Swallow by Emily Perkovich is a lexical delight, a special piece of poetic prose which interweaves motifs of saccharine skies, the soil we plant and bury in, the depths of drowning and the stickiness of blood.
Although Perkovich’s beautifully graphic style is evident throughout Swallow, this storytelling is unlike her previous poetry collections and unlike anything else I have read this year. I could attempt to place this work alongside Plath’s The Bell Jar, Vuong’s On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous and Angela Carter’s short story, Master, for its dreamlike quality as it moves rapidly and unforgivingly through human experience, emotion and the intangible. But the fantastical quality in Swallow ensures it is unique. Special.
For me, I found the surface treatment of insomnia superb; especially in how Perkovich deals with lucid dreaming/lucidity when sleep deprived. But this is just one layer of Swallow’s story. The imagery is phenomenal; the narrator’s visceral experience of growing wings, death, being consumed, torn apart and rebirthed are breathtaking explorations of the psyche, our inner selves and our attempts to live and grow into the world around us.
Perkovich herself states this is the best work she has written so far, and I have to agree. It reaches a new height of storytelling, being unafraid of keeping its reader in the shadows. Swallow is a work to luxuriate in. I took my time, twenty pages at a time, simply to savour the descriptions, the honest and blunt first person narrative, and the wonderful feeling of never knowing where it was going, even as motifs returned time and time again.
It is brilliant. It is beautiful. And again, it is truly special. Swallow by Emily Perkovich is an absolute treat!
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