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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. 


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