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Review: Forward Prizes for Poetry 2016: Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection – Shortlist

Written by Theophilus Kwek for The London Magazine on Friday, July 15, 2016

These are hard-hitting poems about our most intimate relationships, at once beautiful and raw with Yanique’s honest handling. Early in the collection, ‘Dictionary’, a prose poem, sets the tone: ‘wife – (European origins) a married woman. As in slave in the house. As in chef, maid, nanny and prostitute. But unpaid for these services.’ The rest of the book, like the rest of this piece, challenges our ideas of what words like ‘home’ and ‘family’ mean. Complex historical and rhetorical traditions underpin each poem, taking us into Christian allusion (‘Therapy for a Messiah Complex’, ‘Altar Call’) or colonial history (‘A Slave in the House’, ‘Traditional Virgin Islands Wedding Verse’), but always with an eye to the daily tragedies of domestic relations in the present. The last section, ‘Words (Last, Fighting, True, Etc.)’, emphasizes especially how Yanique’s burnished diction ultimately lends this tough collection its shine.

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