Book review: And in Here, the Menagerie by Angela Cleland

There is a delicious sense of solidity to the poetry in  Angela Cleland’s And in Here, the Menagerie. Words slot into their allotted spaces with satisfying clunks that continue to resound long after you put down this debut collection.

Angela has a background in performance poetry, and this experience is evident in her work that just aches to be read aloud, preferably in a seductive Scottish accent. She is adept at conjuring up entire worlds for us to explore, often hurrying us along so we catch glimpses of scenes we crave to see more of.

Meanings fold into themselves so that you have to peel them back, layer after layer – each one revealing some tingling idea. The words are alive, eager, vivacious, prompting countless metaphors: this collection is an “afternoon of ludicrous sunshine”, electricity pinballing “off a silver plate moon”, “crisp empty skies” and “shreds of winter light”, adrenalin that “floods the pulsing streets”, to borrow but a few of Angela’s descriptions.

One after another metaphors rise to the surface, nurtured by Angela’s rich imagery where commonplace objects become opalescent, glowing with light.

Amid the sunken treasures, a lover hangs from wrist like an expensive wristwatch, a cat transforms into a dog, a conversation careens along through a maze, tripping us with slivers of light and shade enhanced by Angela’s daring experiments with shape.

The poems have a visual, tactile quality, engaging all our sense until it seems that if you were to lift the pages to your mouth and nose you would taste and smell the words.

We look in on moments of utmost intimacy – the terror of a panic attack in WILD HORSES, the dread of a person counting down minutes as their loved one fails to appear in Peeling, the thrill of a women looked at in a certain way in Electricity – and soak up the sweeping impressions of the countless residents of the UK capital in Pieces of London – with seven truly evocative stanza, one for each day of the week.

Angela is also a shapeshifter – male, female, superhero, household pet, a perfect piece of fruit, even, on one occasion, a sea-smooth pebble. Yet throughout each metamorphosis Angela’s voice remains true, constant, recognisable as she captures the most intangible, fleeting emotions and holds them up for us to examine.

This is a fresh new voice for whom the whole world is a potential poem, and we hope to have the opportunity to explore it with her.

And in Here, the Menagerie by Angela Cleland is available from Templar Poetry and Amazon.

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