Poetry Shelf plays favourites: Freya Daly Sadgrove’s ‘THIN AIR’

Freya Daly Sadgrove (Head Girl, Victoria University Press, 2020)

Freya Daly Sadgrove’s debut collection, Head Girl, arrived in the world in February, and like a number of local poetry books missed a featured spot on Poetry Shelf as Covid affected my concentration and ability to write. I read Head Girl when it came out and was in the grip of its searing self exposures, the cracking lines, the glints, the lightning, the darknesses, the dread, the anger. This is poetry that tears, that is torn apart, that is so utterly alive it hurts. Freya was part of my Wild Honey session at Christchurch’s WORD festival and unsurprisingly was an audience hit.

During one of Auckland’s Covid lockdowns, I decided to share poems that have haunted me from new books – the kind of poem that pulls you back because on each reading it grips. I am thinking of how I play a new album I love over and over – thinking of the way Reb Fountain and Nadia Reid’s new music has been on repeat this year.

Freya’s ‘THIN AIR’ has got under my skin, oxygenating my blood with its surprising skids and smashes. Like the skid and smash from ‘stillness’ to ‘barb’. Like the terror of asthmatic ways and the stench of papier-mâchéing. Like the word ‘breathe’ and the word ‘survived’. But I find I don’t want to dissect these poems for you. These welcome poem hauntings. They just are. Little poem magnets. Little vitamin shots. Little head trips. Nebuliser albums.

Freya Daly Sadgrove is a writer, performer and theatre maker from Pōneke. She has a Master of Arts from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and her work has appeared in various publications in Aotearoa, Australia and the US. Head Girl is her first book. She is also the architect of Show Ponies, an ongoing poetry extravaganza that appeared at both VERB literary festivals in Pōneke this year.

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