The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Poetry Review

Frankie McMillan: There are no horses in heaven

Canterbury University Press, New Zealand, 2015

102 pages

25 NZD, 18.99 USD

 

Poetry Review by Agnes Marton (Hungary/ Luxembourg)

Published in The Ofi Press issue 44.

 

 

 

In her latest collection, ‘There are no horses in heaven’, Christchurch poet Frankie McMillan explores human nature (and what it feels like to be human, “gabbing our names, where we’d / come from and who would know /how this would end” (‘Observing the ankles of a stranger’).

What can save us? McMillan gives numerous answers in her poems: curiosity, oddities, details, the knowledge of the fearless, dreams, emotions (expressed through myths), metamorphosis, daring and at the same time veil-like language, humour and tenderness. She examines relationships in all seriousness, facing tragedy and loss, but through comical moments.

 

“He keeps a menagerie

of glass giraffes

 

wrapped in a yellow cloth

long necks sticking out

 

his father in dark goggles

thick hood over his head

 

stretches colour

 

molten is the word that conjures

the lassoing of glass

 

with tungsten pick,

the mad heat and thrum of the room

 

once there was a woman, but

as in all fairy tales she fled

 

the man spins a glass dress

filling the space with his breath”

                        (The glass blower’s boy)

 

McMillan gets astonished by the magic of everyday life (“her bone corset // begins to sing” –The travelling corsetiere; “say the crafting of a shoe / as if it were a living thing” – The accordion players). In her world all the characters are colourful and artistic, and even the occupations are unusual, fantastical: corsetière making, bell ringing, glass blowing. Every detail contains cause and consequence: “(…) the clean carcass / of evening sky” (The taxidermist dissects his dream).

These are badass but compassionate, haunting poems, sometimes in neat couplets (Coddle), sometimes with the breathless utterance flow of a frightened child (In the nick of time, a deer) or wife (We three). Her approach is often surreal, at times cinematographic.

The cover is by Lyttelton artist Nichola Shanley, original artwork, reflecting our close connection to the animal world (especially to horses). Throughout the book – the cover image, the titles of poems, and the dividing pages – we meet the colour blue. It adds to the soothing quality of the collection.