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  • Catriona Fida

What Girls Do in the Dark


What Girls Do in the Dark is the beautiful new poetry collection from Rosie Garland. The collection introduces the reader to a world of deep-space, mythology and medicine, at the point of which being and non-being collide. Human experiences of the body are replicated in this liminal space, documenting the many possibilities and complexities of our existence. Through presenting human frailty from a position that is beyond our realm of experience, Garland enables the reader to better see their wants, fears and, ultimately, themselves.


A deeply personal collection, some of the poems draw on Garland’s personal experiences of throat cancer, being adopted and coming to terms with her sexuality. In interviews, Garland admits that she writes for people who don’t 'fit in' and that she is not interested in writing about narrow worlds. She regularly discusses sexual and gender fluidity which is perfectly mirrored by this collection’s search for concrete truths about the universe. This theme is similarly rendered by juxtapositions of lightness and darkness and how it is within this darkness that people are able to hide their true selves.


I have many favourite poems from this collection but one that really stuck with me was ‘Heirlooms’ which explores the female body and it being a site for trauma, passed down through generations. This poem has a strong mythological element to it and I loved how this poem (along with a few others) focused on the complex bonds between women. Another poem I enjoyed was ‘Personal aphelion’ which relates the world of medicine and sickness in the body to the sun’s orbits and the relationships between opposing forces. While I have picked out two poems that particularly resonated with me, part of this collection’s charm is in how the individual poems have been curated to work together and form an overall impression. As I read more of the poems, I found myself increasingly wrapped up in the world that Garland has created and I finished this collection desperate for more.


This is one of my favourite poetry collections from this year. It’s rare that I read something completely unique but I can honestly say that I haven’t read anything that remotely compares to this. As you have probably gathered from this review, I loved What Girls Do in the Dark and would urge anyone with an interest in feminist and/or queer poetry to pick this one up!


What Girls Do in the Dark is out tomorrow (15th October 2020). A big thank you to Nine Arches Press for my review copy.

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