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Looking Through Letterboxes

Caroline Bird

Cover Picture of Looking Through  Letterboxes
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Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 857545 90 6
Categories: 21st Century, British, First Collections, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: February 2002
215 x 136 x 6 mm
80 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Your Heartbreak

    No one else is having your heartbreak.
    Your perfect pulsing peach
    in scarlet syrup,
    your creamy self
    pitying.

    Not even when the whole world
    is stacked like chairs
    and you are milky-eyed
    with sleep, honey, chocolate,
    blues before bedtime.

    Right here, where your hand is,
    all yours. A beautiful, bleeding,
    sprouting red roses,
    picked in two halves
    from the heartbreak tree,
    heartbreak.

    It is your prize, you've earned it,
    heaved it up
    from the wishing well
    of your throat,
    held its broken body,
    treasured it, fed it with tears
    the size of cupcakes
    and nights like shining spoons.

    No one else is having your heartbreak.
    Or the way it makes the sound of horses' hooves
    if you hold a piece in either hand
    and bang it together like a coconut.

    Caroline Bird first appears to be a traditional storyteller. But the stories she tells (or conceals) are suspended in a language charged with metaphor, and most of them are built upon foundations which are strangely familiar: fairy tale, fantasy and the bitter-sweet world of romance. The further one reads in her haunted tales, the more remarkable becomes the variety of forms, metres and rhythms she uses, and the clearer their appropriateness to her themes.

    The poems can at first appear to be topical, 'Year of the Woman', for example, 'Gothic', 'Dusk and Petrol' - yet the poets take on reality is informed by a paradoxically knowing innocence. Things are not ever as they seem, and the poems bring us closer to how the world 'really' is. They work metaphorically through our expectations and prejudices, those that are encapsulated in cliché and aphorism, which she rearranges and reanimates ('with a step/ in your dance, a forecast for lightning'), or those that relate to the world of childhood ('I came to see if you were ok') where language itself has never quite got a grip. In the poems of Caroline Bird gender politics are starkly redefined, as are the languages with which generations communicate and fail to agree.
    Caroline Bird is an award-winning poet. Her first collection Looking Through Letterboxes was published in 2002 when she was 15. Her second collection, Trouble Came to the Turnip, was published in September 2006 to critical acclaim. Watering Can (2009) achieved a ‘Poetry Book Society Recommendation’ and her fourth collection, The Hat-Stand ... read more
    Awards won by Caroline Bird Short-listed, 2017 The T.S. Eliot Prize  (In These Days of Prohibition) Commended, 2004 Christopher Tower Poetry Prize Winner, 2000 Simon Elvin Young Poet of the Year Award Winner, 1999 Simon Elvin Young Poet of the Year Award Winner, 2002 Eric Gregory Award Winner, 2004 Peterloo Poets Competition (16-19 year-olds) Winner, 2003 Peterloo Poets Competition (16-19 year-olds) Winner, 2002 Peterloo Poets Competition (16-19 year-olds) Short-listed, 2001 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize Short-listed, 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers
    'Her poems burst with linguistic energy.'
    Stephen Knight, Times Literary Supplement
    'An astonishingly assured piece of work.'
    Ruth Padel, Financial Times
    'Her poems burst with linguistic energy, and the book is profligate with striking lines and images.'
    Times Literary Supplement
    'The tone fuses knowing innocence and integrity; some poems are faux naif with a ballad lilt, others are sad, funny surreal; all are studded with fresh imaginative insights.'
    Ruth Padel, Financial Times
    Praise for Caroline Bird   'What an original captivating and spellbinding voice. Bird is fearless like 'the girl who dropped her ice-cream down a volcano and leaped in after it'. She’s dangerous and witty too with a rare quality of imagination. This is a wonder, a beautifully written book of poems.'
    Lemn Sissay
    'A carnival of characters spills out of these poems, chased by paparazzi, doing somersaults and cartwheels with language... Caroline Bird puts us on the inside looking deeper in, under the glittering skin to the place where laughter begins, where mothers are children, where people feel pain and speak in tongues, where tongues are knives and "Someone still has to stay here and die".'
    Imtiaz Dharker
    'Caroline Bird has always written wise, bitterly funny and intellectually bracing poems.What has developed over the course of four collections is a voice heartbreaking in vision while simultaneously consoling in its constant and inspired invention.'
    Luke Kennard
    'Bird is irrepressible; she simply explodes with poetry. The work erupts, spring-loaded, funny, sad, deadly - you don't know if a bullet will come out of the barrel or a flag with the word BANG on it.'
    Simon Armitage
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