“Urban Myths and Legends” The Emma Press – poetry review

Urban Myths and LegendsThe editors Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright wanted to find poems that “shared Ovid’s glee in storytelling” looking for transformations and gripping ideas. Some poems take their inspiration more directly from “Metamorphosis” than others and some hint at fairytales – a glass slipper, a rose briar – while others create their own myths. Some transformations are dramatic, as in Pam Thompson’s “My People”

“… those who lived near the canal
grew scales

and those who lived on the tops
grew furs to keep out biting winds

and some sprouted wings
to hunt for food

or so my mother told me
before her toes pitched her

into a middle kingdom
of sloughed-off skins
and reheated dinners.”

Other transformations are less dramatic, in Deborah Alma’s “My Brown-Eyed Girl”

“my sister and I discovered
that she’d always coveted
my grey-green eyes
and I, hers of golden brown,
and Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes
was never personal enough.

So we swapped, we popped out
our eyeballs, slipped them
into our mouths to moisten them
before slotting into familial sockets.
Then we sat down with a nice pot of tea,
lemon drizzle cake
and little chance of rejection…”

The contrast between “grey-green” and “golden brown” follows the line of desire; “grey” suggestive of boredom and “golden” suggestive of reward or treasure. The routine detail of tea with cake acts as a anchor and keeps the poem from veering off into fantasy. It also resists the temptation to fork off into a nightmare. Other poems take on the personification of an inanimate object, for example in Jon Stone’s “Yardang”

“…Out it came, a tortile bolt
of drunkard wind – dying to screw
and strew, to chew and chisel bone
or stone, to shave down to a hump
each stump. Now I’m a blasted dune,
the scoundrel’s plaything. Now I drift,
as darkly as the shifting coast,
from one form to some other, strand
by strand, flayed to my filament,
while on its high and singing wire
the mad sylph speaks its only like.
My faltering’s its favourite band,
my knots its little coterie.
The coward wind is changing me.”

The yardang projects its reinventions on the wind it blames for whittling it into shape and toying with it: an unreliable narrator but a likable one. “Urban Myths and Legends” feels like a city walk along a street with varied architecture, some buildings ornately constructed, some classical and modern with clean lines, each a marriage of form and function; each worth stopping to study while a gentle wind whispers of history, suggestive fantasy and magic realism along a street worth return visits.

“Urban Myths and Legends” is available from The Emma Press

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One Response to ““Urban Myths and Legends” The Emma Press – poetry review”

  1. brontespageturners Says:

    Super review! Sounds like a great collection! Bronte


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