States of Happiness by Suzanne Batty
States of Happiness, Suzanne Batty’s second full-length collection, begins with an extended sequence written in memory of her twin sister. This explores their relationship from shared birth to her twin’s early death from Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare degenerative disease. Suzanne Batty’s gifts of empathy and imagination combine to produce a profoundly moving elegy telling the hidden story of growing up as the “well” twin and exploring the meaning of illness and wellness in the light of her own experiences.
The collection as a whole extends her range and probes more deeply her primary concerns - the uncertainty and necessity of love and the drive to find meaning and healing through the medium of language. The search for states of happiness, no matter how fleeting, is at the heart of this collection. These are poems which move from the everyday to the visionary, in which the physical world reflects changing emotional and perceptual states. Anarchic and sensuous, they fearlessly encounter both beauty and darkness, enabling a new and deeper connection with the world.
'Reading these tour-de-force poems is to encounter shadow-wonders and brilliant terrors, often drawn from the molten core of childhood, its fury and rue. Here is extraordinary witness in poems that recall the work of Janet Frame in their confronting both of mental anguish and the transformations that are the hard won and healing reward for the descent into such perilous depths. States of Happiness is distinguished by its implacable grace. It invites us ‘"to lie down in Samuel Beckett’s boat, your arms full of lilies".’ – Penelope Shuttle
‘Sharp, intelligent and unsettling, Suzanne Batty’s work is distinctive. Batty writes about twins, mental illness, love and families with a wry humour. She writes to find out who she is and in doing so helps us discover who we are. She is original, brave, unflinching.’ – Jackie Kay