Friday 26 August 2022

Suzannah Evans, "Space Baby"


Suzannah Evans, photograph by Joe Horner

Suzannah Evans is a poet, Creative Writing tutor and editor based in Sheffield. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines including Magma, The Rialto, The North, Poetry Review, Butcher's Dog, Poetry Wales and The Guardian's Poem of The Week. Her debut collection Near Future was published by Nine Arches Press in November 2018. Suzannah was the winner of a Gladstone’s Library residency for this book and spent a month living and writing at the library in 2019. In 2021 she received a Northern Writers’ Award for her work-in-progress collection Space Baby, awarded by Andrew McMillan, published by Nine Arches Press in June 2022.

Cover by Ayham Jabr

About Space Baby

Space Baby, the second collection by Suzannah Evans, asks difficult questions about the Earth, its beings, and what lies ahead for them: how do we look to the future on a planet that’s burning? How do we come to terms with our grief, and what can we believe in? If the human race destroys what we have, where will we go?

In this dystopian, searching book, Evans mixes absurdity and wit with speculative, and serious themes. Here, we encounter artificial intelligence and robots that will ‘cuddle you to sleep,’ the melting permafrost and all the surprises it reveals, as well as the very first human baby born in space. Ultimately, Evans writes to acknowledge our responsibilities and interconnectedness with earth and all its lifeforms, as well as to our future generations. These are vivid, prescient poems of existence, and survival, which ask how we can still find joy on a ruined planet.

You can see more information about Space Baby on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two poems from the collection. 

From Space Baby, by Suzannah Evans

That smile 

                  is yours, that frown
is mine – he’s ours
and we are changed – we pace 
gallantly across the landing 
to check on him when he cries
we lay aside our bedtime reading
we marvel at the workings 
of his tiny body
we smell faintly of rusks. 

The moors have been on fire
for weeks now, the sheep
got coughs and were evacuated
we take first-birthday photos
under a bitumen sky. He’s heavier 
every time I pick him up. 
Cement-coloured pigeons feast
urgently on the bird table
while he observes for hours.

When I take him out to play
I carry a mum-satchel packed
for all eventualities. It bashes
at my hip when I try to walk anywhere.
I change his nappy on a park bench
and people walking cavachons
stop to tell me I’m doing it wrong. 
He rips the heads off damp daisies
pockets snail shells and pinecones

won’t let me throw any of it away.
Pamba he says Polabar, Sealine 
and as he learns their names 
they disappear forever. It’s not his fault
but the coincidence is unsettling. 
I cuddle him, he says Armuddyloo 
wetly into my neck. I give him milk
and mashed banana. Dairy farming! 
He exclaims. Food miles! 

Ash fairies from the fires 
are falling on the flowerbeds
we watch them before bedtime
as they glow in the blue-black,
scrunch up like cooling stars.
We’ve invented a game 
in which we dust the kale plants 
and carrot tops every morning.
His laugh is like the tap water
it chuckles before it gets going. 

Skip to the End

Betelgeuse looks ordinary 
up on Orion’s shoulder 
as I walk home with shopping bags 
that sink red dents into my hands. 

Maybe it’s already gone
supernova and down here 
we’re just making the best of it,
waiting for the visuals. 

Who doesn’t want to witness 
the last vomit of a star 
splashed lurid across the cosmos 
like an overripe peach leaking 

wet and gold on a fresh shirt.
Come on I say as if that 
can nudge the star through each decay
it has yet to experience.

I often find myself racing 
to the ends of things. 
I hate that I won’t be there  
as my friends clink and toast my life

she was a planner they’ll say 
a worrier as the sky 
above them bursts formidable 
into an oil painting on fire. 

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