Sphinx, the impressive debut poetry collection from Cat Woodward, is a surreal and unsettling book. These poems explore what it feels like to exist as a female subject in language, in all its wonder, violence and strangeness, or as Woodward puts it in the poem “I Have Seen This Before IV”: “in her brayed ugliness-song I am a me”.
Sphinx is a truly urgent, original, and electric new collection. The poems here are raw, addled, gorgeous and fizzing with anger and tenderness. Woodward has forged her own uniquely strange and affecting language, addressing knowledge, feeling, nature, and lived experience with the dazzling, futuristic sharpness of a robot mystic. These poems smell like violets and plastic, like what is to come – I urge you to read them.
Pick this book up from the table before you, virtually or in the actual world, then flick to any page. Now, have you read a poem like this recently? No, no you haven’t. Poetry is supposed to rework the boring utility miracle of language into something that has no communicative use, but do most poets do this? Cat Woodward does, her poems within Sphinx are magically unique. They are exciting, warm hearted and hateful, ebullient and intimate, powerful and fearful. They are hers alone.
Every poem smacks me in the face with words and the titles are like poems in themselves.