In this debut collection, there is a poem called “Five Years Trying to Win the Flower Show Vegetable Animal Class”. Entries include an aubergine bird of paradise, and a potato humpback whale with “eyes for a blowhole, and also for eyes”. Like her speaker’s perennially highly commended sculptures, Julia Bird’s poetry dismantles the everyday and builds it into new shapes.
Her poems are collages, in which cuttings of familiar words, phrases and objects – Big Macs, business meetings, men walking into bars to deliver punchlines – reappear in unfamiliar contexts. Rizlas look different by the end of a poem about smoking, when
“the distance between us/is king-sized, and blazing”. An ingenious reworking of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 16” uses pieces from a fridge-magnet poetry kit to form Hopkins-esque compounds: “Let me not to the boy-girl-melt of good selfs/Say die. Heart-fire is not heart-fire . . .”
Bird is a skilled manipulator of sound, yet her poems are best when this is least obvious, and her most successful lines are often her simplest. She knows that roll-ups and chocolate bars can also be the food of love. Hers is the language of supermarket tragedies, of the intense emotions behind the tiny instants of daily life.