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Review: Yelp!, by Liz Almond

Liz Almond's rich and intelligent poems are well worth tuning into when you get onto their wavelength. I needed to read some of these poems slowly, with great concentration. It helped me to be able to relate to some more relaxed poems, where a wry wit often emerges. Sharon Olds Reads to the Animals is an elaborate conceit, involving, it seems, the poet addressing an audience of stuffed animals, but it leads to a revealing confession it tells me how to live, how she lives, how I could live, fully alert to blood and flesh... There are poems of love and family affection here. Poems about travel, full of lively metaphorical language, are also relatively straightforward. They yield musical language and attractive 'local colour' (poems like The Man Who's Easy on the Eye is on the Beach, Rosita Rules the Roost, Girl Swimming, Bushcraft, Fuente). I liked Girl Dogging, a somewhat sinister poem about sex. Some of Almond's most intellectually ambitious poems, where you feel the ostensible subject-matter is not quite the point but that she aims to go deep, either remain relative conundrums or can sag and go on too long. There are large metaphors here - such as the 'quarantine' metaphor, which haunts the book - which, for me, were never wholly realised.