pared-down precision and scorching intensity? Helen Dunmore
About Rebecca Goss
Rebecca Goss has described poetry as ‘an invitation to look very closely at something’, and her refined, spare style certainly supports this idea; as Val McDermid has written, ‘[her] language is precise and evocative, the images sharp as a photograph’.
Goss grew up in Suffolk and returned to live there in 2013, after twenty years spent in Liverpool. She has published two collections of poetry, The Anatomy of Structures (Flambard Press, 2010) and Her Birth (Carcanet, 2013). Her Birth garnered much acclaim: shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection and winner of the poetry category in the 2013 East Anglian Book Awards, it also secured Goss her place on the Poetry Book Society’s prestigious list of Next Generation Poets in 2014. But this is not to overlook her well-received first collection with its bold and unsettling poems on desire and domesticity – what John Glover in Stand describes as ‘the most intimate experiences of life and death both shocking and simple’ – such as ‘A Man Greets His Wife from Her Short Break Away’, in which an encounter with a teenage girl missing a leg takes on an uncomfortable eroticism.
Both of Goss’s collections are characterised by a candid engagement with the life of the body – an apparent plainspeaking that succeeds in delivering what we might consider to be some of the hardest or most unsayable things. This may be most evident in her second collection, a wrenching series of poems written in the aftermath of the death of Goss’s daughter Ella, at sixteen months, from Severe Ebstein’s Anomaly, a rare heart condition. Though these are poems of mourning, they remain fiercely attached to life, to the ways in which the needs of the body (whether grieving or dying) assert themselves, the way a body leaves its mark on the world. As the Guardian review of the collection noted, ‘For all its anguish, this is not a collection that succumbs to despair’; the final poems in the book are addressed to Goss’s second daughter, Molly, ushering in a new, more hopeful chapter: ‘let’s head for your undiscovered life, / your mother’s ready now, let’s run’.