Best of 2012: The Glass Delusion by Abi Curtis – Guest Post by Kristina Wilde

This post has been written by blogger Kristina Wilde of Fictavia. Fictavia is a relatively new blog to me, but I always enjoy reading Kristina’s posts and she is rather charming on Twitter as well. Here she talks about her pick for the best of 2012, poetry collection The Glass Delusion by Abi Curtis.

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When Lizzi approached me on Twitter to write an article for this series, I knew immediately which book I wanted to write about.

“Can I do poetry?” I asked hopefully.

“Yes!” she tweeted back enthusiastically. “I never feature poetry, though I love it, so that would be a nice change.”

Think about this for a second. Do you read poetry, in general? Very few people seem to connect poetry to literature as a whole. Sometimes people instead think of epics like The Odyssey, or rustic yearning like that by Thomas Hardy. Some dismiss it as a maudlin cry for attention (even if, as in the case of Sylvia Plath, the writing style is meritorious).

The fact is, poetry is still around. It’s evolved, though. Nowadays, good poetry isn’t about trying to write on the sweeping topics of love, death and war. It’s about honing in on the little things and finding a new angle, rearranging language. Think about poetry’s relationship to full-length fiction as photography’s to film: a poet today must communicate as much as possible with a small number words.

Reading through Abi Curtis’s The Glass Delusion is like getting the ability to read particularly beautiful, strange photographs. As a poet in general, Curtis is very gifted. Her first collection, Unexpected Weather (2008) is gorgeous in its own right. The Glass Delusion, however, sees Curtis test her ability much further.

2012 cover. Image: forbookssake.net
2012 cover. Image: forbookssake.net

The title itself comes from the hysterical notion that one has turned to glass and will break – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_delusion. It sets the tone for a collection that bursts with oddities and discovery.

If I had to pick only one reason why you should buy and read it immediately, it would be to see how nature poetry should be done. My GCSE English years were filled with Gillian Clarke’s sentimental lambs-and-blackberries; Curtis chooses a playful approach. One standout poem is ‘El Pulpo Paul’, about the octopus who made the headlines by predicting World Cup outcomes. “He knows,” writes Curtis, “He’s known since / he hatched in a Weymouth aquarium / amongst the large, dark eyes of his siblings.”

Her writing style combines arresting imagery with downright absurdity. That mix is very charming. When Curtis turns to a mini arc entitled ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of House Management’, it is to explore the relationship between cooks and their charges: the food that will end up on the plate. The well-drawn grotesquery of “the slubber of [a calf’s] mouth” cannot fail to conjure imagery for the reader.

And there’s pop culture, too. Just not how you might expect it. In my favourite poem of the collection,’Marrying Doctor Who’ looks at the stressful life as the wife of a man who is destined to change his appearance and personality. I think my favourite part is how Curtis never numbers the Doctors – so if you know nothing of the show, you needn’t be excluded. She communicates each nuance of his change with simplicity. If you are a fan, you’ll find yourself identifying traits of each regeneration – but then again, Curtis does not present him strictly chronologically, so you’ll find yourself mixing and matching the traits. And isn’t that the point of the Doctor? That sometimes, he’s exactly like one of his old selves?

Abi Curtis. Image: saltpublishing.com
Abi Curtis. Image: saltpublishing.com

This is part of Curtis’s magic: she makes you rethink what you already know. But along the way, she teaches, too. The Glass Delusion is full of odd corners and tangents. Reading it is like walking through a hall of mirrors: you think you know what to expect, but the reflections that come up are charmingly skewed and occasionally a little disturbing. A total joy.

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The Glass Delusion was published by Salt in July 2012.

 

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