Skip to main content

Review: Salt & Metal by Sallyanne Rock, reviewed by Charley Barnes

"Lay me on a tartan blanket
and crowbar open my ribcage."

- Workshop manual for a date

Sallyanne Rock's Salt & Metal is a brutal and tender collection. Having known loosely what the content covered ahead of my reading - it should be noted there is a considerable content warning here for mentions of domestic violence and abuse - I promised myself I would ration the poems out, pace myself. However, once I started that promise became short-lived and I found that I was compelled to read on. 

Rock guides you through the trauma of abuse with a gentle tongue that tells in rough metaphors and hard-edged figurative language, all of which shows a mastery of control - both over her own writing, that is, and over the reactions she evokes in a reader. 

"He will ask you in front of his friends why you are so miserable all the time. He will look at them and laugh and say after everything I have given her"

- The man is a jealous thief 

What I was especially taken with - and grateful for - was the narrative arc that appeared throughout, too. While Rock details horrific treatments, in a manner that reads as both autobiographical and universal at once, there is also a culmination of hope at the end of the pamphlet. Her final piece, Learning from Nigella Lawson, seals this as Rock weaves a rich tale of cooking for oneself, packed with delicious finery - "Now, delicate leaves of pak choi..." - and a sense that beyond these treatments, there is hope, and there is a place in which to finally rest:

"Pour a drink - wine, or water.
Sit and eat."

This is, I'm sure, the start of a spectacular publishing journey for Rock and I sincerely hope that some years down the line there will be a full collection from her - which will no doubt be as tailored and as special as this. An excellent release from Fawn Press, and a huge congratulations to both press and poet for this pamphlet. 

Salt & Metal can be purchased now from the Fawn Press website


Note: For anyone looking to hear a live reading from Sallyanne Rock, I'm delighted to say she'll be attending our companion event, Dear Listener, which takes place at Boston Tea Party, Worcester. Sallyanne will be headlining in May. 


Popular posts from this blog

Home by Jessa Forest

Home scratches at her shingles with tree branch fingers, pulls the air conditioning unit close to her grimy aluminum siding, and keens an empty song of mourning. We found her wandering the tornado snarled wild three months ago, starved and lonely. She doesn’t know how to take care of herself, you see? We fed her shards of dining room tables, kindling for the fireplace, and cast iron bathtubs clawed feet first. She was slow to recover so we gutted her plumbing, ripped out her nerves, and rewired the electricity. She let the water in every time it rained so we put a new roof on her and let her out for regular walks around the wolf pen. Let her mingle with the vultures, I said, let her feel useful and clean up the dead but no one wanted to listen. We found rot an mold in her corners, infused her insulation with antibiotics, and quarantined her for two weeks while she belched ladderback chairs, sofa cushions, wind chimes, and broken bookcases. She still has her bad days. After feeding time

Smoking and Swearing by Ian Manson

He’s stood outside, he’s on his break. He’s unsure whether to be smoking or swearing. He decides on both. Inhale. Fuuuck! Inhale. Fuuuck! A person, a visitor, or a patient. Heading to the hospital, sees his scrubs and scowls. “ It’s not very professional for a nurse to be smoking and swearing. ” But he doesn’t care. He’s already done his good deed for the morning and by midnight he’ll have done a dozen more. Yesterday was a paltry four. Tomorrow’s shift will be five or two or maybe eight, and another night of finishing late. Inhale. Fuuuck! He breathes a cloud of smoke. Watches it swirling, ascending, a spirit en-route to heaven. The person’s saintly sanctimony means nothing to him. Because he’s on his break. And he’s smoking, and he’s swearing. --- Originally from Scotland, Ian has lived and worked in Worcestershire for the last 11 years. He can normally be found performing his poetry and prose at events on the Worcester spoken word scene

“Are You So Tired Then, Stranger?” by Ace Boggess

  —Dick Allen, “B&B”    Wind exhausts with its icy fists. Knives of rain wear me down, & leaves in their helicopter swirls like leaflets dropped from a plane. October depletes me, & November. They’ve too much busyness. They send me spinning, dancing, lonely with the rake, the broom. I surrender, collapsing like an old barn, debris of me piling in a chair with clear view of the television.  News is on. It spends me. Talk of politics, also. I’d like  to shut up the voices that fatigue. They hum like a B-flat in the pipes. They bicker & scold, condemn. They expend me like carrying  groceries up a flight of stairs  until I’m too drained to care  which side they’re on. --- Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including  Escape Envy  (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021),  I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So , and  The Prisoners . His writing has appeared in  Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review,  and other journals. An ex-c