May 16, 2019, by Sunita Tailor

Book Review: Rachael Allen’s Kingdomland

This blog was written by second year English with Creative Writing student, Bethany Mitchell.  

Rachael Allen’s much anticipated first full collection of poetry (published in January this year by Faber and Faber) does not disappoint. With characteristic bluntness and fantastic attention to imagery, her poems are luminous and astonishing.

At times, Allen’s poems are abstract, and yet evoke dark and vivid imagery, thereby keeping the poems grounded. The poems in the collection pay close attention to word choice, too; almost every word feels as though it has been thoroughly considered and toyed with before making it to the page.

Here are just a few of the delightful images:

  • ‘summer streams through the trees like a long blonde hair’ (from ‘Prawns of Joe’)

  • ‘the moon sways over me whitely’ (from ‘Meeting you in the first place was great though’ – you can read the whole poem here)

  • ‘Trees turn to veins against marbly sky’ (from ‘The Slim Man’)

Many of the poems, though abstract, have a strong narrative feel. This is especially effective in the serial format of some of the poems; Allen gathers shorter poems that form a longer one, separated as stanzas by pages. One of these sequential poems is ‘The Girls of Situations’. The poems in this piece are uncomfortable and unsettling snapshots of young women in various ‘situations’ which are unpleasant, difficult to navigate, and feel unsafe. This is a particularly effective and evocative sequence; emotive and yet – as with many poems in the collection – has its foundations in the image.

A number of the poems consider animals, and the harm and exploitation of them by humans. There seems to be a concern with hypocrisy here. The poems are implicitly positioned with explorations of female sexuality, and in a similar way the harmful treatment and exploitation of women. There are images of butchery and cruelty, and view – from a critical standpoint – woman and animals as lesser beings.

I devoured this collection, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. It was all I expected and more. The poems are tightly and considerately composed with close attention to imagery and diction. The poems feel both alive and lively; they jump from the page in their vividness. I recommended this collection to poetry lovers, and to those who believe that poetry is stuffy and all fluffy clouds – you might be shocked!

Image: Author’s own

Posted in Book reviewCreative WritingStudent Words