Crown of Thorns is conceived as a total poem. The intricate patterning of the sequences releases a vortex of sonnets, which are by turns visceral, creaturely, fluid, heart-wrung, wild, true and ruthless. Taken together they create a complex, patterned magic – a swarm of language and sound gathered in with immense skill by Bethany Pope. This is a book of intense and impressive movement and momentum.
This is urgent, fearless autobiography; poems wrought from deep tissue bruises that inhabit the body.
Bethany Pope’s Crown of Thorns is an extraordinary, almost gothic autobiography in the form of linked, unrhymed, acrostic sonnets, the acrostics forming both core narrative and commentary. The devil is in the detail of the writing, which is clear, narrative, and flowing in a muscular way that owes at least part of its muscularity to the necessary compressions of the sonnet form. Here life emerges as myth, a little like Lowell’s Life Studies but with a very different, much less privileged, terrifying, highly coloured life, twining and intertwining out of dark into flashes of brilliant light.
Bethany W Pope’s second book is a contact sheet of bodily dramas, family archaeologies and vivid imagery drawn up from the wells of myth, experience, nature, love. This is the poetry of direct impact; there’s a fierce energy contained in Pope’s work, in the narrative drive and convulsive intimacy of her crafting voice, spilling its load from sonnet to sonnet to make a rich, dense undergrowth teaming with life and lore and connection. Autobiographical, unflinching and visceral, these are wide-screen sonnets packed with the explosive charge of spirit pressed against flesh. Poetry of the short fuse and the long shadow, Crown of Thorns is remarkable achievement and one hell of a ride.