I LEFT THE ROOM BURNING by Beth O'Brien
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A woman who never wanted children finds herself reluctantly bringing up her sister’s daughter. The aunt is in an abusive relationship. The niece is a strange child who wishes to disappear. The narrative threaded through these eighty short poems confuses and obfuscates, whilst at the same time completely drawing the reader in to the extent that by the end, one is left with the feeling of having watched a deeply immersive film or read an engrossing novella.
As she watches the wick catch hold
she imagines the flame biting at the pain,
digesting mistakes and too-honest words
until they turn,
first to light,
and then to smoke.
This way, they cannot burn.
Beth O’Brien weaves magic with her lyrical and evocative language, and with the tangibility of her characters’ unreliable voices she reveals herself as a master storyteller.
"I LEFT THE ROOM BURNING marks Beth O’Brien out as a master storyteller and poet alike. This work hits hard in both heart and stomach, as O’Brien weaves a complex narrative web through disturbed characters, unreliable voices and harsh incidents. Telling the story – or rather, stories – of women trapped in situations not of their own making, O’Brien doesn’t shy away from the difficult here. In fact, in these brief and brilliant poems she works to shine a spotlight on the difficult, forcing the reader to immerse themselves entirely in this story – to follow it, to feel it, and to ask hard questions throughout. An excellent collection, then, this is a strong and established debut that shows the promise O’Brien has ahead of her. "
- Dr. Charley Barnes
Writer in Residence at The Swan Theatre
Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2019-2020
Managing Director | Sabotage Reviews
Visiting Lecturer | Newman University
Editor | Dear Reader (www.dearreaderpoetry.com)