Review: ‘Shine, Darling’ by Ella Frears

I first came across Ella Frears’ work in Tate, St Ives gallery. She is a young, Cornish, poet (now based in London) who has been ‘poet in residence’ at St Ives for a couple of years. I was entranced by her observations about exhibits in the gallery in 2019 when I was in God’s Own County on holiday, and dragged my brother round the Hepworths. Then I met her work again in 2020 when, between lockdowns, I made a dash for the Naum Gabo exhibition at Tate, St Ives. This time I saw her first collection for sale in the bookshop, and invested.

Frears writes powerfully about sexual relationships: what she feels about them and what she observes about them. I was astonished how her experiences of puberty, sexual encounters in her twenties, and her relationship with her body mirrored my own – despite me being old enough to be her grandmother. Perhaps it was just that I too (still) remember sand getting into unwanted places. Perhaps she really does have the gift of being able to write about Everywoman. I don’t want to get into the sexual politics of this (and risk poking the sleeping dragon of #MeToo). Read her wise (and foolish) words and learn something about yourself in the process. The title poem is about leaving her partner stuck on the roof during a dinner party (yes really). And wow did it resonate: I have had a few partners of my own who would have been much more attractive stuck on the roof … but how do you proceed when you’ve brought back the ladder and let the blighter down?

In this collection are most of the observations (mainly poetry, some prose poems, some tiny fragments) from Tate St Ives. These are very rich, whether you saw the visual art to which they relate or not.

There is also material here from her association with the Cassini space probe project. One of these – the Elegy – juxtaposes the death of the probe with the violent death of a dog. Tremendously powerful. Do not read on a full stomach.

Frears feels like a fearless poet, prepared to tackle anything – and she has the confidence and a full arsenal of poetical techniques to enable her to do so. The results are fresh, vibrant and sometimes visceral.

I read a lot of recent poetry and I have never read anything quite like this.

Recommended.

Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed.

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