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A six toed cat skeleton, a lesson in boxing technique and a poem in the shape of a phallus. These are just some of the things you can expect from Cleland's second collection, Room of Thieves.
Through its myriad settings, from the bemonstered waters of Loch Morar to the London commuter belt to the Amazon, this book is concerned with the relationship between our internal and external landscapes and explores how our attempts to control the world around us betray our desires and prejudices.
Blank verse, free verse, prose poetry and concrete sit happily alongside each other in this surprising and varied collection. The poems in their different forms are united by Cleland's sinister sense of magic, which breathes life into the people and creatures that inhabit them: they are haunted by the ghosts of faeries and deerhounds, the spectre of an unreachable internet and the patchwork past of Machu Picchu. The result is work that deftly treads the line between the serious and the comic, characterised by compelling imagery, fresh conceits and strong narrative voices.
This is an accessible, enjoyable collection from a poet with sharp eyes and a dark wit.
‘In Angela Cleland you feel you’ve made a remarkable personal discovery: at last!, you think, here’s a poet whose precision of language and breadth of vision transforms the everyday into extraordinary art. Emotions and intimacies are subjected to the same clear-eyed, and eye-opening treatment as nature, myth, and exotic locations. Cleland is a poet to treasure.’ —Robert Vas Dias
‘There is a delicious sumptuousness to Angela Cleland’s poetry. Words slot into their allotted spaces with satisfying clunks that continue to resound long after you put down this debut collection.’ —Judy Darley
‘Perhaps the best pieces here are longer ones – a week-length sequence of London morning vignettes; a song-like performance piece about a man sinking emotionally under his own guilt which makes fine use of repetitions; the final poem, which imagines the youthful Shelley setting off fire balloons carrying copies of the Declaration of Rights, is a rare example of a poem in a historical voice working with freshness. This is a varied, interesting first collection from a younger poet.’ —Roddy Lumsden
‘Angela Cleland’s first full collection is quite a tour de force. Cleland has a taste for the surreal, the quirky, the sinister, and she explores her subjects with humour and a deliciously fresh approach to form, taking risks that pay off. Cleland’s material encompasses every kind of human and other relationship – she is fascinated by personality and by the inner world of her characters. The ways in which she shocks and disturbs the reader are both authentic and enticing, from the spooky sense of isolation in ‘Wool and air’ and ‘Your art’ to the bizarre imaginative longing of ‘Peeling’. The middle section of the collection showcases the poet’s experiments with form, including shape poetry – I enjoyed the inventiveness of ‘Fig 1’ and ‘The Rain Gauge’. This collection is a really good read.’ —Clare Best
‘Angela Cleland’s first collection rings true; poignant, quirky and knowing. These assured poems deserve to be heard.’ —Jane Weir
‘This was a richly rewarding quarter including no fewer than three outstanding publications from new-kid-on-the-block, Templar Poetry Press, run from Derbyshire by Alex McMillen. Of these, particularly notable was Angela Cleland's powerful title sequence in Waiting to Burn.’ —Poetry Book Society Bulletin
‘Her poems are skilful, witty and inventive, and her oblique approach pierces the heart of life.’ —Moniza Alvi