From the Dark Room – Sue Rose
This collection is rich with the life of the body, with flesh, seed, sex, blood, birth, family love, all in language that is truthful, brave and tender. She is poet as daughter paring dead skin from her mother’s feet, as birthing partner to her sister, as mourner for her father, as lover. The family includes ancestral stories of a tribe of Jewish forebears, all described with an affectionate but accurate eye and a true sense that history lives in us.
Sue Rose’s poems are at once lyrical and truthful in their exploration of the difficult transitions in life, and in the intricate relations between daughters and parents, illicit lovers, the bereaved and those they’ve lost. Her filmic eye captures intimate moments and minute details with great precision and formal grace.
Often in Sue Rose’s poems, light turns out to contain darkness and vice versa. In “Hard Skin”, the “callused contours” and disfigurements of ageing feet become a stage where mutual love and need are acted out; in “Making a Gem” the ashes of a married couple “his and hers, light and dark/perhaps” combine, shaped by heat, and form a diamond. Words too, carrying their freight of different meanings and associations – “travelling light”, “the dark room of childhood” – combine, becoming what they always had it in them to be.
Sue Rose knows poetry, without doubt. She knows where it begins, how it ends, she knows the journeys it leads us on, to the hidden places we thought we knew but needed the poem to reveal them. Above all she knows the language, how to use it to enchant and seduce us, the right word in the right place, the timing spot on. She combines economy of style with a seemingly effortless movement through the poem, as in the five-part “Travelling Light,” an impressive major work. She employs words, phrases, and lines that open wide the world for our delectation and revelation. Her precise, finely crafted images are sumptuous but not grandiloquent. She has the ability to look at life, and death, with unsparing clarity, and at the same time with an empathy that never spills over into sentimentality. I’ve seldom experienced such a wonderful first collection.
Robert Vas Dias
Sue Rose is a widely-published literary translator and award-winning poet whose work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. In 2009, she won the prestigious Troubadour Poetry Prize and, in 2008, the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Competition. She has also been commended or placed in competitions such as the National, the Peterloo and the Wigtown. She is a founder member of Scatterlings, a group of poets formed to give readings in the Southeast and beyond.
From the Dark Room was Sue’s first collection, published by Cinnamon Press in 2011, and her pamphlet, Heart Archives, by Hercules Editions in 2014. Her second collection with Cinnamon Press was The Cost of Keys, followed by Scion in 2020.