Review by Jessica Mookherjee

Here is a collection that centres around ancestors, desire and place. A collection in three sections that weave us in an out – but never far from Ulster and Belfast, a place loaded with history and conflict, and Kane brings this into her poems of family and her own conflicted desires in a worthy backdrop of visceral images and narratives. 

“You are tugboat shaped, /my thoughts go large to Arrolgantries/ and liners nesting within skeletal stocks,/ until fully formed. Rivets struck like rhythmic heartbeats. Chocks lodged/…”

Her language is best when its bold and muscular and she writes of “industrial ghosts”. In her poem “Christmas Morning Carrowdone 1870” she writes “smoke burns the air, sulphur suffocates” as if it is the landscape as well as the politics and people that are in conflict. In “Annadale, 22 April 1914” she connects with her suffragette ghosts, 

“We place our leaflets in the roots of apple trees”. 

There is a lot to like in this collection by Gaynor Kane, principally her excellent use of the Haibun. This is a piece of prose poetry tailed with a haiku. She uses this a number of times in her book to great impact. I particularly liked the “Duck Duck Goose” where she takes us on an epic journey down the Shankhill Road where 

“Big men, with puffed out chests strutted about warning no necks were to be wrung”

Her evocative ‘Home’ is once of the strongest poems in this collection again moving from from the mechanical cranes into a natural world, a domestic world full of conflicts and beauty, from the casual noticing of a homeless woman, to a spider’s beauty and the constant migration and rootlessness that comes from poverty. 

“The UDA put Betty into the empty house down our street (rumer had it she’d never paid a day’s rent in her life)”. 

Kane is best when she gives us the long lines of prose poetry, giving her the space to drive her language and themes forward. I wanted more Haibun’s, perhaps a whole book of them – they allow us her visual, narrative and visceral strength. This is a collection that moves around the themes of love, lust, futility and desire and the search for a self through these conflicts of empire and colonialism. She asks the question of what she is made of; from the genes she shares with a spider to the men and women that came and suffered before her, to her own choices, desires and creations.

Purchase your copy of Venus in Pink Marble

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