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Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym (review by Mashaal Sajid)
Surfacing by Annest Gwilym
A dauntless and personal debut poetry collection by Annest Gwilym. Surfacing was published in 2018 by Lapwing Publications. Annest is based in North Wales, near Snowdonia National Park. Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She has been placed in competitions, winning one in recent years and she was the editor of the former webzine Nine Muses Poetry.
Surfacing is a collection of poems all unified by themes dealing with mental illness, loneliness and anguish. One distinguishing feature of this collection is the speaker’s tenacity and spirit and how their vulnerability allows us to feel for and have a closer look into the internal world of someone struggling with mental illness.
The book cover is symbolic of light at the end of the tunnel or in this case a glimmer at the end of a passage under a dark canopied forest. The 19 poems all with unique poignant titles are arranged into three parts, each denoting a shift in the atmosphere which is most evident in ‘Bright little pill’ and ‘Beach pottery mosaic’. The language is at times abrupt,flowing with underwater references and seascapes at other times like “The sea outside your house slyly slides past mine”, “My heart beats sea-surged”, and “even my broken glass can become sea treasure”.
Evocative imagery paired with visuals of animals and the natural world world like “Before the Storm irises Black Star lilies”, “In a forest full of hemlock and wolfsbane”, “a sweet soil shelter” transports you to a welsh landscape and reminded me of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. The first part heavy with imagery that invokes loneliness, desolation and being distant from the world, paired with everyday visuals like “percussion of washing machine”, “blinds are drawn day doesn’t break there”, “the cutlery is mismatched”, “slow as a Sunday afternoon” becomes haunting.
The poems in the second part deal with fear, paranoia, treatment and drowsy liminal hospital rooms. The poem ‘Last night’ echoes Lady Lazarus. This part has a very dream heavy and sleep induced atmosphere, Some imagery that really stood out is “If they shut me in an attic I could fly out on singed wings”, “whaled woman lies beached drowning lungs broadcast”, “people move like smoke”.
In the third part of the collection the language becomes more grounded in reality and the atmosphere becomes warmer, the visuals calm and solitary but familiar as we move towards the end the tone shifts to one of hope. “The house curls in on itself”, “festive glow of pub and bistro”, “the steaming parcel a warm hand in mine”, “the sun’s yolk descends behind the island where I picked wild strawberries” are some examples.
Life Underwater is my favorite Poem in Surfacing, it has a beautiful form and makes brilliant use of references and imagery. “Like Sisyphus I roll each jellied day one after the other, Without Orpheus to sing me back” this line leaves me astounded every time.
Surfacing takes you on an intense reflective and emotive journey which ends for the reader in a warm and hopeful way.
Wolfpack Contributor: Annest GwilymA Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Annest GwilymWolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid
Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.
David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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