A. K. Blakemore
B paperback, 80pp
WINNER of the Ledbury Forte Prize
for Second Collections 2019
'Uninhibited, uncensored, dazzling in its varieties of rhetorical address, Fondue would seem to have reinvented the lyric from scratch. A. K. Blakemore is a magician of shimmering concision, fierce intellect, and disarming juxtapositions. She dares us to be joyful, and at risk.'
Linda Gregerson, Judge of the Ledbury Forte Prize
'Fondue, her second full-length collection, explores the experience of being a woman: what it means to desire, to be desired, and to try to reconcile this desire with feminism and feminist thought . . . Blakemore is steadily and carefully experimenting; the poems in Fondue are consistently engaging and strong.'
'Unravel, ravel, unravel': A.K. Blakemore's Fondue
reviewed by Jenna Clake for Review 31
'[T]he poems in Fondue are captivating in their fearlessness . . . taboos might be reclaimed not just as fury or invigorated language, but also as revelry.'
'Reclaimed experience': Alexa Winik discovers
a powerful 'poetics of vulnerability' for Poetry Review
‘never say / the best of summer’s gone’, the poem asks, a plea for permanence that sustains throughout Fondue, the second collection by A. K. Blakemore. In these louche, candid poems, bearing the marks of Mary Ruefle, Emily Dickinson and The Smiths, the inner life prowls, smoking a cigarette, as the fantasies of sex and violence are allowed to play out in the subjugations that have long been the poet’s concerns. Here they are exposed, interrogated, attacked and cauterised with a fierce melancholy. In Fondue, the prototypes of personal history and regret – ex-lovers and friends, snatched and startling nights of intimacy and rage – are pinned by the investigative presence of Blakemore’s syntax and semantic reach. Here are romances – for places, for people, for the self – voiced with doubt and survival. These lines understand their power to manipulate: ‘this is a poem about my mouth / intended to draw attention / to my mouth’, the title poem instructs. This is what I like; this is what I don’t like – ‘i want you / like a scorpion down my shirt’; ‘i wanted to show it to you’; ‘i want you to describe the pain’ – there is a plaintive charisma in the ability to ask for the things a body needs, as well as the things it needs to understand about other bodies in order to coexist. For all of Blakemore’s defiance, the savagery and storm, this world holds a prismatic, surprising beauty; the beauty of rain-washed streets, of comedown mornings, of the potential for tenderness in the brutality of love and play. The poet who can strike so fiercely at the times when ‘truth is just a sharp thing you stand on in the night’ can also conclude ‘but god i love the world. the things you do’. Tigerish, impetuous, exacting and never self-pitying, Blakemore’s new collection reaffirms her place on the barricades.
'A dazzling and immensely readable collection. These are poems of erotic tenderness and longing, of rarely straightforward dispatches from the world where it is the job of the reader to make sense of the disparate nature of being alive.
‘In Fondue, the vivid imagism of Blakemore’s previous work is cut through with something sharper, a palpable political discourse... The lines of trauma, love and power – power rejected and embraced – that course through Fondue, as well as its too-familiar dusty rooms and cafés, put me in mind of Jean Rhys and her elliptical, skittering, modernist prose, with its moments of dreadful lucidity. If, like me, you’re hard pushed to think of higher praise, I suggest you read this book.’
‘Blakemore’s power as a poet is due not only to her unwillingness to be obvious. She is unfailingly accurate, aiming her words with the precision of a sniper . . . Blakemore’s language is so exact, her imagery so vital and vitalizing, that the poems prove difficult to shake off once they are read.’
'Blakemore's voice is that of an anti-heroine who isn't shy to show her hand – a hand that might have nails like 'bright important spikes', contain 'chipped glass' or sometimes wield a knife. The poems seem to speak for a generation bored of its idols, somehow turning disaffected youth's trademark ennui into something altogether more celebratory.'
'There's something darkly heroic about [Blakemore's] hedonism, its casually worn gift for unkindness . . . Blakemore's poems disprove a truism – they don't care about you, which is why you keep reading them.'
'At times uncomfortably earnest, full of swagger and often gifted with a snarl, A. K. Blakemore's Humbert Summer is a first collection refreshingly sure of its own register, balanced deftly between the lyric tradition and the contemporary world, ambitious in its poetic range and – all too rare for poetry in the UK – utterly resistant to the parochial.'