Michelle McGrane’s collection The Suitable Girl is published by Pindrop Press in the United Kingdom and Modjaji Books in South Africa.
She lives in Johannesburg and is a member of SA PEN.
“McGrane is a poet’s poet — her work is dense with literary allusions, history, bits and pieces of French and even something that looks alarmingly like Gaelic. Who is this marvellous multiple-tongued wordsmith? The poems collected here will not yield this secret and demand real interpretative work.”
– Kylie Thomas, Mail & Guardian (February 2012)
“The Suitable Girl of the title – also the name of a fine poem by McGrane not included in the collection – provides a clue to the abiding female presence that links much of the book’s subject-matter. Women throughout time – famous, infamous and otherwise – are conjured in poems that take a reader from Ipatiev House in revolutionary Russia to the Shelleys’ house, Casa Magni.
McGrane’s poems come in many forms and feature a heady lexis full not just of shenanigans but of cottars, kirtles and sautéed carp pirozhki. Her work displays an infectious delight in its own creation. “This is no time to tiptoe” she advises us in ‘Thirteen Ways with Figs’: a poem full of moreish description which seems to provide a feminine figgy companion to the American poet Robert Hass’s cucumberly musings.”
– Anna Woodford, Magma 51 (Winter 2011)
” … McGrane’s poems refuse to lie down in the boxes set out by history or society. Instead, they describe women who are complex, difficult and pleasingly unsuitable.”
– Zoë Brigley, Under the Radar (Issue Eight, July 2011)
“The Suitable Girl has many faces. Sometimes she whispers her stories. Sometimes she speaks with her tongue in her cheek. Sometimes she screams.”
– Julie Buffaloe-Yoder
“Michelle McGrane’s exquisite, assured collection looks at how women, historical or actual, have shaped their interior landscapes and, in doing so, shaped the world.
Through Imperial Russia to Ireland and AIDS-ravaged South Africa, by way of myth, legend and literature, McGrane offers the reader fine, elegant cameos which, upon closer inspection, are both sharper and more darkly beautiful than they first appear to be.
McGrane is the master of the subtle; of the sideways glance, the intimate detail. The Suitable Girl is the work of a divinely gifted writer whose work deserves to be widely read.”
– Fiona Zerbst
“Michelle McGrane’s lovely book, The Suitable Girl, shows both a sophisticated range of reference from European history and classical mythology, together with a powerful and moving emotional address. There is great technical range here as well, which includes prose poems alongside sinewy lyrics; elegy jostles with imaginative sci-fi, humour with horror in language which is often as gorgeous as it is precise. This is a collection to be celebrated by knowledgeable readers of contemporary poetry, who will keenly anticipate her next.”
– Ian Duhig
“The Suitable Girl does not fit neatly inside her own story. She speaks to us from myth and through time; she is sending postcards from the moon. Michelle McGrane’s poems are packed with sumptuous words from a library-full of lexicons, they are sometimes earthy-sensual, sometimes sunlight-sharp. They open up your windows and rearrange your desk.”
– Helen Ivory
“In this, her third collection, Michelle McGrane uncovers that which is transitory and ephemeral and lays it before us in a poetry that is as assured as it is tentative, confident as it is exploratory. Images flash brightly, voices overlap and the world as we experience it is transformed by language into ‘something rich and strange’. Her ear is well-attuned to the natural rhythms of the speaking voice; her tone invariably delicate and highly charged. Here is a poet who is sensitive to the thin membrane that separates us from each other and from the past. These remarkable poems act as a touchstone, a way of reassessing and remaking our perceptions of the world. Whether concentrating her talents into short, beautifully-wrought lyrics or allowing them to expand into sequences and longer poems, McGrane exhibits the same sensitivity to the possibilities of poetry. My contention for a long time is that poetry should be doing more – as it has done in the past and is still capable of doing. This fine collection – by turns meditative, subtly erotic, ‘a conspiracy of gossip and innuendoes’ – is ample proof of its author’s trust in the power of suggestion and evidence that poetry can indeed do more.”
– Ian Parks
“Every poem in The Suitable Girl grabs the reader immediately and then proceeds to take her, by a surprising route, to its strange conclusion, taking in much wit, irony, lyricism and sensual detail on the way. These are trips well worth the taking.”
– Joanne Limburg
“Michelle McGrane’s third collection, The Suitable Girl, deals with contemporary issues such as societal expectations, gender, death, grief and anorexia as well as mythology, and the sensuous aspects of food, love and travel. Though there are strong threads uniting these poems, they are of broad scope and vary in style and tone making the reading of this volume a multi-textured experience. Some of the poems are sharp, pared down, direct and straight to the point. These poems contrast against poems that pulse, swell and hum with rich, evocative sensory description.
McGrane demonstrates her obvious passion for the music of language. She plucks words from specialist lexical fields and unselfconsciously weaves them into the fabric of her own poetic voice. She gently introduces her readers to succulent new nouns, spices the texts with the exquisite vocabularies of lunar realms and 19th century apothecaries as well as incorporating the simple patterns of everyday life and speech.
Unlike many poets, McGrane does not indulge in obscure abstraction. She is not afraid of furnishing her poems with concrete detail and it is the presence of these concrete ‘things’ that gives her work a tangible stability. McGrane’s strength as a poet lies in her descriptive prowess and ability to illuminate the dark and neglected corners of the world and its people, to instil the ordinary with scent, poignancy, colour, movement and magic. After reading The Suitable Girl, its perfumes, flavours and atmospheres will continue to resonate in your mind for hours.”
– Gaia Holmes