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Bath of Herbs

Emily Zobel-Marshall
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Peepal Tree Press Ltd
Published: July 7, 2023
ISBN: 9781845235574
72 pages
Country of publication: United Kingdom


Bath of Herbs is a beautifully crafted, honest and thoughtful first collection which explores the complexity of mixed-race, hybrid identities and relationships to the English and Welsh mountains, fells, rivers and shorelines from an ‘othered’, unmappable, positionality.

It celebrates and mourns the unspoken pain and joys of motherhood; of menstrual cycles, childbirth, tending to sick children with life-threatening illnesses, the death of mothers, love in all its myriad forms and the desire to escape the constraints of domestic and family life towards different kinds of freedoms. It also revisits the confusing world of childhood; the inexplicable actions of adults and the bullies who despise perceived difference.

There is her ownership of a writerly inheritance handed down from her grandfather, the Black Martiniquan writer, Joseph Zobel, but also an awareness that this heritage has involved a movement away from the Black peasant world Zobel wrote about towards a comfortable Europeanness of being.

Other poems address the security of a middle-class life and the many pleasures it offers – but also how that world can be broken apart by death, by serious illness, by the fear that the channels of communication in a marriage have ‘gone down’.

Linking the whole is an engagement with the possibilities of healing: as in the bath of herbs in which her grandmother bathed her mother after giving birth; in the physicality of running and purificatory swimming in a river; in the care a hospital gives to her child and in the healing power of the natural world.

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