‘People, time and time again, have the same reactions and feelings to situations,’ says Sarah Fletcher in her interview with the writer Kayo Chingonyi. ‘Love. Family. Death. It’s why we still read the old guys.’ Her collection Kissing Angles is mainly about relationships – mainly, dysfunctional ones. Handling aggressive males: when the boy in ‘The Matador’ kisses the narrator, ‘His tongue feels like a whip’, the man in ‘The Judgement’ ‘smirked and pulled me in, administering the Bible-black conviction of his kiss.’ Other young men are just really dull. The poem ‘Lads’ describes ‘one in a thousand boys called Ollie, repeating tales about the time they spent in Radley’. The collection, Fletcher says, is about ‘the same kind of eternal ‘enmity’ between man and woman, as if some sort of innate power struggle.’ She talked of finding a ‘feminine equivalent’ of classic male rage: ‘a voice expressing rage and self destruction and perversion and frustration’.
Fletcher’s voice in Kissing Angles isn’t exactly raging. But it’s witty, succinct and sarcastic. ‘In the next room, the boys are handed condoms from Miss Miller, told they are gods if they want to be,’ she writes in ‘Sex Education’. There’s a big preoccupation with gender inequality and body image here – Fletcher has a fascinating piece on Lana Del Rey, also at Dead Ink. And there is also a great reach of imagination. ‘A Villanelle with Two Endings’ creates a brilliant sliding-doors pair of realities, side by side, final rather than gimmicky. ‘You hold my hand, and hold our child’s too./(The bleeding will subside. I leave the room.)’ Fletcher even climbs into Eva Braun’s strange head. ‘Nor did I know that there were women far beneath me who would have to sell their wedding rings for water while I could rinse my ringless fingers in fresh Riesling.’
This is a brief, lovely collection – maybe too brief, more like a pamphlet than a volume. Sarah Fletcher is a great talent but she should give herself more space. Kissing Angles has a rare weakness in a debut anything – it’s too damn short.