Thursday, 3 June 2010

Review: Parade The Fib, by Rhian Edwards

I first encountered Rhian Edwards when we both read at a London Magazine launch a couple of years ago. She read her poems from memory with great intensity of feeling and rhythm yet managing to dodge theatricality. I later spotted some of her work in Stand and then got hold of a copy of Parade The Fib, her Tall Lighthouse pamphlet.

Parade The Fib might only contain fourteen pages, but it's packed with verve. Critical shorthand might put these down as "relationship" poems. However, that term doesn't do them justice...

"She wears her head
on the bone of her shoulder,
wraps his cold hand
in the skin of her own."

These pieces evoke scenes superbly, none better than in Marital Visit, the pamphlet's final piece. A slow-burning poem that defies quotation, it underlines the talent on show here.

Despite the publisher's references in the blurb to an "un-English sound" and "Celtic bass-line", Edwards' poetry relishes the music of British English with a delicate ear for its rhythms of speech, lyrically compacted. What's more, her treatment of the subject matter gives an implict nod towards Hugo Williams and Billy's Rain.

Once or twice, Edwards' linguistic drive and lack of inhibition lead to slips, like a rich sauce smothering a delicious steak...

"Tongues, once swaggered
with muscles of mirth, now flap
at the table, starved of all rapture".

Nevertheless, the overall impression is excellent: this is poetry in a contemporary idiom, dealing with relationships in a way that discovers them afresh. Poetic ambition and accessibility coexist in Parade The Fib.

I'll be intrigued to see how Rhian Edwards' work develops over the coming years. Will she sustain this intensity of tone and themes through a full collection or will she extend and deepen her range? Either way, she's a poet who's sure to find acclaim.

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