A woman who never wanted children finds herself reluctantly bringing up her sister’s daughter. The aunt is in an abusive relationship. The niece is a strange child who wishes to disappear. The narrative threaded through these eighty short poems confuses and obfuscates, whilst at the same time completely drawing the reader in to the extent that by the end, one is left with the feeling of having watched a deeply immersive film or read an engrossing novella.
Beth O’Brien weaves magic with her lyrical and evocative language, and with the tangibility of her characters’ unreliable voices, she reveals herself as a master storyteller.
This is the kind of poetry that is read as prose as each poem forms part of an overall story. You may want to pause occasionally, this is not an easy read.
We find a young girl placed into her aunts care. She is not wanted. The aunt is in a bad relationship. Abuse, fear, abandonment, grief and entrapment run through these pages.
Layer upon layer the story unfolds; layer upon layer to consider, think and wonder over. The imagery within the words support and enhance the poems. Still we ask questions. What is meant by this? How can someone do that? Indeed, why? Is it true? What does the author want you to know, understand and feel? Does it matter? Perhaps reading over will give another perspective, perhaps not.
You must engage with what is written to feel, take what you want or need. Read again and there may be different or more meanings or not. When you read, how you read – your mood, your feelings, your experience – will reveal more, reinforce or, perhaps, change how you read this astonishing book. This is the beauty of poetry and the wonder of this book. It is an immersive read from an author to watch.
Whether you are a reader of poetry or not I would recommend reading I Left the Room Burning.
Thanks: to LoveBooksGroup, Wildpressed Books and the author for an advanced reading copy of I Left the Room Burning.
Published: Wildpressed Books | 5th February 2021
Beth O’Brien is an English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. She is the Editor of Mad Hatter Reviews, a site that reviews books, e-books, theatre, music, and even the odd podcast. Having been born visually impaired, Beth grew up on audiobooks and audio-described theatre, and these loves are still going strong.
She is also a reviewer for Riggwelter Press, and has quite happily picked up a range of jobs that require her to write, whether that be travel articles, student blogs, or website content. She has had her poetry (and the odd short story) published in Foxglove Journal, Nine Muses Poetry, Dear Reader Poetry, BellaOnline Literary Review, Eunoia, Pulp Poets Press, Wildpress Books, Peculiars Press, Picaroon Press, and Bonnie’s Crew.
When not reading, writing, or listening to an audiobook at double speed, she will most likely be found snacking, drinking tea, and/or planning a trip to somewhere or other.
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