- Words Charlie Brogan
Poet Cecilia Knapp throws light upon the darker corners of life, in ways we can find joy and connection. We spoke to her about her debut collection, Peach Pig.
It’s about time we held a poetry collection of Cecilia Knapp’s in our hands. Author of Little Boxes, former Young Poet Laureate, and winner of the 2021 Ruth Rendell award, Cecilia is an exciting talent, sharing her words through a multitude of forms as a novelist, playwright, and poet – a dazzlingly impressive career, only bolstered by her latest release.
Peach Pig, Cecilia’s debut poetry collection, is a beautiful work travelling through themes such as childhood in a seaside town having grown up in Brighton, and touching on girlhood, womanhood, sex, shame, violence, and most intimately her relationship with her older brother.
The title hints at what’s inside the collection- Knapp’s skillful use of humor and delicious grit. “When I worked in hospitality for years, men always called me a peach and I noticed how other women were labelled this too; in telly, in the real world. A soft thing. But at times I felt like a pig. Or I wanted to be a pig”, Knapp says.
Short poems titled ‘Daydream’ and ‘Seascape’ pepper the collection, fantasies of food, seaside, and memory, all artful right hooks that at times catch your breath, and at others offer breathing space from previous pages. Notably, Knapp exposes the pressures of womanhood through such poems, one Daydream poem citing ‘I eat a whole loaf/of sliced white bread’, as a fantasy, which though playful – lingers in the memory long after the page is turned.
But beyond her unique exploration of womanhood, Knapp explores multiple themes in her debut, creating a collection that is vast in its shades, from the (can we say light?) light and unflinching depictions of womanhood at its most banal, hurtful, and dissatisfying, to the rich, dark melancholy of grief and loss.
Poems such as ‘I used to eat KFC Zingers Without Hating Myself’ – a poem with a hilariously devastating title, seamlessly interweave womanhood, modernity, and grief. The opening poem succinctly exposes the reality of being a woman with gritted teeth, humor, and keen observation and gut punches readers with the final line ‘Before you died, I cut your hair’, typical of Knapp’s powerful tenderness.
On such intimate portrayals of womanhood and grief, Knapp says “I’m not too worried about the intimacy of the poems. The subjects I was drawn to are ones I wanted to expose and examine through the work. They are important to me. They obsessed me and poetry was my way to tilt them in the light”.
Through Knapp’s own experience of grief and her exquisite rendering of such in her work, these poems offer readers what she says is “Perhaps a partial language for grief, their own or the grief they see all around them. Poetry in all its wonderful slipperiness and surreality seemed the perfect tool to explore this theme that always finds its way into my work.”
Though it’s far from all melancholy for her readers. On what she hopes readers will gain from the collection Knapp says “I’d like them to laugh and roll their eyes too – I hope it’s not all doom. I’d like them to feel the sea and feel the strength of women. I’d like them to taste the foods and find the joy and find moments for themselves”.
Peach Pig really does find the joy. It arms its readers with power, and thanks to Cecilia’s voice, not only will poetry fanatics find the joy, inspired to tilt their own experiences into the light, but perhaps those who choose Peach Pig as their first toe dip into poetry will too, as they should.
Peach Pig published by Corsair is out now.