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Beaches by Rebecca Perry


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These are poems of tidal ebb and advance, of the drift of sand blown along the beach and into caves, where secret things click and scuttle. Things are not always what they seem: ‘traditionally hourglass sand wasn’t sand / . . . traditionally the material was / powdered marble and burnt eggshell’; things smell ‘unfamiliar, sulphurous’. This is an unsettling, anxious landscape – ‘how colourless a beach in the rain’ – and it is mapped onto the body in uncertain ways:

my heart washed up

in the shallow waters

of the grey beach

much changed


her stomach has become a beach


i, a perfect stranger to

the curve of their wet backs

am a dirty grain of sand

There is longing for a sort of permanence, a structure, some shelter, for ‘a house on stilts’, for a ‘gilded ceiling’, but it is not as simple as that. The house is also a threat, a trap, a confinement, ‘large and dark / with narrow rooms’. There is an intimation of grief, though the picture is unstable, like a seabird bobbing and vanishing behind the crest of a wave on the horizon.

beaches is a tideline strewn with complicated, intricate poems, though deceptively forthright, with a powerful undercurrent that will take you off your feet.

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