Splitfish by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
27th Mar 2014
Splitfish, as the title suggests, is a work that opens up and spills its abundant contents. The collection is composed of four sections: Dusk House, Estuary, Breathing lessons and wide-shining.
Preoccupied with gutting and splitting, Millwood Hargrave gets straight to the middle of things, and Splitfish speaks direct to the reader. In ‘Slice’ she turns her knife to the culinary, and in ‘Bed Rest’ the innards are breathed in and out until ‘you’ve inhaled a lungful of yourself’.
a littoral collection, thick with the sand and silt of the Norfolk coast and its passing lightMost of the Splitfish poems are short but chock-a-block with mouthfuls of words. Bodies are undone and turned inside out with eery metrical satisfaction and the reader can taste the poet’s relish in her neologisms – verbs made nouns and vice versa – as she guts words and puts them back together askew.
Above all, Splitfish is a littoral collection, thick with the sand and silt of the Norfolk coast and its passing light. These are the substances of sea that cannot be dammed and seep into objects long gone from the beach until each poem is a token of a seaside scene and the poetry unfolds just ‘as the pebble on the mantel/ unhatches the sea’.
Perhaps the most accomplished section of Splitfish is wide-shining, which is pace- and pitch-perfect and refreshes classical myths with a rush of new language.
‘Tiberius’, ‘Medusa’, ‘Circe’ and the ‘botched copy’ of ‘Echo’ all stand out as radical re-imaginings, and ‘Playing House with Bluebeard’ has all the wry subversive rhythm of Angela Carter‘s bloody chamber.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a Barbican Young Poet, President of the Oxford University Poetry Society and winner of the Yeovil Literary Prize for Poetry 2013.
This year, Millwood Hargrave will be contributing to the For Books’ Sake poetry anthology, Furies. For your chance to feature alongside her work, please submit your entry here.