Praise for Surfacing:
‘There is a lot to love about Annest Gwilym’s Surfacing, a debut pamphlet of honest, beautiful writing which bravely explores the human condition.
The opening poem, Dead eyes of my street’s windows, is a powerful beginning. The reader is invited into the loneliness of life, the feeling of a person trapped inside their home, alone, watching the goings-on of an outside world. The last line in particular is such a lonely image: ‘the only ones [voices] I may hear for days’.
A few poems later, Label, adds to the story of the narrator held captive by the labels of the world: ‘an unspeakable label/heavy as a dead albatross’. The poem uncovers the labels we give ourselves, as well as those that others give to us.
Overall, we loved the strong images and figurative language throughout the collection. For example, ‘the wind whispers in Latin/I answer in the language of owls’ (A walk in black and white); ‘a magpie waits to pick my eyes out’ (Noon, the ghost hour); and ‘glassy sky punctuated by birds’ (Aftermath).
Towards the end of the collection, Five spice, is a well-crafted mix of taste, colour and smell. Again, the theme of loneliness hits hard, with take-away food the only warmth and comfort. The final piece, Today birdsong is turned up loud, is another wonderful poem, full of sights and sounds, hope, anxiety and joy. An inspirational finish.’ Ion Corcos, poet, and Lisa Reily, writer
Sammi Cox has written an excellent review of the book, to read it click here.
‘The poems in Surfacing are fresh and inspiring. Written with skill and bravery as Gwilym takes us on a powerful journey through illness to emerge strong and resilient. It is a fine collection and ultimately uplifting, but it is the uncompromising journey that stays in the mind, and the knowledge that this could happen to any of us.’ Jim Bennett, The Poetry Kit
‘Annest Gwilym’s debut pamphlet charts the haunting, complex submergence of a mental health breakdown. The slippery internals of struggle are given voice with stark clarity. Unsettling images ripple their silver with a strangeness that lingers. For all the pain and darkness underwater, for every breath held in, these poems surface: bright and triumphant.’ Rachael Smart, writer
‘The poems in Surfacing are well-crafted and engaging. They tell the story of a path that leads into illness and thankfully out again. It is at times dark, but always full of hope. The narrative these poems reveal is one that ultimately shows the poet emerging from the dark recesses of illness back to a world she thought was lost to her.’ Lucy Turnbull, Optimum Poetry Magazine
Beach pottery mosaic
Storm-washed sand-stormed jigsaw, your voices sing as the tide comes in. High-tide the moon rides the waves a ragged hag, disturbing the sea’s mirror. I’m in a million pieces on the beach; nothing aches like the static of tides. You chafe my sharp edges, silky stories in your hand. I gather my broken pieces and send them spinning into Andromeda, Whirlpool, Sombrero. The hurt breakwater and Via Lactea pause whisper that even my broken glass can become sea treasure.
First published in Out of Sight, an anthology of poetry about mental illness published by Disability Arts Cymru (March 2018).
The beach pottery mosaic is a piece of wall-art I made from pottery shards found on various Welsh beaches, while recovering from mental illness. Images of it are below the next poem.
Night swim, Cardigan Bay
The moon circled by a rainbow halo
I swim on its pathway
on a night soft as velvet, clear as quartz.
Slivers of silver shimmy
on the liquid lane as light glistens
on a smoothed chocolate wrapper.
The charcoal brotherly arm of the peninsula
enfolds brine-scented silence,
the thin air of a cathedral.
Fish dart around the ladders
of my legs, underwater forests
of kelp dance and sway.
I am rain cloud, I am salt pawing at the shore,
my eyes oysters, hands sea urchins, feet minnows,
nerves rip tides, heart a tsunami.
Shivering, I return to the firefly lights
of distant houses on leaden land-legs,
quickened by the prickliness of marram.
First published in The Dawntreader (Autumn 2017).
Images of the beach pottery mosaic which features in the first sample poem: