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Review: What the House Taught Us by Anne Bailey, reviewed by Charley Barnes

"There is a place in a wood, 
in the bottom of a drawer, 
at the back of a mind." 

- Mind's eye 

Anne Bailey's What the House Taught Us is a delicious exploration of the surreal and uncanny aspects of life and living, and I greedily drank this experience down in one sitting. It felt very much like I'd tumbled into a world created by Bailey, where the purpose of things as we know them had been revised into a new narrative structure, to tell stories we might otherwise have walked right past. 

Bailey links the known and unknown here, to explore feelings we recognise in new frameworks and domestic settings. She looks, too, at the ways in which we store our own stories in the world and in objects around us, and there is something especially engaging about the way in which she addresses these very human habits, imbedded in the new narratives of non-human things. 

"Because we continued    to write it all down        because we remembered not letting anything go unnoticed..."

- For the record

In terms of technique, Bailey borrows well from figurative language - the personification of the household is stellar - and uses this to unsettle us at times, with these things we can both recognise but not. Structurally, too, Bailey doesn't shy away from experimentation and the variance of styles - the inclusion of prose poetry alongside more standard stanzas, for example - only adds to the exploratory nature of the collection as a whole work. Bailey is also cutting in her observations of life - The little girl and the universe is a poem that I'm still thinking about, days after reading - and the occasional sparsity seen in the language use really underscores these impactful moments. 

From top to toe I sincerely enjoyed this work. The familiarity of the home, but re-told, encourages us to survey the objects around us and consider what we've stored in them - both physically and metaphysically - and that, alongside Bailey's technique and eye for detail, makes for a wonderful dynamic. What the House Taught Us is a book that I'll be returning to, and recommending, for some time. 

---

What the House Taught Us by Anne Bailey was published by The Emma Press on December 2, 2021. The pamphlet is available to purchase here

Disclaimer: Thanks go to The Emma Press for gifting a review copy of this work to Dear Reader in exchange for an honest review. 

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