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Girlhood by Julia Copus review – phenomenal mind games14 May 4:00am

Girlhood by Julia Copus review – phenomenal mind games

The Guardian
The British poet’s technical dexterity and way of seeing the past afresh reap rich dividendsJulia Copus’s poems are acts of resistance. The material tests its own boundaries to become something new. She is not limited to – or by – personal experience. One of the many pleasures of this phenomenal collection, her first for seven years, is that you cannot predict the varied ways in which these poems will fly. There are autobiographical pieces, poems of history and imagination and, in The Great Unburned, there are witches overhead: “Slow at first, over fields and fences, / over the god-fearing steeples we’ll climb, our broomsticks / tight in the grip of our shameless, fantastical thighs.” It is a poem of formidable skill (that “fantastical” perversely and satisfyingly makes the witches real) and written in the hinged form Copus invented (she dubbed it the “specular”). The second half of the poem mirrors the first, and yet the doubling back is not straightforward – the punctuation changes and you lose some italics. You never enter the same poem/ river/ flight path twice. Copus’s autobiographical poems are as richly detailed as novels, with roaring trains (and, sometimes, people)
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