Comic Timing | Granta

  • Published: 04/02/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783786862
  • Granta Books
  • 96 pages

Comic Timing

Holly Pester

Comic Timing, Holly Pester’s extraordinary debut collection of poems, chronicles the experience of living and working as a radical and resistant act. These poems shunt a reader between the political and personal via unique, fragmentary and illusory turns of phrase. Holly tackles marginal bodies, landlords, bog butter, desire, domestic and civic spaces in an unique and illusory voice. She chronicles the prevailing mood of our times, mining radical and anarchic histories to offer a collection of political resistance with both absurdity and seriousness.

These poems interrogate and poke fun at the expectations of people in a commodified culture with a wry humour. Combining a beautifully performed naivety with a profound intellect, this collection is a hugely original approach to a number of pressing issues. Worker’s rights, feminisms, reproductive rights and marginalised bodies and their positions are all through in this startling and innovative voice.

I love this book because it makes you dream of ancient feasts and future friends, tables of extraordinary seasons, because words become sturdy porridge become appetites become dangerous drinks of ground seeds become all of the meanings of bog butter and then all of the appetites again. And because each time I read the same poem, I've never read it before and I feel both at ease and astonished. How does she do that? With little pots of basil? And what to do with radish leaves? It is domestic. It is about the normal rituals of poverty and the politics of that coming from our sexed mouths. And besides, as Marilyn Monroe wrote, I've never seen an ugly bridge

Lisa Robertson

Funny, restless, charming, shattering, Comic Timing offers up poems that are equations for living, squaring the components of a life - a real life: rent, admin, sex, tea, coffee, food, food, foodstuffs, the consequences of sex, mother, making, father, singing, performing, loving - in such a way that they are shown to come out in the negative, lest we 'leap like a flea' into 'marriage or a great big prize'. The result is a voice in minus one, on the backfoot, a voice that is thus forced to turn cartwheels, bending words into neologisms that allow Pester to get closer to the emotional truth of certain experiences than any other poet I can think of. Divided into four acts, this collection shows formal guile and genuine originality, as well as a commitment to song comparable to that of Denise Riley's. Here are songs of property, of the stain, the vagabond, the abortion. Of the metal donkey figurine

Sophie Collins

Holly Pester's Comic Timing renders the logic of the alphabet or an 'ancient language' as undone, animated, 'not a thing but time read/translated where there might be form.' I was compelled and moved by the many images related to shelter, injury and care: 'a cave for my injured friend,' 'kids...inside a clock,' 'a production line of sleeping bags, and even an aunt on 'the window ledge,' balanced there for just a moment, just as her "exasperated husband,' so briefly, was 'sitting next to her on the bed." Who is loved? Who incarnates the nest? Who can't get up/get back? 'Is there a dead bird in you?' asks the poet-narrator of a) the news cycle, b) practised forms of memory, c) an archive in San Diego. The line that stayed with me was this: 'what survives will not be apart from.' Pester has written a book that transmutes what it reclaims, when it can, and that's timely

Bhanu Kapil

The Author

Holly Pester is a poet and writer. She has worked in sound art and performance, with BBC Radio, Women’s Art Library and Wellcome Collection.

More about the author →

Holly Pester on Granta.com

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‘Abuse is the conjuring of madness’

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Best Book of 1949: The Thief’s Journal

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‘To read it is to feel the alternative tempo in the rude repetitions of the thief who loves to steal.’

Poetry | Granta 144

Comic Timing

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‘I went to Ilford alone / was handed a pink laminated square’