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10 Reasons To Love: Janette Ayachi

9th May 2014

10 Reasons To Love: Janette Ayachi
An up and coming Edinburgh based poet, born in Algeria and a serial wanderer, Ayachi is bringing baroque language back into poetic fashion. She is also the editor of the Undertow Review, an online arts and literature journal.

Janette Ayachi is the author of Pauses at Zebra Crossings and A Choir of Ghosts and has been published in over forty journals and anthologies, both gorgeous collections which can be purchased directly from her website

Here are some of For Books’ Sake‘s reasons to love this fierce poet:

1. Her name

Ayachi means ‘very alive’ – perfect for a poet whose work teems with ornate language and evocative imagery from all corners of the world!

2. Her sense of adventure

A lot of her work started off as travel reviews but she “couldn’t help but cut them into poems”; her love of journeys is distilled in a more visceral manner through the medium of poetry as her delicate sense of intuition hones in on the hidden beauty of different places.

She also does not like writing about anything she has no experience of and “has been known to do anything for a good poem” – nothing like a healthy sense of adventure and commitment to your craft!

3. Her ekphrastic inclinations

She is one of very few poets who can make poems about objects really interesting. She sees art and poetry as two sides of the same coin as both, “offer transcendence and transportation, both offer beauty”

Her first collection, Pauses At Zebra Crossings, is comprised almost entirely of poems she wrote during her time as an assistant at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. She drew inspiration from, “merging the historical time, the artist’s life and the depiction of the scene until the structured incantations became poems”.

4. Her penchant for whiskey

Her drink of choice is Kentucky Straight Bourbon – with ice and a slice of lemon.

She drinks from a tumbler filled with amber liquid, while performing in shiny black doc martins, a glittery black sleeveless dress complete with diaphanous tutu skirt and a mass of curly black hair that is partly shaved on one side.

Janette Ayachi lends poetry a gothic glamour as a sort of linguistic dark fairy with an innate Scottish ability to handle hard core liquor – quite frankly a role that urgently needed filling in the contemporary poetry landscape.

5. She has epic feminist taste

When asked to name female influences and inspirations, Janette Ayachi he came up with this particularly kick-ass list:

Patti Smith for her spirit.; Natalie Barney for her audacity and vision; Vita Sackville West for her charm; Sylvia Plath for her language; Camille Paglia for confirming my fears; Frida Kahlo for her use of colour; Asia Argento for her flawless visual aesthetics.

6. Her gothic and supernatural inspirations

Her second collection of poetry, A Choir of Ghosts, highlights the role of the supernatural in her work, as it is filled with the echoes from the past.

She has a firm belief in spirituality, not only believing in ghosts but she states that she inherited the gift of second sight from her mother while from her father, “there is also a dark, voodoo undertow on my Algerian side – a country and culture dipped in mysticism”.

Despite the prevalence of ghostly figures and spiritual voices, her poetry smacks of living life to the full and encapsulates the world from a whole host of different angles.

7. Her views on women and writing

She wrote her undergraduate thesis on the women of the Beat Generation, “in rampage over their overshadowing by the male writers of the time” as well as taking inspirational cues from other female poets on how to “speak in the voice of women, not in the pseudo-male or neuter voice”.

Becoming a mother made her feel “powerful” and her poetry is full of the female form, from the oppressed and covered women in “A Jewish Lady from Algiers” to the more sensual figures of her confessional poems.

8. Her love of words

Janette Ayachi is a serial word hoarder, “sifting them up like gold from wherever I can”.

Her poetry is literally overflowing with the alliterative and metaphorical. Unlike many modern poets who have a tendency to use minimal or plain words in an interesting fashion, Ayachi uses all words in all fashions, in layers of baroque inspired language which tangle together to form visceral images and visions.

9. Her love of life

No-one reading her poetry could doubt Ayachi’s determination to experience life as acutely as possible. Despite the prevalence of ghostly figures and spiritual voices, her poetry smacks of living life to the full and encapsulates the world from a whole host of different angles.

10. Claiming the confessional for the sisterhood

While Ayachi is clearly skilled at mapping out other people’s stories, her powerful confessional work “comes in heavy doses” and has an intensity of feeling which is perfectly complimented by the compact nature of her language.

She feels confessional poetry provides a “significant space for pronoun and women’s feelings” and that as a form it has been instrumental in helping women do a “fierce job of reclaiming their space in the literary cannon”.