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Free fall

Years of practice,
worktop to kitchen floor,
shed roof to patio,
next, a leap from half way up a tree,
landing on grass fortunately.
Dad never mowed the lawn again.

When you jumped
from the eighth floor of a tower block
we were just in time with a mattress.

Addictive, lengthening the drop;
we advised Bungee Jumping,
the reassurance of elastic.

Fully fledged,
we bought you a parachute,
best silk, costly,
slippery as your fingers -
blame the ripcord.

Maggie Sullivan the remote (2013)


ISBN 978-1-906742-60-7


Maggie Sullivan’s welcome, second collection is witty, elemental and wise. This is an author with a resonant imagination and sense of craft. The poems in the remote are extraordinarily considered explosions of sound and sense.

David Morley

This long-awaited second collection from Maggie Sullivan is an event. Her clear yet elliptical series of poems in her first collection near death {domestic} (Tall Lighthouse) were published to great acclaim. In the remote, Sullivan’s wonderfully controlled surfaces never lose their pulse of comic timing when needed, presented with supple fleet brilliance, as from Waterproof: ‘Human effort to make their race impervious / proved useless against this weight of rain / and the changed order of entertainment’. Now the seals are in charge. So ‘Next, we’ll teach them our language.’

Aesop couldn’t frame it better. the remote also extends the familial, more purely domestic politics in near death {domestic} to a politics dealing in wider contemporary issues of power versus representation, to reach beyond the increasingly reductive world we create; but still retaining the dark, sharp humour which characterises her work and the craft of creating poetry. Thus How to build a poem ends: ‘Use patience, / press surface to surface / until the stones find their own grip, / near and far all at once. // Be bold, choose big stones.’ As you’d expect from such hearkening, there’s an abundance of tender, appalled poems on childhood, fragile parents, too-early
toughened children.

There’s much, (even if obliquely) referencing current financial and social policymaking by a largely wealthy, largely privileged cohort who’ll never have to feel the effects. Therefore, poems encapsulating Sullivan’s meditations on the power/ representation axis include a tough new thread: Greeting, Aragon Tower, Deptford, Pie, Passport, Hundred Acre Wood revisited. Thus in the latter: ‘Official notice — // presumption in favour / of sustainable development. // Those are very big words thinks Pooh, / and look what’s happened muses Eyore, / Tigger running riot with a chainsaw, / Rabbit’s pink nose bloodied.’ Sullivan scrutinizes the rhetoric here of a re-invention of the Victorian: a panoptic, highly objective and detached surveillance culture, increasingly prescriptive and controlling. With Sullivan we revisit a road to debt serfdom never envisaged by Hayek, but seen by her as totemic of all forms of oppression, hyper-capitalist, totalitarian and worse. Sullivan’s is a major voice and the remote, hugely anticipated, exceeds even her readers’ expectations.


Maggie Sullivan’s interest in poetry extends beyond her own work. She has been a trustee of the Poetry Society, a work-shop tutor for CoolTan Arts and is a mentor for Survivors’ Poetry.

Along with numerous publica-tions of individual poems in magazines and anthologies her first collection, near death (domestic) was published by Tall Lighthouse Press in 2007.

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