‘a girl in a blue dress’
by Rachel Burns
they’re upsetting the dolls / and that makes her cross
Rachel Burns completed a screenwriting talent scheme with Northern Film and Media and has subsequently been longlisted in several playwriting competitions. She is an alumnus of the 2018 Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Programme in playwriting, and also has had short stories published in Mslexia, Here Comes Everyone and Signs of Life anthology. She is widely published in literary magazines including The Moth, Butcher’s Dog and Ink, Sweat & Tears, and is currently participating in the Creative Future/TLC development programme, where she is working on her debut novel.
Rachel and I encountered each other during a poetry course last year. Her ability and brilliance were immediately apparent, and this collection packs a hefty punch. It is, for me in places, a salutatory reminder of my own childhood and of how moments and experiences in childhood are a key to future direction and development.
What’s in it for Me?
Here are literal slices of Rachel’s history that have been shaved from her imagination and presented to the reader for examination. She pulls absolutely no punches with subjects either: from the uncompromising horror of Teenage Pregnancy to stark reminders of poverty and motherhood in Demolished via an identifiable, detached calm in The Dolls that you’ll immediately recognize if you lived in a similar world.
In-between the starkness however are incredibly accomplished, beautifully photographic moments of brilliance: I challenge you not be able to smell and feel the atmosphere in Sacriston Girls on the Night Bus, or the slow creeping horror of Sean. There’s not one bad poem in here either, everything combines to paint a stark, unrelenting picture from an imagination that knows all too well how to tell stories in the most compelling means possible.
How we become the adults we are inevitably is painted and tainted by our early life experiences. Rachel’s true talent is to not be afraid of those moments on the page: a masterful command of language and an unerring attention to detail make it impossible to look away, which in turn gives each piece of work added impact and significance. This is a pamphlet you must own, for no other reason than it’s a brutally brilliant mirror on how the past pushes us to escape its terrors in the search for a better future.
Rachel and the Seven Wonders of the World for the imagery
Hail to the Library and the Thief for the inference
Abecedarian for When Hell Freezes Over for the impact
Any Other Business
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Rachel online, what with social media exploding and everything, and it’s always satisfying to find out more about a writer when you’re writing about their work. I had no idea of how well she’s done as a scriptwriter, for instance, and that she’s currently working on a novel. Poetry is a fundamental part of both those other professions too, and I’m suddenly very much looking forward to seeing what that debut novel might read like… and indeed whether Rachel would then adapt her own work…
Buy from the Poet HERE
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