“Forensically detailed and disturbing, the dark and sometimes brutal undertow of small town lives seeps to the surface of these unsettling and visceral poems.”
If I had to sum up what Threat is about in one short sentence, it would probably be – that which makes us human.
Threat has been a long time in the making. Some of the poems were written before my last collection was published. Some of them are much newer. When I started putting the collection together it was tentatively titled Hometown. As it turned out that title had already been taken by the marvellous Carrie Etter – but as the collection evolved it seemed that it was growing beyond its town boundaries and that a different title would be more apt. Threat was the title of a poem in the collection – the poem itself was edited out but the title remained – it just seemed to perfectly fit the themes and concerns of the book. As a collection I am both proud and a little terrified of it. It feels incredibly exposing – the poems feel personal – and some of them are – though others are not – or rather bits of them are – there is an overlap, always, between lived experience and fantasy – or rather my lived experience and the experiences of other people. Like Sharon Olds I feel I can’t claim all the experiences as completely or directly mine.
“Poems like mine – I don’t call them confessional, with that tone of admitting to wrong- doing. My poems have done more accusing than admitting. I call work like mine ‘apparently personal’. Or in my case apparently very personal.” (Sharon Olds, The Guardian, 26th July 2008).
There is some sense of working out or through some difficult stuff – but equally the narrator is trying to put into words or make some sense of experiences and feelings that might ring true for other people – experience such as human fallibility, loss, familial dysfunction (which we all experience to some degree or another), what it feels like to live in the human body, what it feels like to be an adolescent girl in a small town, ageing etc. I hope the reader is surprised by where the collection takes them – just as I was surprised at where the writing of it took me. It certainly visits some dark places but ultimately swims back up towards the light. There is a playfulness in this collection too – that I feel Bird Sisters perhaps lacked.
The cover art for the book was done by artist and graphic designer Natty Peterkin. I knew I wanted to use an image of Thetford forest as part of the art work but other than that I had to let go of control and let Natty run with it. Natty read the book several times and decided that he wanted to make some kind of painted semi abstract shadow creature part of the image. What he came up with is perfect – is it a man? Is it a beast? Is it a teddy bear? We just don’t know.
Threat comes out with Nine Arches Press on May 30th and is available for pre-order now.
Julia will be launching the collection at Cafe Writers in Norwich on June 10th with Helen Ivory and at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden on July 19th with Jessica Mookherjee.