Thursday, February 22, 2018

Abigail Parry - After Aickman

The latest issue of the London Review of Books (Vol. 40 No. 4, 22 February 2018, page 10) includes a poem by Abigail Parry, ‘The nine lives you might have lived, were it not for the nine thin spells through your heart’, which has the acknowledgement 'after Robert Aickman'. The sequence of strange images certainly does include some which seem to belong to the world of Aickman's stories, such as "An attic-flat with moths/erupting from espaliers of cracks' (hints of 'The Unsettled Dust', perhaps), and in particular his art of making everyday things seem sinister and filled with portent ("Moonbeams/over moon things: tooth enamel, silver spoons,/flakes of eggshell.") The poem also alludes to sisters "bright as needles" who bring to mind those met in 'The Inner Room'.

But the poet has made these things her own and juxtaposed them together in a hypnotic rush which makes the poem read like an incantation. The invocation of Aickman is not archaic: the poem suggests how things seen through his gaze might look like now, with a dash of cyberpunk, and images drawn from cocktails, drugs, and the city at night. Above all, the poem is alert to how curious colours ('Blooddrop sun') and fragments of light ('match-flare') can cast a sorcery at us in sudden moments.

Abigail Parry has a first collection of poems, Jinx, due out in March from Bloodaxe Books, and described as "concerned with spells, and ersatz spells: with semblance and sleight-of-hand. It takes its formal cues from moth-camouflage and stage magic, from the mirror-maze and the masquerade, and from high-stakes games of poker."

Mark Valentine


  1. Thanks you for the notice on this, Mark. I think I’ll need to pick up a copy of Abigail Parry’s collection when it’s published next month.

  2. Her poetry does sound alluring. I'll keep an eye out for Jinx. --md

  3. I thought this was fantastic, will pick up the collection soon.