every robin i never quite saw is a captivating debut collection. Sonya studied Creative Writing at Sussex University and has worked as a poetry tutor to children.tall-lighthouse published Sonya’s pamphlet Old Panic Undressed in 2009.

Sonya Smith’s resonant poems investigate the texture of experience and how we’re shaped by memory. Here, loss and desire emerge from surprising angles in writing that is consistently nuanced, concise, stirring.

John McCullough

the first review is in…thanks to Robert Hamberger

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.’

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.  

Robert Hamberger


Photography by Andrew King

listen

Geology and Tove and Frida, on love and freedom

Sonya Smith

hear Sonya read Geology and Tove and Frida, on love and freedom

a discussion of sonya's poem Tove and Frida, on love and freedom

Jackie Wills

Jackie Wills discusses Sonya’s poem Tove and Frida, on love and freedom (from RadioReverb Brighton)

book

Beneath a deceptively calm surface, a powerful voice offers original slants on the ambiguous aspects of loving people. Aspects that are hard to talk directly about and are somehow deeply entwined with the natural world. These poems are placed at compass points encircling the object of love, whether that be another person or oneself, sensually embracing everything that interrupts the view.

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