Zig-Zag Girl – Brenna Twohy

Learning to Read #16


I feel I should mention this up front – there is a *but* to this review. This is a collection of very “me” focussed poetry collection, it is brief to the point of almost being too short, *but* it has some genuinely beautiful images and some stunning moments of impact.

You can argue about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for a poetry collection to be so intimate, so self aware, so self centred, so honest, all of the time. It’s the same with Hilborne or Lee-Houghton; the words take you into a life, they take you inside the experiences of the author in a really emotional way. The connection feels very personal. I would just ask whether poetry should be so exclusively the palette for the self to be drawn with, or whether the self can be a palette that draws the reader towards broader and more universal ideas. I can write about my difficult past relationships so that you can understand my life experience and share my pain, or I could use these stories to give you something that is more general. Poetry can be a mechanism for taking my perspective and building outward, rather than concentrating inwards. Take a Bukowski for example – his inner turmoil and chaotic life become a filter that I can hold up against my world to be able to see my own experiences differently.

I’m in danger of disappearing up my own self importance here 🙂 Let’s pull this back. Read Swallowtail. I would normally have a tiny moan here about the formatting, but on this occasion it just works for me. It is structured like a tick box sheet, options cascading down the page in some sort of order of good to bad. Fourth down is “A cage of gentle / hands is still a cage, / and I know this now.” which is a pretty good line but it fits the tone so well. Simple, clear, a bullet of a line. And read Colfax. Again, I should be complaining about the way that it is formatted (just as I did with Raking Light by Eric Langley) – the body of the poem consists of footnotes to the five lines under the title – but this feels right. Form and content, style and message, seem perfect for each other. Read “A Coworker Asks Me If I Am Sad, Still”. “& I tell her / grief is not a feeling, / but a neighbourhood. / this is where I come from. / everyone I love still lives there.” The last line of this poem is a great line too but that’s a spoiler; go and find it out for yourself 🙂 Read The Author Pauses To Correct A Metaphor”. Read YNAB, a more prose style poem about an accounting software package.

You can burn through the 30 or so poems in this collection over a coffee break, but I challenge you not to come back to it, to ponder, to reflect and to enjoy the depth of some of the images that she conjures for you. I challenge you not to reflect on how much the author gives of herself for this work. There are subjects in here that need to be spoken of, time and time again, not only until they stop being issues, but also beyond that to remind us of where we have come from.

All in all; I enjoyed this. I found it to be a thought provoking, clever, intense collection of poems and a voice to listen out for, for sure.

Brenna is on Twitter and there is some performance poetry of hers at this link. If you want an alternative review, check out here.

Incidentally, this is the second poem about a software package that I recall reading  – the first, if you would really like to know, being Dragon Talk by Fleur Adcock which was about Dragon Naturally Speaking. Feel free to comment on any other software based poetry you’ve read 😉


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