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In Chrissie Gittins’ second collection she dresses in the guise of the grandson of Hitler’s bodyguard, Samuel Pepys’s mistress, the lover of Shakespeare’s youngest brother, and the cook at a lavish dinner held in the belly of a model dinosaur. What undercuts these evocations of vivid living is the certain knowledge of death. How does Alcyone survive without her beloved husband? How does Triptolemus feel on his deathbed knowing that eternal life was once within his reach? These poems try to replace what is lost, or about to be lost, with the laying down of memory etched by the imagination.
The book includes three sequences. The title sequence is a tender lament for her mother. The second, called ‘Cloth’, tells of Mary Hindle – a woman made a savage example after the machine breakers riots in East Lancashire. The third, ‘Herbal Source’, welds stories to the anonymous words listed on a pavement sign outside a Chinese herbalist.
At once unflinching, sensual, delicate and elegiac, these poems inhabit the fluid spaces left between the present and the past.
What undercuts these evocations of vivid living is the certain knowledge of death. These poems try to replace what is lost, or about to be lost, with the laying down of memory etched with the imagination. At once unflinching, sensual, delicate and elegiac, these poems inhabit the fluid spaces left between the present and the past.
‘Gittins’s deadpan tone and skewed perspective mark her out as a true original … Gittins characterizes her speakers through disjunctive, seemingly random pronouncements that manage to betray their vulnerability, longing and frustration – she has a genuine gift’’ —Jane Yeh, Poetry Review
‘Chrissie Gittins’s poems are elegant, sensual and deep. They are a joy to read first time round – and to revisit.’ —Kate Kellawa
‘An artistic sensibility alert to the contradictions and possibilities of experience … the poetry of collisions, of the meeting of madness and sanity, of different experiences of an identical moment, of what is exact and what is elusive … these poems are moving; they achieve a degree of pathos that gives them authority.’ —Rosie Bailey, Envoi
‘She writes extremely well from the perspective of a child, and excels at the psychologically revealing.’ —Judy Kendall, P.N. Review
‘Her poems are well-sculpted, fine-boned, painterly and precise. Reflective as well as outward-looking, she writes vividly about the everyday as well as less familiar lives and places. Lively, accessible and gently surprising, hers is a voice refusing to be pinned down.’ —Moniza Alvi
‘I love the way (the poems) build on observations; piling them up until, without hardly knowing it, there’s a revelation that really lifts the top of your head off.’ —Vicki Feaver
‘An ear for what life sounds like, and … there’s so much feeling in the poems. But it’s never got that heavy, spongy quality that emotion can have if it’s not handled right. It’s precise.’ —Helen Dunmore
‘She writes with tenderness and care, an ear for speech and a strong sense of empathy … the poems are full of images, colour and vitality. Her strength throughout the book is that at the heart of each poem is a person, a relationship, some insight into the human condition.’ —Sally Baker, The North
‘The description of place, particularly landscapes, is vivid and sensual, while the warmth of some of the imagery in some poems is punctuated by sudden and surprising violence or explicitly sexual imagery in others.’ —Frank Startup, The School Librarian
‘There is a northerness to the poems, they are honest, unpretentious, no garnish … they are exact, precise, they don’t pussyfoot around or beat around the bush. It’s her unflinching and unapologetic tackling of emotional concerns that, in my book, makes Armature a success.’ —Peter Knaggs, The Slab
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