Rachael Clyne reviews ‘Girl, Falling’ by P.B. Hughes


Girl, Falling by P.B. Hughes


Every poem born of love or hope / is a risk

P.B. Hughes writes with intelligence and wit about her search for an authentic self. Girl, Falling is a pamphlet full of edgy language and varied layout that sometimes flows, sometimes disrupts– at times with unfinished lines. However, Hughes’ work is well crafted and accessible. My test of a good book is if I read it straight through, without stopping, and this was the case.

The book starts with a relationship demise and how, despite efforts to submerge herself to her partner’s needs– he unexpectedly leaves her. Hughes’ work conveys a struggle to emerge from gender bias and relationship. She examines language and punctuation, even the word No. In her opening poem, Dear World, she likens herself to punctuation, I am a full stop then a comma and finishes by saying:
i was light stilled to shadow
your negative

She questions society, Binary thinking is the pinball/of politicians, and reality, Don’t’ start with the assumption / that anything is real. Questions for a Lake, a list poem, is one of my favourites. It is also a poem of self-enquiry, including such questions as: What colour is your vision? Does silence exist? Did you feel like an outcast? At what depth are your secrets?

The poem that follows is Falling, in which she decides to enter the waters of self-discovery by plunging into a swimming lake. Water continues to be a theme throughout. In a later poem she is at sea with loss and little to navigate by.

There is intimation of rape, condoned by her partner. Poems that follow this seem more fragmented while delving deeper for answers. Some end with unfinished sentences:

Knee Deep in the North Sea

Take the fish and the selfie.
Fist the beach. Take home
a fistful of sand to hell with it.
Take out the metaphors and

escalator– a narrow shaft of a prose poem, ends:

few interact with the
blank sea rising
and falling to the
sound recording of a

A daughter, born via C-section, brings the possibility of love.  Dressing a Daughter, is a mother’s poem for a girl growing strong:

My daughter’s shoes are red like her heart
She wears them fiercely
Red shoes to climb trees

and when her daughter wants to daub her lips with red shoe polish, she ponders how to voice concerns for safety over experiment:

Do I
Talk about the a and b scenarios
– the safety of lipstick
for girls, the safety of shoe polish
for lips – ?

There are political nuances, Footnotes on Genocide, and on xenophobia, Keep Your Distance.  However, the last four poems bring a more positive note, expressing gratitude and a need for radical hope. Waters of loss and searching become a downpour of rain, with the welcome shelter of domestic contentment:

Clothes hung above an Aga afterwards
all I could smell was rain
rain in your hair
on your skin
as I stood behind you in a borrowed kitchen
while you buttered toast

Her final poem Source, feels triumphant, yet still twists and questions:

I keep coming back to you
back to source. Like salmon
although I hate the thought

of its brash belly clap on water…

But I am not a fish…

I carry the imprint
of a place to which
I keep coming back.



Order your copy of Girl, Falling (Gatehouse Press) by PB Hughes here: http://www.gatehousepress.com/shop/collections/girl-falling/

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Mick Corrigan




No more ordinary mornings

There are no more ordinary mornings
when Greenland comes pouring through your letterbox
and the chickens have stopped giving milk,
when you don’t have to go to the sea anymore
as the sea is now coming to you.

There are no more ordinary mornings
when anger clouds like ink in water
and the cure seems worse than the disease
to those who should know better but don’t.

There are no more ordinary mornings
when the rain dark clay of March
refuses the spade and turns its face away,
when the dusty bed where a fertile river ran
is home now to nothing but the rushing diarrhoea
of blogging, vlogging and reality tv.

There are no more ordinary mornings
when the last days of summer
are the last days of summer ever,
when undertakers mutter about
how that was a very popular glacier,
how it’s bound to be a very big funeral
how a very large casket will be needed
for all the thoughts and prayers.



Mick Corrigan‘s  debut Deep Fried Unicorn, was released in to the wild in 2015. His poems have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize (USA) and The Forward Poetry Prize (UK).He is currently completing his second collection Life Coaching for Gargoyles which, when finished, will be launched like a clown from a cannon.  He spends his time as though he has an endless supply of it, between Ireland and the island of Crete. He plans to do wild and reckless things with his hair before it’s too late.

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Mark Totterdell





From an upstairs window here at home,
the double line of ragged hills looks flat
as file dividers in slightly different tones
of blue. The thrill of finding a wide realm
between them! Old farms with undead yellow elms,
immense bronze globes of oaks, silver power lines,
field beyond field like undiscovered rooms
in  semi-lucid dreams, the shaggy grasslands
where owls bomb down on voles. Among maize haulms,
a stone like a misformed egg has cracked wide open
where the plough has caught it, and there’s a whole
tiny intricate crystal world within it.
It’s time to draw back and close the cabinet.



Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are This Patter of Traces (Oversteps Books, 2014) and Mapping (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).

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Gill Horitz




About Breath

we’re together round a small screen
like I remember when you were young
round the hearth   but there’s no flame
and the doctor is pointing with a red pen
at a cavity between your lungs   talking
about lymphocytes which have formed
like a new territory   a whereabouts
we’re heading towards   and this breath
this every-day in and out   is sucked
with a gasp   the force of a fist
inside my chest   and I am aghast
how my breath I hardly notice   now breathes


Gill Horitz lives near Wimborne, Dorset.  Her writing has been published in magazines and anthologies, including Mslexia, Smiths Knoll, Frogmore Papers, Tears in the Fence, Rialto and anthologies.  Her pamphlet, All The Different Darknesses, was published by Cinnamon Press,.

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Nicki Heinen





This is my dead letter
my notebook of sifted seeds
my kraken spilly of ghost thoughts

In the middle of the night
when it is soft and
varnished as a boat’s hull,
when the angels
and dogs have gone to sleep

I send you a grey gull to
lick feathers into your lovely eyes
I finger the ventricles of your
mended heart, stitch one button
to your mouth so you can
see again, so you see me again



Nicki Heinen is widely published in magazines and anthologies, including Magma and Bad Betty Press. She hosts Words & Jazz at the Vortex Jazz Club. Her pamphlet Itch is out with Eyewear Publishing, and was an LRB Bookshop Book of the Year.

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