Drop-in: imagery, confessionalism and ‘lying to tell the truth’ in the poetry of Anna Saunders.

I’m particularly delighted to welcome Anna Saunders today to talk about poems in her new collection, ‘Feverfew’.

When I studied for my MA (under the superb Irish poet, Nigel Mcloughlin, at The University of Gloucestershire) we presented a collection of poems and a critical analysis for our final dissertation. This selection of poems went onto be published as the book Struck (Pindrop Press 2014) and though it’s my latest book Feverfew (Indigo Dreams 2021) that I am talking about here, what I said then is still relevant now. In the essay I analysed my work in relation to the Confessional mode, and detailed how my work had been inspired / influenced by the genre birthed by Lowell, Plath and Sexton.

And, whereas I lean a little bit more to Imagism as a genre, than that of the more conversational mode of the true Confessionals, I had much in common with them, and their mode of writing poetry that ‘lied in order to the tell the truth’.

My poems are usually about personal, emotional or physical subjects – I have written about grief, heartache, politics, passion, the joys inherent in a life lived alongside family and friends – but I often dress these autobiographical themes in a dramatic setting that is at least particularly manufactured.

Feverfew is full of intense experiences, and in some cases it is as pure reportage as poetry can ever be – in others, well let’s say I have set the stage for the actors, or in the language of the genre, ‘ the personas’ to come in.

Some of my poems use a dusty, half-buried memory to dress a universal theme, for example, my poem Rare – set in a rather pretentious bistro I once visited in a Cotswolds town, which served awful gourmet food but was rich with historic ambiance – there were tapestries on the wall and a stone floor.

I excavated this setting to use as the background for a poem in which a couple are eating offer priced, uncooked steak –food which acts as a symbol for the bloodied nature of their relationship.

The theme of the poem is a universal truth, that ‘love’ can be violent, that those who profess to love can hurt each other deeply and even physically.

My poems deploy vivid imagery that will enable the reader to experience the scene, in this case the imagery of food.

As the male protagonist recites poetry the wife consumes the meat

As in many of my poems, I use the language of myth and legend to hint at other readings and meanings – in this case I reference Persephone, abducted by Hades to hint at a darkness, at the oppressive and controlling nature of the relationship.

In the final lines of the poem the double meaning of the title – ‘Rare’ plays out.

Using a real setting gave me the concrete details I needed, to ensure the reader could live in my poem through sensory details.

I ‘lied to tell the truth’ in other poems within Feverfew.

I used a real setting for my poem The Sands are Golden Ghosts, and a lived emotion – but a fictional drama.

I come from Hoylake, in Wirral and the beaches are heavenly – open expanses of golden sand with huge skies, where you can feel incredibly free.

I used this setting yet with a fictional character to talk about love and loss.

Since losing my dad (just over 10 years ago) I have written a great deal about loss and death.

Sometimes the poems are entirely autobiographical, candid ‘ confessions’, in others are narrative based dramas using fictional persona. I do this so I can speak to anyone who has lost a loved one, and not necessary to death .

In this poem I depict a widow walking on the beach, her dog coming across a gruesome find.

Images in poems do so much work to physically place the story, and the hole goes on to have symbolic relevance too.


The epiphany, or reveal of the poem is that we can suffer pain and loss yet appear unchanged on the surface – a universal truism and one I suggested through imagery, a dramatic scenario and telling details.

And yes, I did see a seal, torn apart by gulls, a gruesome sight – but isn’t everything material for the poet?

 

Read my review of the outstanding Feverfew next week.

2 thoughts on “Drop-in: imagery, confessionalism and ‘lying to tell the truth’ in the poetry of Anna Saunders.

  1. Excellent exposition by Anna Saunders. There is so much to take from each of the poems in Feverfew that I struggled to limit my blog post to an acceptable length in my review earlier this month. I chose to focus on just four of the forty one poems, knowing that such a review would not bring forth the full flavours of the collection. The two poems she expands upon here were not included, proving that very point

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