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Brittle Bones expresses vulnerability, an uncertainty leading to things lost (or gained). The book starts with a series of rooms – places to move from, or areas of discovery. Tragedy, grief, dying or the likelihood of dying, evolve throughout, linking into stories of childhood, growing up, travelling, family – the disturbance that lurks beneath the surface of civilised domestic life. Nothing is as it seems.
But the book’s not an autobiography. I don’t trust the advice ‘write about what you know’. Writing from what you know or have experienced, or can remember, is a different matter. But why stop there? Write from what you don’t know. What’s the imagination for? I take a phrase, or a subject such as a painting, and run with it, see where it ends up. The results surprise me as much as the reader is, I hope, surprised.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s plenty of sharpness and wit – not for their own sakes but as ways of getting truth across. And masses of food (purely as metaphor, of course).
I don’t write for an audience. Each poem is written for myself, expressing something which resounds with me in some way. But the book has been put together with the reader in mind. After all, when someone starts to read a book there’s a relationship between reader and writer. A good reader puts as much in and gets as much out as the writer. And of course you are all good readers.
‘Brittle Bones is Janet Fisher’s best book to date and therefore one of the best books in recent years. No-one writes quite like her. Her poems are crammed with things (a Dansette, building-site skips, balloons bunched from tram wires) and then more, more and more things, and all in so many places (Snowden, Skellig Michael, St Petersburg, Co. Kerry and Manhattan; or with the vivid backdrop of today’s West Yorkshire or an Oxfordshire childhood) – and yet the effect is of orderliness and above all of people, people living or remembered, clearly and with affection. Her poems are painterly – paintings on the edge of abstraction – but they’re also full of music; they’re often funny; and they can be tender and clear-eyed, whether about an ageing parent or the heartbreak of a miscarriage. I’ve found that once you start reading Fisher’s poems, you don’t want to stop.’ —Peter Sansom
‘Janet Fisher writes about people as if she had known them all her life. And yet, in a book so warmly peopled, she writes from that lonely spot within a crowd, that spot we all inhabit. Resolutely honest, trusting the plain truth to speak, Brittle Bones is a wonderfully buoyant collection which honours both the rich and drab texture of our lives, without value judgements but with a fierce sense of our commonality. I found such pleasure in Fisher’s latest book – a new kind of sadness, thoughtfulness (unworldliness almost), which makes the work all the richer.’ —Mimi Khalvati
‘A powerful aspect of this poet’s work is her ability to locate the precise, authentic image without overplaying her hand... Her work is imbued with energy and pace, the elegance of tone and form and her gift for the vernacular.’ —Linda Rose Parkes
‘She finds new ways of presenting old truths.’ —Jeffery Wheatly, Orbis
‘Fisher has a talent for the acute angle, the oblique perspective, sudden shifts of light. She writes of how in ageing and illness, the familiar is made strange, using imagery that roots the imagined in the actual.’ —Lavinia Greenlaw, Mslexia
‘Fisher’s skill lies in making life’s ordinary moments illuminate broader themes, and it is this that makes [Women Who Dye Their Hair] a book of quality.’ —Polly Bird, New Hope International
‘A style that distils the kind of language you’d hear on the bus into a poetry that rings like a bell.’ —Vic Allen, Artscene
‘It’s a strong woman’s voice, hardened by time and tough choices ... reality tempered by a knowing ear, that instinctively finds the music inherent in all good poetry.’ —Jane Holland, Blade