Monday 26 September 2022

Tania Hershman, "Still Life With Octopus"


Tania Hershman, photography by Grace Gelder

Tania Hershman's second poetry collection, Still Life With Octopus, was published by Nine Arches Press in July 2022 and her debut hybrid novel, Go On, is forthcoming from Broken Sleep Books in Nov 2022. Tania is Arvon's writer-in-residence for Winter 22/23, and is putting together an anthology of prize-winning flash fictions to raise funds for fuel poverty charities. Her poetry pamphlet, How High Did She Fly, was joint winner of Live Canon's 2019 Poetry Pamphlet Competition and her hybrid particle-physics-inspired book and what if we were all allowed to disappear was published by Guillemot Press in March 2020. Tania is also the author of a poetry collection, a poetry chapbook and three short story collections, and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers' & Artists' Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014). She is co-creator of the @OnThisDayShe Twitter account, co-author of the On This Day She book (John Blake, 2021), and has a PhD in Creative Writing inspired by particle physics. Her website is here.  

About Still Life With Octopus

Tania Hershman’s Still Life With Octopus is an exquisitely-attuned second collection, a philosophical and poetic interrogation of the boundaries of animal and human worlds and the intimate nature of time, being and joy. Exploring the slippage between the life of the mind and the life of the body – in particular, those belonging to women – Hershman wonders what might happen if we let go of our preconceptions of both reality and language, taking nothing for granted and starting again from first principles, with fresh eyes.

While trying to fathom our physical and metaphysical existence, Hershman doesn’t ignore the other forms of intelligent life we share our planet with; her octopus is envisioned both as a creature within and alongside us and as a way to consider our place as humans within a greater chain of co-existence. 

You can see further details of Still Life With Octopus on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From Still Life With Octopus, by Tania Hershman

Still Life With Octopus (I)

There is an octopus in my chest, trying 
to give my heart to you. She will not listen 

when I say I need it. I have to keep 
prying her from my vena cava, the pulminary 

veins. I ask what makes her think 
you’d want it anyway. She shakes her head, her colour 

shifts to indicate disappointment, hope, 
connection. Finally, I let her take it. Once 

it’s gone, she settles in its place, exactly the right 
cardiac muscle shade. I worry about where my heart 

is now, did it even reach you? Let go, whispers the octopus 
in my chest. These things are not in your control.  

How to Make a Buttonhole Hand Stitch, 3 minutes 15 seconds, Feb 21, 2018

// You only see her hands / She doesn’t speak / doesn’t say / as they all do / Today I’m going to show you how / She sews / for three minutes fifteen seconds / in silence/ But there is noise / Behind her / dogs are barking / children shout / at one point there’s a siren / the sound of drilling / Because you have nothing but her fingers / (nails shaped but not quite clean) / you imagine / Some city in America / (sirens, dogs) / A woman who has told her family / Don’t bother me / I’m filming / And for three minutes fifteen seconds / she unlistens / to the children / dogs / sirens / drill / til she finishes that buttonhole for you //

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