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Review: Small Machine by Demi Anter, reviewed by Charley Barnes

"I'm still not sure when my want is enough,
how to know I won't get bored."

- Pink Coat

The above couplet is taken from Demi Anter's Write Bloody collection, Small Machine. I read it aloud to a friend, across twin beds in a hotel room, and we both lay there in silence for a second or two before my friend eventually said, 'Oh my god.' It's been weeks, and I'm still thinking about that couplet - and if that isn't the sign of impactful writing, then I don't know what is. 

Small Machine is Anter's debut collection, though it reads with the style and polish of an experienced poet from the start. In many ways, the work reads as a love letter to Berlin (among other things), which features heavily throughout. Evidently inspired by the author's time there - Anter spent five years living in Berlin before moving back to London - there is a delicious use of psycho-geography here as Anter discusses the feelings and mental connections that root her (and indeed, all of us) to a particular place. When she speaks of Berlin, her reasons for staying and eventually her reasons for leaving, we're very much there with her on this journey of loss and (self)discovery, and it makes for a tremendously moving read. 

"just try to remember it is okay
to be alone here on this street
whose name you can't pronounce. 
to sink your teeth. feel free."

- feel free

The above comment on self-discovery is an important one to underscore, too, because Small Machine is littered with these moments where the author speaks of finding herself. However, this isn't just rooted in her explorations of landscape, but of self and family, too. Anter has tender notes throughout that strike a real chord of pathos, when she speaks of drawing inspiration and strength from her mother - in pieces like 'Women's Work', for instance - and this makes for a greater intimacy again, as a reader is very much shown through the door of the author's lived and loved experiences. 

"I want to give you something
on this, the final date, to make
my appreciation, give thanks, 
say bye."

- I Know How to Love

Of course, alongside her love letters to landscape, Anter talks freely of romantic love, too. The above quotation is one of my favourite pieces on this theme and through a two-part set-up, Anter shifts perspective brilliantly and moves a reader through to the final, gentle pages of the book. She tenderly explains, "We did quite well, you and I." in her later poem, 'Ty', and this honesty and self-reflection, for me, made for an exceptional climax to the book as a whole. 

Anter uses structure, technique and language with great strategy throughout to create these moments, these killer lines, that a reader isn't braced for - thereby making them even more impactful when they're read. I can honestly say I enjoyed the collection from start to finish; for me, there wasn't a weak poem among the bunch. I folded over pages; I sent pictures to friends; I've recommended it already to readers who I know to have similar tastes to me. Small Machine was a small gem to read, and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for more poetry on their bookshelf. 

Small Machine is available to purchase now from the Write Bloody website


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