We love nothing more here at Literature Works, than receiving a review copy book and being taken completely by surprise. When we were contacted about reviewing Julia Bird’s latest collection Now You Can Look, we thought we knew what we were getting – a poetry collection, but in true Emma Press style, this delightful book is so much more. Champions of poetic and narrative originality, the independent Press is onto yet another unforgettable release.
This collection indeed comes with a warning: there is more here than meets the eye, and yet, as a poetry reviewer, I approached the book in the way I would any other collection. I embarked upon a reading journey in order of poem, to get a sense of the poetic journey here. This was not a mistake and the poems are original, funny, enlightening and honest to such a degree that one immediately becomes captivated by the artist and wants to see where the poems will take her next. Indeed, such a reading reveals a free and creative spirit at the collection’s heart in full possession of that delicious volatility that gives way to subversion of conventions both in terms of poetic style and indeed with regard to the events of the poems. However, to cease one’s reading here would be to miss the beauty of the poems, which leads to thoughts that perhaps this collection is about someone in particular, a portrait of the inter-war artist struggling against the definition of a woman in a turbulent, unsettled and yet vitally important period in the historical female experience.
These are poems yes, and written in that style and yet they are also stories, snapshots and flashes of revelation which reveal a life, it doesn’t matter whose, which is full of vivid passion and vibrancy. From ‘Scene in the Matrimonial Studio’ to ‘She Makes Snowmen in the Garden with Her Son’, it is undeniable that the woman at the centre of this collection is alive in the voice’s mind and that is a wonderful thing to experience. This is only enhanced by the delightful illustrations of Anna Vaivare.
Our time with the subject may be short, but whether you engage with just one reading, or like me, several one gets the sense of a life well lived and as my particular favourite poem (She Stands in the Bedroom Doorway Wearing His Gift’ in the collection suggests when you have understood that there is more here than you may have thought, ‘Now You Can Look.’
Now You Can Look is published by the Emma Press on 16th October 2017.