Citadel: Martha Sprackland

The thing that really stood out in Sprackland’s debut was the sense of cohesion. The first poem ‘Poached Eggs on Toast’ creates images and motifs that are carried through the collection – eggs and yolks appear in many poems. The second and third poems form a mini sequence exploring Sprackland’s memory of being hit on the head as a child – which then segues into the wonderful ‘A Blow to the Head’ where Juana is the speaker remembering a head injury. 

The connection between the poet and Juana of Castile (sixteenth century Queen of Spain) is one of the keynotes of this collection, woven through similar experiences and the return of symbols such as the tin of cocido. Their relationship culminates in the wonderfully surprising image of:

“The crackling string of this makeshift telephone

between two empty tins of cocido

stretches five centuries and is desperate to forget…” in ‘Juana and Martha in Therapy.’

The poetry is at its strongest in observing the detail. Sprackland has a gift for weaving surprising images and making them unsettling and beautiful. Some highlights are the description of a bad tooth as 

“A sealed world setting

like a black egg

incorruptible by amoxicillin”

in ‘Tooth’ and cocido as “meats reclining in an adoring harem of chickpeas.” in ‘Cocido Madrileño’. Such strange observations permeate the poems in this collection, delighting the reader with every turn of the page.

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