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Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass
by Mary-Jane Holmes
£10 (pub. 2018)

Mary-Jane Holmes, winner of the Bridport Prize 2017, dazzles with this, her debut collection. These poems range far and wide – from the landscapes, stories and traditions of the North Pennines, rich with dialect; to an Occitan hamlet with its chanterelles and walnut harvests, via the many voices of wind, water and rural history; some agonising, some benedictory. Meet the female roofer determined to shove it to the men; Eros escaping from a nursing home. Witness the intimate rites of a family preparing a body for burial; the ordeal of tattoo removal; the girl in a pencil skirt and Doc Martens on the edge of a bridge during rush hour. You’ll never see things quite the same again.

Praise for Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass:

“What we hear distinctly in these vivid geographies is a new voice in the poetics of landscape. In the musical interweave between her haunting evocations of the English Pennines and her echoing conversations with the 20th-century Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, Holmes has created a richly generative space in which her searching imagination seems vitally at home.”

Jane Draycott

“I can hardly believe this rich, intense and compellingly readable collection is a debut. I have rarely read so many poems in a row filled with lines as fresh, as lively and as apt to the complexity of such wide-ranging subject matter. Those who love strikingly original language for its own sake will enjoy this book, as will those who like their poems to be located in the reality of time and place, with strong narrative underpinning. It’s a perfect coming-together of concern for the environment and for the human with a commitment to the highest standards of aesthetic representation. For me, Holmes is perhaps the most convincingly rural and at the same time most convincingly contemporary English poet since Ted Hughes. Surely one of the collections of the year.”

Dave Lordan

“Holmes’s diction has such crunch and freshness that it seems to grow out of the ground – peppery with definition, creaking and chirping with sound. These poems encourage undivided attention to the divided world, in all its names and contexts, in which ‘we scrabble for all the things we forgot’. They both relay and delay the instability of contemporary pastoral.”

Camille Ralphs


At the Gin Gang

Let’s say it happened like this:

Mother singing to bees, your shadow stretched
substantial as the hayloft, the rhythm of grain released
in looping eights, the horse in the wheelhouse,
its bald muzzle puckered for hay. The boy.

The thresher turned its metronome of crickets, his mouth –
the bristle of unharvested corn, the chafe
of cattle at the trough, your arms a frenzy of wings.

The sun slipped red off the horizon, you held
its glow for a second in the palm of your hand.
How it crested the rims of your eyes.

Then it was gone, the sky a silvered backdrop
of blue, the boy a man and that’s when
you counted the moon, you counted the moon.

(from Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass)

Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass

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