The absurd appeals to her …
A review of my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous was published in The North, issue 64. It was written by the poet Jane Routh. Some extracts below:
“When she is able to make this sort of sidestep into gently absurdity, Fokkina McDonnell lends a frisson of the surreal to her poems about memories and family and her considerations of ageing and travel and works of art.”
“Several poems deliver what their titles might not lead you to expect, such as ‘My husband on his seventh birthday’ – a young boy ‘who sits and wonders about God / the Devil, those Christian brothers’.
A deep cupboard in a dark room
Noel Williams, the Review Editor for orbis published a positive review of my debut collection Another life in #178, Winter 2016, under the title A deep cupboard in a dark room.
“As with many debuts, this is somewhat eclectic, representing the best of the poet’s work as she develops her voice. Consequently, there is a variety of forays in different directions, each leading to different pleasures for the reader.” […] “Wit and sideways glances work well with quirky subjects or unusual prompts. The poet can be happily surreal – the enjoyable list poem Things I want you to bring when you next visit moves from the concrete detail of Three or four bags of liquorice to the impossibilities of the silhouette of a village church; / and the wide, sandy, shell-scattered beach. In other examples there’s a dislocation of viewpoint which leads to unexpected insight or imagery: Canteen: I am a table spoon. The knives are to my left. Conversely, many pieces apparently come from direct experience.
As a psychotherapist, it is not a surprise that she peers under layers of a persona, particularly in writing which reflects on her family. The opening poem almost makes this explicit: and pain starts when sounds die (The Vienna of Sigmund Freud) which identifies a core characteristic: McDonnell’s wish for more to be intended than is said. Many of the pieces do not explain themselves (and those that do are hence perhaps less interesting). Their surface pleasures seem to suggest a further significance which can only be guessed at; a meaning hidden in a secret chamber which may turn out to be a different revelation for different readers.
Separation is powerful because its nine lines of tight imagery do not explain themselves, beyond the title. Or Eel, which seems concretely imagined from within the consciousness of an eel, and yet throughout, feels as if it is actually about something else: Today the sand is warm. / I’m safe in my skin. The simplicity of these poems belies their subtlety. It’s a collection written with an intelligence that’s wicked, weird and insightful.”
Review by Sam Smith, Editor of The Journal
Sam Smith published a warm, positive review of my pamphlet A Stolen Hour in The Journal, #60: ‘Any collection that dares a Henry Moore sculpture on its cover demands, nay deserves to be read. This collection seems comprised mostly of memory poems, that is poems that explore the uncertainty of memory, her own or those absorbed into her own. There are paintings and old photos interpreted, brought anew into life, events too. Just as I was expecting another such, she made me laugh out loud with her repetitive Some Women. And so poignantly is her poem Strangers that I had to blink away a tear. While I have folded down a corner so that I can return to A la Hafiz whenever I feel the need for some tranquillity. This is a collection I will pull off the shelf and press on friends.’