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Review: Twist, by Pippa Little

I first came across Pippa Little's poetry a year ago, in the library at Hawthornden castle, and found myself copying out several of the poems from Overwintering , such were their distinctive voice and quality. Little took me into the world I always felt poets should inhabit: curious, on the edge, filled with new ways of seeing and saying, by turns dark, light, strange and shadowy. Twist takes me back there again; it's filled with rain and darkness, storms, crows, roads, wishbones, knots and light between worlds.

Once again the voice is consistently and conspicuously hers - edgy, lyrical, rigorous, relentlessly exact - but the subjects are delightfully and surprisingly various. Peace activist Helen Steven scratching a poem by Adrienne Rich onto the door of her police cell; Grace Poole sewing a shawl for Bertha in the unlit world of Jane Eyre; Radnoti, a Hungarian Jewish poet who was shot on a forced march in 1944 and whose notebook of poems was retrieved from his pocket when his body was exhumed from a mass grave - indeed, this poem, 'Moleskins', is one of several of my favourites, with its 'inward-looking universe', ending with a hand slipping inside Radnoti's wet greatcoat, while 'all things struggle/like particles, lead filings, not to fly apart.'


Little, a Scot born in Tanzania, who now lives in Northumberland, has a growing reputation. Overwintering was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize, Twist was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Best Poetry Book 2017, and I am confident she will keep surprising us with her original and curious work - unbalancing yet held.


So, all in all, Twist is simply another marvellous collection from Pippa Little, agile and life-affirming.