16 April 2020
B paperback, 80pp
Ella Frears’s debut is a collection of wry, vivid poems whose power lies in their intimacy. They are as insistent as they are circumspect, drawing close to the reader’s ear and bringing them into confidence. The engine of Shine, Darling is one of strength, of fortitude in confronting and surviving the world, of a lifted-chin audacity – ‘There was pain,’ the speaker allows, ‘but it was not new pain.’ Frears’s work is world-weathered rather than world-weary, delighted by service stations, fucking on bins in Cornwall, in constant communion with the moon. It lives for the power-play of people, of the pull of the sea, the smoky air – ‘Stormy, sticky with flies’ – and tangled underbrush where the land ends. Her characters test each other, experimenting with the boundaries of physical violence, of punishment, of traps, all the while drawing the reader into a complicity that gives these poems all their daring, electrifying muscularity. In Shine, Darling, the desire to expose and disclose wrestles with defence and defiance. The result is exhilarating, a ‘glorious full-bodied’ debut collection with the draw of an adamant tide.
‘Uncompromising, intelligent, surprising, accessible and sharp … These lyric poems have a clarity and straightforwardness that only a special kind of attention, and a certain kind of fearlessness can achieve.’ – Mark Waldron