Much With Body by Polly Atkin
PBS Winter Recommendation 2021
Much With Body is the startlingly original second collection by poet Polly Atkin. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction: unusual descriptions of frogs, birds, a great stag that ‘you will not see’. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel, the author’s wild swimming being just one kind of immersion. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.
“These brilliant poems authentically offer the psychogeography of a known and lived landscape from the common but less-represented perspective of a body that is in many ways ‘queer’ to the ableism and gendering of ‘nature writing’. It is eager and ferociously appetitive about embodiment, poetics, and place, taking the long view: engaging with local tradition (Dorothy Wordsworth) and contemporary visions of interest (ecopoetics, disability writing). Readers will appreciate a poet with a rare gift of humour: the ‘tiny frogs’ chased in ‘Habitats’; the funny but chilling litany of horror traditions in ‘Borders Gothic’. This is serious play indeed.” – Vahni Capildeo
“Polly Atkin writes daring, compelling poems. This new collection, rooted in the notion of the body as ‘Ludicrous, unrepeatable myth’ crackles with searing insight into what it means when a person’s own flesh and bones create in landscapes ‘unpaths, unlines / of desire’. Much With Body is an important book that spotlights at last difficult and nuanced experiences so often made invisible by the actions of enabled bodies. I urge you to read it.” – John McCullough