This Is Not a Rescue is the eagerly-awaited debut collection from Emily Blewitt. These poems move in various registers, keyed to their subject-matter. There are pieces that take a playful approach to the author’s native Wales (‘How to Explain Hiraeth to an Englishman’, ‘How to Marry a Welsh Girl’) which resist cliché by subverting our expectations. Similarly, there are several sharp, satirical poems about modern office life; these paint a familiar scene, redolent of boredom and lechery (‘When I Think of Bald Men’, ‘The Question’).
The author’s coolly intelligent wit is to the fore in ‘Devouring Jane’, which updates Jane Austen’s heroes for a 21st-century Elizabeth Bennet. There are also a number of instructional poems, survival guides for the modern heroine: ‘Woman Poet’, ‘Self-Defence’, ‘Things My Dance Teacher Used to Say’. These contrast with some intensely personal lyrics that touch on childhood trauma, on depression, on sexual and domestic violence (‘When in Recovery’, ‘Sometimes I Think of Chapel’, ‘Forgiveness’). The revealing honesty of these pieces makes for compelling reading.
There are also poems inspired by popular culture, for a TV and internet-saturated age: ‘The Walking Wed’, ‘On Watching Paranormal Witness’, ‘Boba Fett and the Sarlacc’.
Perhaps most striking, however, are the number of startlingly beautiful love poems: ‘The Philobrutist’, ‘I Threw Myself at You’, ‘We Broke Up’, ‘Navigation Points’. Often a poem will initially seem to be about a landscape or an animal – say, a bird (‘Honeyguide’) – but this ostensible subject matter is a mere prelude to subtle declarations of passion, of yearning, of desire.
Also here are two sequences: one inspired by crows, and the other by a favourite cat. The author’s appealingly wry, thoughtful manner, a delightfully circuitous wit, and her pointed intelligence, make this book one of the best and most entertaining debuts you are likely to read this year.