"This astonishingly moving debut collection reads compellingly as one complete story. missing
covers the archetypal journey from sickness and near-death to transformation and hope. Rycroft wears her exquisite poetic technique lightly -- though rich in deftly-crafted images, the poems are profoundly inviting, readable, memorable. I could not put it down."
, novelist and poet
Beverly Rycroft's debut collection is an extraordinary achievement. Tracing the traumatic journey from the discovery of cancer through the no less traumatic treatment of the disease to the rediscovery of joy, her poems also trace, with exquisite attentiveness, the lives of those who shared her journey with her: from her husband, children and parents to the encounters with wielders of blades--from the surgeon to the hairdresser "Who set the razor so unwillingly/to a number four/then eased it/across my scalp/to liberate my long, thick hair." How complexly charged the word "liberate" becomes in lines like these. Living in South Africa, the poems cannot fail to reflect, too, the freighted landscape of that country, again in poems of delicate awareness of the multiple kinds of suffering that extend beyond the ambit of the poet's own terrible ordeal: "Grace by Name," "Prayer," and "Tuesday is Rubbish Day" are notable here. In a similar vein, other poems recall the power of Sylvia Plath to marry personal pain with a wider historical anguish: look especially at the remarkable "Alterations" and "Poetry Class 2008: write a poem on the theme of breastfeeding." Several of the poems draw their power from different sources, though: a sometimes whimsical, sometimes mischievous sense of the fantastic or a more disturbing sense of the surreal (the telephone that bears the terrible news "perches beside my unmade bed/wings folded, eyes shut/feigning sleep"). Or the abiding capacity to find strength in satire, wit and, perhaps most notable, of all, tenderness. The poems stitched so carefully together in Missing will repay many, many readings.
Dr Lesley Marx,
University of Cape Town
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