every robin i never quite saw – sonya smith


Sonya Smith writes love poems from unusual perspectives, admitting the differences between the lovers, but not fretting over them: simply observing ‘a smile at glimpsing your individual strata and how some lie/clean, far apart from one another.’ There’s rich originality here, subtle skill in capturing places, landscapes and atmospheres:

A balcony slides out from the romance of it all.

Corrugated roofs behind the leafy plaza fronts.

Later in the afternoon haze, someone is singing.

The intense heat, the cool sheets and the creak.

An intriguing sequence of prose poems ‘The Versions’ seems to me to be six attempts to lasso desire, or explore the shape-shifting impact of love on an unnamed she and I. It’s bristling with restless energy and surprising sometimes surreal imagery: ‘This was a wild flying horse in a storm, a shimmering carpet in the dark, a whale-song cloak, an old new era, a crown of tears and roses growing on skin.’

Sonya Smith is confident with a variety of forms: couplets, tercets, quatrains, prose poems, narrow poems inching down the page and an exquisite sonnet for her growing daughter that opens: ‘My daughter’s childhood just fell from the sky’, where the mother cradling a marsh tit in her hand beautifully echoes the daughter’s puberty, her ‘song, blown bright through tiny spaces.’ Smith expresses a reverence for difference in this and most of her poems, as if creatures, people, rooms, scenes and even fingernails she encounters each become ‘a secret in the cold of the night’ that she examines, but is content not to fully comprehend, like the ‘every robin I never quite saw’ paradox of her collection’s title.

Sonya Smith has a compelling voice that’s not afraid to take risks to discover an unexpected field of hidden truth. I recommend this bright debut collection to open your eyes and ears.

Buy the book here

Robert Hamberger

Author of A Length of Road & Blue Wallpaper

Julie Morrissy – where, the mile end

In an impressive first collection, what strikes me most about Julie Morrissy is how few writers she reminds me of; in her weaving of Irish and American poetic traditions, she has found a singular voice and style.

Buy the book here

India Harris

review in Poetry Ireland Review #130