Three Colours Grief – poems – Gillian Prew

Three Colours Grief
poems, Gillian Prew
erbacce-press 2016


The poems in Gillian Prew’s chapbook Three Colours Grief are crowded with the precision of the gazeless inward, are after-esque, are unpeopled. This is not a warning, a lament, but instead an evocation of a doom blinded by signage. Prew’s wounded scansions seemingly scrawl themselves and leave the reader to recall being raised by voice on the disappearing ink of eulogy. These aubades, erasures, and deceptive fragments are restorative devastations in that they do not inquire so much as give to thing a voice that one, be they writer or reader, might learn its language. Whether beneath ‘Light- briefest chandelier-patterning the black’ or above ‘The grasses…starvelings bent over with dying’, Prew travels by other…by season, seed, and beast…taking snapshots of those blank looks so wrongly sainted for staring down the voided feast. This is a moral, a reclaiming, work and, with its opening dedication for the Earth and the animals, what follows is all so retroactively human.


reflection by Barton Smock


info, book:

Throats Full of Graves – poems – Gillian Prew

poems by Gillian Prew
Lapwing Press, 2013


“…like every papery human trying to remain intact
or acclimatize graciously to the summary of their scars. They say
scars are beautiful,
beautiful as moments in white dresses and combed hair
like all good brides…”

Gillian Prew, from I Have Moved Away

In her poetry collection Throats Full Of Graves Gillian Prew talks of marrying silences and fears. Prew talks of marrying. Two this, two that, throughout. She seems preoccupied with merger, and how it necessitates that one, or half of one, go missing. Brides, graves, and grief accumulate in an unveiling that announces, presently, it has always been present. Pervasive is the aesthetic of thinness. Graves become markers to make us where we’re not. Brides become representations of how names make the words they’re based on disappear.

This book moves, but is not restless. It is, what? It is steeped within. Its first two poems, respectively, begin Out of sound, / Out of winter, and those titles become Upon Waking, then Leaving April, then The Fourth Epitaph. As here, there is a care in the sequencing in the whole of the book that makes it a let breath darkly ribboning toward a white hiccup reprieve.

“…her lit loss burns in her brain
scorching the slow madness of her days”
from Essence of a Protracted Wound

For all the included seasons and dates and departures, Prew doesn’t let time and place pass without shrouding them with permanence.

“The graveyard has no heart or history a terrible now
of poor hours…”

from September 4th (someone’s wedding anniversary)

“This life
…blood-lit with history’s amplified rage.”

from The Recession of Summer

What is the imagist to do when the twin gifts of vision and vision duel for the same abyss? Prew has questions. They are billed together in her poem Cat Eyes and the Tragedy of Mother:

“Could I marry these two sharp silences?
…Are they cat eyes or a brace of griefs fresh
from the hunter’s recreation?”

Other words occur. Febrile. Imago. Prew offers the mind, and it the body. From Beyond This Skin:

“These thin breasts each a grief:
plump-robbed and plucked dead
like two starved birds.”

If union, then absence. The book, its writing, the book, its sharing. But Prew’s voice isn’t content with mere reportage. She welcomes herself into shadow and signals her location not as absence but as its stunt double.

“The past a forlorn ghost more delicate than cold;
a white flimsy paling to the poverty of a paper bowl.
Why no thrift of melancholy while chasing the worm?”
from Reading Dylan thomas While It Snows

The poems in this book are small, clear, and heavy. You won’t lose them, not even in your “bravest despair” below the “migrating bird with its entourage of woe.”  They are steeped within and resumed.


review by Barton Smock


book is here:

person Gillian Prew, three poems

Born Stirling, Scotland in 1966, Gillian Prew studied Philosophy at the University of Glasgow from 1984 to 1988.

Her chapbook, Disconnections, can be purchased from erbacce-press (2011) and another chapbook, In the Broken Things, published by Virgogray Press (2011). Her collection, Throats Full of Graves, has been published in 2013 by Lapwing Publications. A further collection, A Wound’s Sound, was released from Oneiros Books in April 2014.

Her latest chapbook, Three Colours Grief, was published by erbacce-press in June 2016.

She has been twice short-listed for the erbacce-prize and twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


tiny elegy

morning, stillborn/
                      a room and a worm/
a small earth-rooted loss
flowers erupt         tiny scented volcanoes
pressed into the day’s gauze


Still Life/ Whale

So much strength dies slowly.
Carol Birch

A farewell of her among the fractal and clotweed
winter light visiting lamps on her eyes.      Silver

and sucked-in, she lies
                                  a wild well of salt and garbage.

Everything is wind, a swirling no (nature
does not approve). Slow minutes
                                            yet a certain hurrying dark.

The world looks on through a lens/ notices
her grief/ notices she has ribbons for teeth.

Water is waking her too late (not even
the gulls shrieking).

O, she moves a fin
                      then a sudden backward breathing.


Autumn’s Five Anxieties

1. the loss of green

the grass coming away
and the speaking-out-loud of the leaves

everything they want to say
                          heaves into deadfall                 the warring red of a leafhill
                                                each forest diminishing deciduous
and summer mostly a ghost

2 . the lowering of sun

pale compass                       blanched by the summer rains

                          daylight a sooner varied dark

the north’s breath thinner and thinner
                                              bereft by its first migrations

3 . the lifting sea

sea-points salt-crusted and sore/ a warmed heave

                                              cast adrift

                                                          softening on sea-tongues

4 . the sky redacted

flying ruin/ hanging rain             an untranslatable mist

the smear of unintelligible trees
                                        where the mist looms           has sky-roots

a gloom of grey/ a helio-memory

                            sucked in
                                            and in
                      like the day does not exist

5 . the onset of fire

bramble blood/
            clouds burning from the bottom up
a see-sawing day of scarlet and grey

slow wood with leaves shifting like flames           stems
                                                                                                  of a lit-up dark
                                                the hillsides soft-gilded

the earth leaf-whelmed/
                        drowned in a blazing shroud