Our featured publication for July is Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma, published by Nine Arches Press.
Deborah Alma’s debut poetry collection Dirty Laundry is raucous, daring and honest, drawing contemporary women’s lives and those of our foremothers into the spotlight. It voices bold, feminist songs of praise: of persistence, survival, adventures of sexual rediscovery, each reclaiming the space to speak its mind and be heard and seen. A perfect remedy for the heartsick and weary, Alma’s intimate and particular poems are resolute enchantments, a form of robust magic. The collection brims with poems which are unafraid of airing secrets, desires and untold stories. From growing up mixed-race and learning to survive as a woman in the world, to tales of the countryside and themes
of escape and finding joy, this book of poems is as vivid as it is frank and fearless. There’ll be no need for any tears, it’ll all come out in the wash…
“These poems stand firmly on the page in torn silk stockings; they are voluptuous, defiant and hedge-witch earthy. Dirty Laundry glimmers with sequins; a speck of blood on a canine tooth; with bright new love after a season of showers” Helen Ivory
“Here is a debut collection that will sweep you away in its generous, welcoming arms: poetry that bears witness to the twin faces of pain and pleasure. Dirty Laundry is a boldly poetic treatise that examines with a stern, clear eye the ravages of male repression and violence but refuses to break faith with the human capacity for healing, growth and love. Electric with metaphor, glorying in friendship, everyday joys and the sensual delights of sex and the natural world, this collection will ambush you with sudden and surprising epiphanies gleaned from a life well lived: immersive, thrilling and redemptive.” Jacqueline Saphra
“This is a collection which glitters with keen observation: ruby slippers, bangles, sunlit, tender moments. The characters in Deborah Alma’s poems are uncompromising and unapologetic: a therapy client tramples over the eggshells of an analyst’s metaphors in Doc Marten boots. These are poems that invite you in and – when you’ve finished reading – invite you to walk a little taller through the world.” Helen Mort
“Haunted by violence, yet refusing to be silent, rooted in the body as a way of experiencing the world and unafraid in their sensuality, these are poems that examine women’s lives in all their complexity, woven through with imagery that lingers in the mind and the heart long after you finish reading.” Kim Moore
An open-windowed church-belled morning
chimes of loss and mine; water pipes sing,
and I bring back to bed a blue enamel
pot of hot coffee, as silk as the slide
of skin on sheets, and rough hot bread
warmed in an oven kept in overnight
and bite into a grape and lazy eyed
the women I have been no longer fight their corners;
cocks-crow, black throats thrown back with old songs,
flown back to all of these edges of me,
they stay and stare, these women, across the hazy
sun-strewn wooden floor of my dreams
and my ageing; the mirror crazed
and hung with beads, the pink and the red
and the purple of the stocks I have grown
and the white of the daisies.
I nearly fell in love once.
He came round and found the list on the fridge,
leant over to read it carefully, winked,
picked up a pencil, and ticked and ticked
and ticked all the boxes.
After I told him it wasn’t working,
my friends and family, astonished,
pointed to the list. But I said,
I will not drink from the cup
that comes up in small tiptoes
and black shoes, that sits
at the end of the bed, waiting;
its mouth an oh of ordinary;
comfort and safety and sex;
a drug of slowing, of rest, like death
They could not see this.
They knew what was best.
Three quarters of the way into my name,
there’s Roshan, roshni, light; that seems to me right,
a silver of bangles on a wrist, round mirror chips
embroidered into the hem of my clothes,
my white skin seen tiny times over,
sequins sewn into my childhood.
This is my light; a cloth weighted
with five bright beads over an English lamp.
And me now, turning on these lights in the dusk,
move still with a shake of bells at my feet,
not quite heard, the light not quite seen.
I sit in the kitchen
in a yellow-striped dress
with deep pockets
thrusting my hands deep,
there is string, a pin,
garden wire and three sweet-pea seeds.
I sit sullen like a child.
On the table a rough grey
plate with flecks of blue and four
chocolate dainty cakes
and five of us in this house.
Deborah Alma was born in North London, and has lived on the Welsh/Shropshire borders for the last 25 years where she brought up her 2 sons and now lives with the poet James Sheard. She teaches creative writing, works with people with dementia and at the end of their lives and is the Emergency Poet in her 1970’s ambulance. She edited The Emergency Poet – An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology and The Everyday Poet – Poems to Live By (Michael O’Mara Books) and was the editor of the landmark #MeToo poetry anthology, published by Fair Acre Press. Her first poetry pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press. Dirty Laundry is her first full collection of poems. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University.
Dirty Laundry is available to purchase from the Nine Arches Press website.