virtual. Real memories. They are real
memories, of you who are real. Are you not. So don’t tell me I have no friends
and I shouldn’t live my life on social media
because “social” and “media” are both words. What they mean is Life.
There is no Life without the livingness, and the vitalityness and the nowness and
the I’mhereness and the I’mHereNowNess hashtag the hashtag. And the

Social media isn’t just fake news and false friends, it also allows real connections and people separated by geographical distance to keep in touch. The poem gathers pace and rhythm as it defends its position.

In “Freak Breach”, there’s a search for and defence of tribe,

“We punk atavistic going

These are my people
Squatting on street corners
Willing the rain to come
We punk atavistic going
These are my people
Not you fuckers

Label me
.                     I fucking dare you –

.                     I’ve got you under my skin

.                     I am the freak breach
.                     In your scheme”

There’s an epigram from a Bauhaus lyric for the first poem in the collection and reading “Freak Breach”, I hear “I fucking dare you -” in Bauhaus’s singer Pete Murphy’s defiant growl.

The mood is dialled down for “A Year in the Clouds”, “Friday June 27” notes,

“No colour.
No identity.

Except what the light allows.

Dull, soggy striations resembling
Nothing or

Perhaps imagination
Illuminates if Mind


There’s a freedom that comes from not being profiled or stereotyped, an ability to drift and define yourself. Except that relies on you knowing yourself and what you are when lacking in definition (yours or others’). It’s easier to be an angry rebel against something than to find your own image. It could also just be about clouds.

Memories resurface in part of the sequence of “Poems for Eliot”,

“Here are the combined memories
of two people. Here are the combined
memories. Here are the combined. Here
are the memories. Here is the memory.
Here is my memory of you, your memories
of me are diferent. I have no memory of
your memories. Whose life did I lead? Whose
memories do I remember. Who was in my
memories. Who are you? Who do I “ remember”? What do I
“remember”? Did it even “happen”? Did two different
things happen? Your ‘memory’ of what happened and
my memory of what happened, and why aren’t we together, now
.                                                                                       and why aren’t we
.                                                                                       together now,”

A relationship’s end is also an ending of the compromise of agreed memories. Two people begin to look back at the relationship not only through what they remember but the lens of how they feel about the relationship ending and the need to rediscover themselves as singular again. The repetition and questions ruminate around the topic and drift into pondering the nature of the relationship and and its ending, suggesting unfinished business, at least in the narrator’s mind.

There’s a risk in naming/referencing songs in poems that you lose a reader who doesn’t know the songs or feels they can’t ‘get’ the poem but Sascha Akhtar’s writing is willing to take risks. “#LoveLikeBlood” is a fierce, contemporary kaleidoscope that offers the reader differing perspectives, questioning connections, social media, memories, identity and the search for a sense of belonging.

“#LoveLikeBlood” is available from Knives Forks and Spoons Press.

Love Like Blood Blog Tour


“Tainted Lionheart” Christine Weimer (Our Galaxy Publishing) – poetry review

Tainted Lionheart Christine Weimer book cover“Tainted Lionheart” is a narrator’s journey into self-discovery and growth following the breakdown of a relationship that had been abusive. The abuse is not explicitly detailed because the poems’ focus is on acceptance and learning. This isn’t a lament or wallow in self-pity. “Fireflies” suggests red flags were ignored,

“we poked holes in the lid
thinking we could let breathe
what we had enclosed.
reveled in their sights
and watched them flutter to escape.

blinking lights dancing around
that closed jar
and while we were delighted,
they were damned and we knew that
but we did it anyway.”

There’s a sense of the fireflies being metaphors for the relationship: there were issues that needed addressing but weren’t and became bottled up for later release. Both parties were too caught up in the romance of being in love to allow warning signs to their due. “Broken” further explores this,

“not because I couldn’t fathom
laying my head down with a lonely heart
in an uninviting bed.

it was because I still loved you.
even when the lights were out.

i loved you broken, still.”

The collection is split into three sections, the middle of which, ‘Brooding’, explores the aftermath, moving from acrimony to acceptance. In “Beating”,

“heart ache is not just
lost love or
intimacy’s infidelity or
broken bed posts.
it is the
fear to fail and
welting worries and
endless empathy and
drifting desires and
it’s selfish sins.”

The ‘and’ enjambment pushes the reader on as the narrator ruminates, admitting that the reluctance to end a relationship is as much about a reluctance to admit failure, to accept the relationship was faulty and the necessary self-examination to avoid making the same mistake again.

In this case, it seems that whilst the narrator is undergoing self-examination, the other person involved is busy shifting blame, in “Storyteller”

“you’ve told your version of my story so many times
i am beginning to wonder if I should be taking notes here.
you know me better than me.

and I must be getting to the climax in your tale
because my ears have been ringing and
people are talking, and it seems I’m getting looks
i’ve never got before.

you’re telling a good one, aren’t you?”

The implication here is that his desire to get his version out in public is part of the continuing coercion that was present in the relationship. While the narrator is trying to figure out why she was drawn in and manipulated, he is concerned with his image and moving on by absolving himself of responsibility for what went wrong. Readers are invited to suspect his next relationship will repeat the same pattern.

The third and last section is ‘Breathing’, its theme captured in “Inhale”,

“i only allow what kept me from breathing
to leave me now.
i exhale my enemies and release my ridicule
and let go of that which made me lonely.
i just wish to breathe now,”

“Self” reflects on progress made,

“today the light shines a bit brighter
on the parts of who I am
that I could not see for many mornings.

i manage to make it a whole day
without shifting eyes to reflective glass
in assessment of myself”

In contrast, the narrator has learnt where her boundaries are and what she will and will not accept if there is a future relationship. Her learning is summarised in the poem that gives the collection its title, “A Letter to My Tainted Lionheart”,

“i’d tell her that even the most ferocious lions
have been known to fall tame to sly and stealthy hunters.
i’d let her know she is not broken because she is tainted
and it was the corruption of her heart
that gave her the reign to be

the Queen of this forest.”

For the metaphor to fully work the final image should be a savannah, not a forest. But the poem does focus on the learning and discovery that the relationship breakdown allowed her to undertake, that perhaps she wouldn’t have undertaken had the relationship not happened. The narrator emerges a stronger and better person who is no longer defined by her relationship.

Whilst “Tainted Lionheart” explores a universal experience, it keeps sight of the personal and steers clear of self-pity. None of the poems feel self-indulgent or exclude the reader. The narrator acknowledges this is her side of the story without tipping all the blame on the other side. She has a clear message: you’ll repeat the same mistakes unless you learn and learning makes you stronger and more self-aware.

Available via Our Galaxy Publishing