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POETRY REVIEW: Now You Can Look by Julia Bird

October 24, 2017 2:37 pm


Now You Can Look


Out Now

Published by The Emma Press

Review by Amelia Davis


I was so excited when I tore open the parcel and the thin square of glossy paper with the yellow kimono on the front slid out. I headed straight for the blurb and was immediately hooked: “Third time reading, find the point where memoir and imagination connect. Now you can look.” The premise of this poetry collection is that things can be seen, read and interpreted in many different ways and that we shouldn’t make judgments until we’ve discovered all the layers. The words tell the story of an unnamed female inter-war artist, trying to make sense of life. It illustrates the ups, downs and middle bits, when we’re not really sure what’s going on. Regardless, each poem is exciting and engaging.

I often skip contents pages, but this one screamed to be read. Titles like “She Makes Omelettes at 1 p.m. on a Sunday” and “The Artist in a Field in November” are nestled among other absurdities. I cautiously turned the page, almost afraid of what nonsense I was going to find. How wrong I was.

To say that these poems are about art would be an injustice; these poems are art. The perfect, flowing voice of the character is so honest and sometimes shockingly truthful that it is difficult to not want to read on. The carefully chosen words accompanied by the beautiful images of Anne Vaivare make the writing jump from the page and swirl around your head, immersing you in the world of the artist. There is a foreword at the start of the book, which states that the reader is an uncredited extra in the collection and I completely agree. You get the impression whilst reading, that other people would not understand this the way you do. Each poem brings fresh ideas to light and makes you question what you had originally assumed. We don’t really find out that much about the character and yet you finish the last poem feeling like you have known her for a lifetime.

I have often heard “Poetry is boring.” But I feel that, after reading this, no one could ever make that claim again. The structure of some of her poems is very abstract and reflects the subject matter, ensuring the words are begging to be read. It is like they have a mind of their own and want to tell you their story. For example “A Bomb Damage Report” has a huge gap halfway between each line, like a house missing from a street; a poem about a kimono with “a hem like cut butter from an icebox” has no punctuation and flows down the pages.

Anyone who has an appreciation for the power of words will revel in the joy of this book and will treasure it forever. This is one of the most genuine and though-provoking reads I have dived into for a long time and I trust that I could read it over and over again without getting bored. I cannot recommend it enough.



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