Pinetorch by Ainslee Meredith 1 Comment

Pinetorch by Ainslee Meredith

It is always encouraging to see former Voiceworks contributors and editorial committee members make it to the next stage of their careers. Ainslee Meredith is both, so her debut collection Pinetorch – released as part of Express Media’s New Voices series* – was eagerly met by the team. You can pick up a copy of your very own here.

The twenty-nine pages of Pinetorch are packed with twenty-three curious and crystalline poems. These poems seem to at once dwell in ancient worlds – populated by kings, elk, hunters, skeletons, peat bogs, and pagan gods – and be shot through with the present: coat hangers, Indian grocers, machinery. One of my favourite poems of the collection, ‘8700 Years’, eerily demonstrates this synthesis:

‘…the petrified trunks
become you, and I
lie down to dream of the elk’s white
pupils opening again when they fish
her out, machines cutting silver
through that oxygenless bed…’

The landscapes of Pinetorch are often petrified in some way. There are tombs and petrified forests, statues and ice rinks, echoing libraries, museums, and department stores. For all this, the poems do not give an impression of lifelessness. Figures and voices move among them as lightly and wisely as spirits, leaving behind traces of smoke, warmth, breath, and scent. They live as and alongside memory, often seeing in terms of recollection:

‘I remember sweat-dark,
bitter mandrakes,
the smell of gas oven cooking
nothing at all.’

(‘Blue Tonic’, p12)

It is perhaps this emphasis on the past that makes the imagery of Pinetorch feel so familiar. Familiar as it is, however, it always has a strangeness about it, as memories do when isolated from their context. Pinetorch is an uncanny debut, full of dark echoes and warm-breathed ghosts, which linger on long after the last page of the collection is turned.

By Laura Woollett

* supported by the Ian Potter Foundation, the New Voices Series will see four outstanding poets across the country mentored by established poets on their way to publishing their first collected works.

Of Ainslee’s debut, mentor Sarah Holland-Batt is full of praise.

‘Pinetorch is a brilliant and unnerving debut,’ says Holland-Batt. ‘Crammed with a miscellanea of curious objects—radium bulbs, trumpeter swans, Undark paint—and executed with skill and verve, these terse, vertiginous poems render the familiar unfamiliar and haunt with their subtle and understated power. Meredith’s vision is cinematic, dark, and utterly new, and Pinetorch marks her as an already accomplished poet of great promise.’

Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a fiction editor at Voiceworks. She likes butterflies, lace, tarot cards and true crime. Find her here.

  • unicornsandlungfish

    In Ainslee poems I find a world that is mazed and walled by hauntingly inviting. And the blue of her book cover permeates the text so magically. I cannot give enough praise.

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