Short reviews continue to come in for my poetry collection, Dualities. Here is one by Catherine Baker … for which much thanks.
Dualities reviewed by Catherine Baker
Sharon Larkin’s ‘Dualities’ displays eloquence and craft. She writes with tenderness and threat, an enticing combination, always connecting on a deep emotional level. I admired the dry humour, the way the poet can ‘thwack’ a word into a poem and how she plays with the meanings of words. Her unexpected endings can astonish; what seems a light touch suddenly cudgels. Variety is also a feature of this collection; there are people who are prodded and grunt, houses that sweat and stew, skulls, snails on razor blades and girls sitting on stairs. Memorable lines include: “honeysuckle smuggles her scent” ” lunacy behind your face” ” your outline above the vol- au-vent” … and many more. An excellent, enjoyable, stunning collection.
Thank you to the following poets who have commented on Dualities:
Endorsements prior to publication
Oz Hardwick (Professor of English, Programme Leader for Postgraduate Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University) has written:
“There’s a lot to be said for / being an outsider inside,” and Sharon Larkin’s perceptive collection perfectly explores the dualities of being a stranger in one’s social and personal spheres, as well as in one’s own body. The poems explore the paradoxical intensity of dissociation, with delicate touches of domestic surrealism and scorched-black wit chalking the outline of desire, deception, and a secular redemption of sorts. This is uneasy reading, full of the naked-edged truth that lies unseen beneath so many magnolia-painted lives.”
Angela France (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Gloucestershire) writes:
“Sharon Larkin is a keen photographer and her trained eye is evident in this collection; not only in the precise, sensory, detail but also in the care she takes with the angle of approach for each poem. The poems cover a range of themes but the Dualities of the title is evident throughout, always subtle and often in the form of a surprising twist which delighted me as a reader. Sometimes it is a line, other times a single word which re-focuses the whole poem such as in ‘Mismatch’, where the word ‘proprietorial’ in the last line turns tender care to something else entirely.”
Pat Edwards (Welshpool Poetry Festival) has written:
“This is both a romp and a skirmish, a disturbing dream and a garden of delights. Larkin forces us to encounter what we might call love, lust, longing, and examine these stormy forces through all the stages of life. Honest, sometimes cynical, the poems explore the sparks, flames and embers that burn us all. Perhaps the most stark warning concerns times in our lives we might compare with dusk, when our vision is not always clear, and we “must chance a snarl” in order to discern dog from wolf.”
Reviews since publication
Widely published poet Michael Newman has written:
“I’ve enjoyed every poem … am reluctant to pick out favourites, but ‘Nocturne’ really impressed me with its imagery and clever rhymes. And a real touch of humour. I was also much taken by ‘August Evening with Lonicera’ … again, imagery and a touch of humour. And humour really comes to the fore with ‘Skulduggery’. Gorgeous!”
Equally well published, David Ashbee has observed:
Reactions from David Ashbee
“I’m dipping into Dualities. My first reaction was to find poems that spoke to me and felt like I could have written. Later I found complexities and insights I couldn’t have put into a poem. The affidavit/ oath background to ‘Release’ is intriguing and gives a much deeper dimension. I remember ‘Armslengther’ from Cheltenham (Poetry Society workshop) and love it more now.”
David also asked to read the poem ‘Two Christmases’ from the collection for the forthcoming December issue of Talking Newspaper magazine for the visually impaired.
Waiting patiently for gestation to culminate in delivery is an obvious analogy for the period between sending off a manuscript and its publication. There are moments of delight en route; hearing the MS has been accepted can be compared with the thrill of the ‘Yes’ – or blue line – on the pregnancy test stick. But the publication of a book will not, of course, be anywhere near the rewarding and life-changing event a baby will be. The analogy can only go so far.
As well as delight at the good news of acceptance, there may well be anxieties en route. You want to shout about your book it as soon as you know it’s coming but, as with pregnancy, you probably feel it prudent to wait until certain other ‘tests’ are passed. Each communication with a publisher is like a visit to the ante-natal clinic. Sometimes, during pregnancy, blood tests raise questions about the baby’s wellbeing … or the mother’s. The arrival at a ‘proof’ is somewhat like a scan … where you, at last, get to see something resembling a perfect ‘baby’.
You ask others who have been through the process for reassuring words … endorsements for the collection’s cover, perhaps. You work with the midwife-publisher to ensure that everything is ready for the big day of delivery-release. Is everything looking right? Is everything looking good (including the cover design)? Have you acknowledged everyone who needs to be recognised for this body of work?
Is the name you have chosen the best one for your baby? Obviously in the case of an infant, there is the possibility of waiting until after the birth before the final decision on a name. Not so with a book. Again, the analogy can only go so far.
You make plans for the big day; the ‘where’ if not, precisely, the ‘when’. Whereas babies may arrive a little early, the publication of a book is unlikely to emerge ‘pre-term’. Requests for ‘induction’ – hurrying along – are not appropriate. The precise timing is tricky; the printer is, after all, an indispensable member of the ‘delivery suite’.
But when the baby is pressing to see the light of day, to take that very first breath … mother is obviously subject to high levels of agitation. She must, however, follow best practice and definitely NOT push too early. So parent, or poet, must just pant … with intense anticipation.
My collection ‘Dualities’ (twins perhaps) is due out from Hedgehog Poetry Press in September. I am patient … quietly knitting … preparing the nursery.