Book Review

Pamper Me To Hell & Back by Hera Lindsay Bird

love love love love love love love

Here it fucking is, here it is here it is here it is.

This is poetry that speaks to me. And maybe I’ve caught it in a good moment, in an uplift, and maybe had I read Hera Lindsay Bird’s chapbook Pamper Me To Hell & Back at a different point in my life I would have had a completely completely completely different reaction, because these beautiful contemporary poems, mostly about love, made me weep hot joyful tears in the hot joyful way that romance kinda makes you feel. I’m no longer a repressed, romantically-moribund depressive hyperventilating in hidden parts of buildings I feel uncomfortable in. I’m optimistic, I’m hopeful, I believe in the healing power of friendship and romance and affection and honest personal interaction and the joy that can be found in both literature and other people.

Having fun is fun. Being happy makes me happy. Being around kind and caring and exciting and interesting and fun people lifts my fucking soul, it really does, and there are so many of them in my life, it’s great, it’s good, I’m having a good time, I’m enjoying myself, I’m loving life (I should probably lower my sertraline dose but meh, let me enjoy myself just a little little bit longer please please please)

Hera Lindsay Bird’s poems are so fucking millennial, just like mine. They reference actors who were big in the 90s, just like mine (her Bruce Willis to my Pierce Brosnan) and, in the least self-aggrandising way possible, if I had read this collection before I completed the second [significantly changed] draft of Bad Boy Poet, then I’d have thought I was plagiarising. But I’m not. I like Bird’s poetic voice because it is a voice similar to mine, and maybe that makes me arrogant, or maybe – THIS IS THE ONE I BELIEVE – I’ve found something I can relate to expressed using language, imagery, whatever, that I understand. Fukkit, like: OF COURSE I’m gonna like poetry like the kinda poetry I write. That’s normal, innit: jazz musicians like jazz, folk musicians like folk music, beat poets like beat poems, sonneteers like sonnets, haiku writers like haikus, so obviously poets who write free verse “confessional style” poems full of pop culture, contemporary tech and explicit sex references are gonna be excited by a collection of free verse “confessional style” poems full of pop culture, contemporary tech and explicit sex references.

I really liked this, so it does seem a tad disingenuous to write so much about myself, that’s usually what I do when I feel ambivalent about a book. It’s easy to bitch, it’s easy to gush, but it’s much harder to affect an emotional response when there was none…


Pamper Me To Hell & Back is published by Smith|Doorstop (or The Poetry Business, v unclear branding going on1) as part of their ‘Laureate’s Choice’ series, a regular series that showcases poets who Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, thinks should be paid attention to. With this one, Carol, I wholeheartedly agree. There are only 13 poems in this collection, but I enjoyed them all, and almost half of them made me cry. I love anything that makes me cry. I mean cultural products, rather than people.

The opening piece is a prose poem addressed to Bruce Willis, well, Bruce Willis as the character he plays in The Sixth Sense. It is gently moving in its probing, cyclical rhythm, its attempt to commiserate and empathise with a character, despite not knowing the character’s name. The voice implores Bruce Willis to accept that he is a ghost and to move on, to accept that his life within the fictional, movie, world in which he lives is over. There’s a real emotionality here, and a central pop culture reference that I liked. Fuck poetry that references old crap, yes yes yes yes yes more like this, please.

The second poem (and, yes, it looks like I am about to do a piece by piece review, fuck it) is called ‘Speech time’ and is about the nature of poetry, the nature of speeches, the value and the complexity of self expression and it fucking sings and it tingles and it made me smile. This is kinda lighter than the previous poem, but conveys a weighty engagement with a literary form and includes some absolutely shimmering lines like: “It’s like trying to log into your email account but your password makes you too sad” and “People don’t want to hear poetry, they want to hear people talking about poetry”. The piece is witty and engaging and boom boom fuckedy boom.

Actually, I’m not going to write about every poem, that seems to cheapen my feelings, somehow. This collection contains, quite possibly, the most beautiful love poem I have ever read, ‘I want to get high my whole life with you’. I have now read it about ten times, and every time it makes me cry. Bird’s language and imagery captures the rush and the confusion and the dizzying intensity of falling in love, the powerlessness and the power, the sense of everything being right but so close to everything being wrong, the fear and risk and extreme excitement. This poem is beautiful, I cannot express that any more clearly. Find it, read it, cry like me.

There are poems in here about love, about depression, about sex, about desire, about the internet, about everything, really, everything that matters. I’m gonna pull another set of lines: “I don’t think good art comes from happiness either / but who said good art was the point” and and and “There’s nothing in this world more boring than heartbreak”, there’s more beauty about grief and death and the end of love and contemporary political ideologies and even pyramid schemes.

This is, for me, glorious, perfect, wonderful, poetry. Bird has shown me how the style of poetry that I aim for can work, right, like, yeah, fucking amazingly. In this short collection I cried many times, I sent photos of the pages to people I cared about (a lover, let’s be frank, I sent a photo of a page to my lover because it expressed something I wish I had been able to express myself so cleanly), I raved about the book, I tweeted about the book, I thought thought thought thought thought and talked about the book because it is excellent.

Bird’s writing normalised my experiences, Bird’s writing made me feel like she understood me and I feel lucky, privileged, happy, glad, pleased, whaddevva, to have been able to engage with some poetry that so absofuckinglutely spoke to my once-sad soul.

I’m gonna end with another extract from Pamper Me To Hell & Back, but really I think you should buy this book and read them all yourself. Buy direct from the publisher via this link like. And if you don’t buy, rest assured that you will DEFINITELY here some of these poems read aloud at hipster weddings for years to come. Beautiful stuff.

i used to think arguments were the same as honesty
i used to think screaming was the same as passion
i used to think pain was meaningful
i no longer think pain is meaningful
i never learned anything good from being unhappy
i never learned anything good from being happy either
the way i feel about you has nothing to do with learning

Hera Lindsay Bird’s writing is, for me, perfect. This is the last book of poetry I’m gonna read for a few weeks. Nothing else is gonna be as good as this.

1. In looking through their website and trying to work their brand identity, I found that the publisher’s magazine only accepts submissions BY POST, which made me laugh so much I almost dropped my coffee. 

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8 comments on “Pamper Me To Hell & Back by Hera Lindsay Bird

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