A Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection
Shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry
Ella Frears’s debut is a collection of wry, vivid poems whose power lies in their intimacy. They are as insistent as they are circumspect, drawing close to the reader’s ear and bringing them into confidence. The engine of Shine, Darling is one of strength, of fortitude in confronting and surviving the world, of a lifted-chin audacity – ‘There was pain,’ the speaker allows, ‘but it was not new pain.’ Frears’s work is world-weathered rather than world-weary, delighted by service stations, fucking on bins in Cornwall, in constant communion with the moon. It lives for the power-play of people, of the pull of the sea, the smoky air – ‘Stormy, sticky with flies’ – and tangled underbrush where the land ends. Her characters test each other, experimenting with the boundaries of physical violence, of punishment, of traps, all the while drawing the reader into a complicity that gives these poems all their daring, electrifying muscularity. In Shine, Darling, the desire to expose and disclose wrestles with defence and defiance. The result is exhilarating, a ‘glorious full-bodied’ debut collection with the draw of an adamant tide.
Rough Trade Books 2021
Ella Frears’ I Am The Mother Cat charts, interrogates and attempts to take stock of what will surely come to be understood as one of the most surreal and haunting periods the country has known. Written as part of a residency at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, these poems talk of the strange absences of lockdown, the nature of work and socialisation, the urge to write and create, and what it means to look out for one another in a violent world. These ideas are shadowed, deepened, by their own opposites, deployed with wit and intelligence and Frears’ subtle musicality.
This special edition also includes a fold-out entitled ‘No Paintings, Sorry’ which features poems by John Hansard Gallery Assistants for National Poetry Day 2021.