Featured Publication – How to Wear Grunge by Ruth Stacey

Our featured publication for January is How to Wear Grunge by Ruth Stacey, published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press.

Ruth Stacey’s How to Wear Grunge eschews nostalgia and the self-fulfilling mythology of rock’s nearly-famous excesses for a fierce, feminist holler back into the feedback of another place and time, in all its bleached and sticky-carpeted illusions and almost-glory. Between truth or dare narratives that toy with the tension of hard facts – “Too gloomy, tell me about the prettiness again. / No. Tell me the worst thing” – these poems are wild and wise, and faultlessly written. There is a beating rock’ n’ roll heart of riot-grrl rebellion in every line. Stacey is a fearless and utterly compelling writer, whose candid, courageous poetry takes on the prevailing narrative and places women at the very epicentre.” Jane Commane

In How to Wear Grunge, Ruth Stacey has achieved a bittersweet examination of brutal youth and violent love, with expert attention to the timing of acceptance, obsession and revelation. There’s almost a contact-high to these poems, an intoxication that has been carefully crafted to provide relief from the horrors of the past and of each other, creating a deceptively fragile romance of a sub-culture that encouraged the dirt and distortion of the fragmented self. However, once we have questioned the lives of the damaged, haunted souls in this cool as hell collection, what burns through is strength and survival, wounds that gush with the language of dark joy, the sweet stink of dope and incense, a promise (to past, present and future selves) tightly rolled into a joint so full of flavour it will leave your mouth watering. How to Wear Grunge is ultimately a kaleidoscopic questionnaire. There are no right or wrong answers. In the end, we all dance to something. We make noise, we hurt each other and, sometimes, we forgive.” Bobby Parker



Her Name

She left a quickly scrawled business card, listing her attributes:
bright, witty, sexy, tenacious, generous,
irresistible, reckless, wild, petite biche

Name: Carey Hunter

Age: 20

Address: Somewhere familiar, cold snap in the air, city buzzing,
guitar music playing, lyrics aim and circle: theme gloom/not gloom.

Voice: Growl, low, high, light, whispered, bellowed, impossible
to describe. Butterfly made of paper, caught in the draft.

Eyes: Fox coloured. I’m certain, fox-russet, copper.

Smell: You can’t smell her through the internet. Come on.



Drinking in the park, drinking on a false id
Drinking cider, thunderbirds, 20/20, taboo
Drinking to get courage, drinking to dance
Drinking, drinking, drinking until you
Fall over & say all the wrong things
Shout, cry, get lost, kiss the wrong man
Kiss the right girl, feel nothing, drink!

Drink too much for your small frame
Drink like all the boys you hang with
Drink so much at your work drinks
You have to take some ecstasy to sober up
Drink so you have to apologise: sorry, sorry!
Drink like you are in the longhouse,
Drink because sobriety is painful, drink!


people would drift in

at different times, everyone would wait
play pool, drink cheap beer
upstairs, at The Crown
go & score from the bloke
who had the scar across his cheek
Tony someone? forgotten now

the Seattle singer was dead but his voice
his voice and other pine-tinged voices
played on repeat in a small town
landlocked, far from America
far from the chill Pacific North West:
this was the Shire, rolling hills
and Porcelain factory jobs

this was strange, why
we all loved punk and grunge
listening to bands in the art deco
theatre, hanging off the steps
female singer howling still
but I think
it was the dirty drugs honesty


The Real Truth

this phrase annoys me: what is real
what is true,
everything is filtered through bias
memories that re-arrange like landscapes

it’s familiar……………… but something dark has grown
shading the whole left side of it all
or the unkempt, tangled bushes have been strimmed
back to grass and everything is simplified
………………………………….she was in love
with a rock star who died, she died too


Ruth Stacey’s poetry collection Queen, Jewel, Mistress was published by Eyewear Publishing 2015. Alison Weir wrote that, ‘Ruth Stacey’s poems are exceptional. They evoke voices long silenced, and the very essence of these past lives and the ages in which they were lived.’
Her recent pamphlet, Inheritance, was published by Mother’s Milk Books 2017. A duet with another poet, Katy Wareham Morris, it explored the 19th-century experience of motherhood, contrasted with a 21st-century mother’s voice. Inheritance won Best Collaborative Work at the 2018 Saboteur Awards.
Her latest poetry collection, How to Wear Grunge, was published November 2018 and is available from Knives, Forks & Spoons press. Jane Commane wrote that, “Stacey is a fearless and utterly compelling writer, whose candid, courageous poetry takes on the prevailing narrative and places women at the very epicentre”
Ruth Stacey works as a lecturer in Creative Writing at Worcester University and designs the poetry book covers for V.Press. Stacey is currently writing the imagined memoir, in poetry, of the artist Pamela Colman Smith for her PhD.


How to Wear Grunge is available to purchase from the Knives Forks and Spoons Press website.

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