Review: The Girl Aquarium

I feel like every time I talk about a poetry collection, I preface it with 'I don't know much about poetry, but....' and that's kind of true: I don't know much about poetry, and I certainly don't read much of it, but it struck me as I came to chat about The Girl Aquarium by Jen Campbell which was published in the spring and which I am the tardiest ever in reviewing because I don't know much about poetry, that actually, who says I have to? I mean, is it not more about whether I liked it, or not? Whether it made me feel things, or not? Whether I came away from reading it feeling like I'd gotten something positive from the experience, or not? I'm not about to re-sit any exams after all, I don't need to make notes in pencil in the margins and try to analyse exactly what each stanza, each word means. I just have to say whether I liked it or not.

I liked it.

So, this is not Jen's first foray into poetry, in case you didn't know. Whilst her other published books are not poetry (Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops; The Bookshop Book; The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night), she's written and had published tons of other poetry and, if you were to ask me I think I would have always described her as a poet; even her prose is somewhat poetic, and so it was in no way a surprise to me when The Girl Aquarium became a thing. & what a thing it is.

As you expect from Jen's work the collection touches on sexuality, feminism and bodily difference, it makes a point, packs a punch and has a heart and it's's so clever. Jen's imagery blows me away every - single - time and this is no exception, seriously, the pictures she paints, the way her words dance off the page, it gives me goosebumps and of course it has a feel of the fairytale to it and I am always and forever here for that.

I love how Jen lays herself bare in this collection - how a lot of what she touches on is deeply personal but she doesn't shy away from that, it's like she reaches deep into herself and uses that to write these poems that made me reach deep into myself. Does that even make sense? Basically, she's not afraid to let what makes her, make her stronger. & it totally does. This book made me goosey, and it made me cry. I know right: a poetry collection moved me to tears, what is going on, but it did.

Also: dialect. A few of the poems are written in dialect and s'a weird one for me, because sometimes I find it hard to read - hard to get involved because I'm trying to work out what it says, however,  that's when I'm reading a book; it worked differently here, it added personality somehow, it just made sense. It worked. It really brought this North Eastern world Jen's talking about to life and I loved it. I'm glad though I think that it wasn't the whole of the book; I'll always prefer not-dialect to dialect.

Jen's writing is magical and whimsical and also somewhat dystopian and I love it. I am so here for whatever she puts out next. I remain, as ever, captivated.