Pretend You Don’t Know Me brings together in one volume the best of Finuala Dowling’s funny, poignant and idiosyncratic poetry from four earlier prize-winning collections, with a section devoted to new poems. It introduces this popular South African poet to a UK audience. Finuala Dowling’s debut collection, I flying, published in 2002, was an instant success in her native South Africa.
Its accessibility, humanity and wit, as well as its beguilingly honest stories of home, parenthood, love, loss and desperation, won many new converts to poetry. The volume went into multiple printings, and won the Ingrid Jonker prize. Dowling’s subsequent collections, Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe and Notes from the Dementia Ward (winners of the SANLAM and Olive Schreiner prizes respectively), consolidated her reputation as an inventive sketcher of the domestic sublime.
Her chapbook, Change is possible, sold out at the 2014 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Pretend You Don’t Know Me contains her iconic poem ‘To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair’ as well as Dowling’s tragi-comic cycle of poems on the theme of her mother’s dementia, and the hugely popular poems ‘Butter’, ‘I am the Zebra’, ‘To adventurers, as far as I’m concerned’ and ‘The abuse of cauliflowers’. At the heart of the book are the funny and poignant connections we make with other people, and the lifelong effort to stay whole.
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