RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... performs a paradoxical feat. At 101 pages, it’s a long book; many of the poems are on the long side; and many of the lines are long. Yet there is no clutter or crowding here – only an exuberant fullness, such an abundance of captivating images and turns of phrase that it is hard to take everything in. Almontaser’s verbal richness doesn’t stall or cloy; rather, her bold poems convey the spaciousness afforded by freedom and truth-telling. They keep moving, and we try to keep pace ... Almontaser’s knack for titles suggests the range of her subject matter ... In these confident, capacious, generous poems, which face tragedy without sentimentality or bitterness, there are echoes of poets such as Ishion Hutchinson, Erica Dawson and Emily Skaja (and of the poet whose name graces the award this remarkable book recently won: Walt Whitman), but Almontaser’s poetic voice is very much her own.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Wilfully, the poems careen along, overflowing the conventional boundaries of lyric. They are challenging both to read and to write about. Attempting to comment briefly on this visionary commotion is like trying to capture thunder and lightning in a bottle ... In every way this collection is capacious. Most of the poems consist of long breathless lines, often enjambed according to principles which are both metrically and semantically elusive. There seems no compelling reason why many lines should end where they do, or end at all. The entire collection feels like one long poem, in fact: the interludes between the poems can seem as arbitrary as the line breaks ... Graham’s headlong pace often eludes affective response, so that the reader struggles to recuperate meaning in the poem’s wake, exhausted and disoriented ... The reader may be tempted, sometimes, to simply give up; or else she may skim along the surface, propelled by the poems’ speed. This isn’t work that lends itself to being savoured. And yet prosaic these poems are not ... Strenuous, mannered, sometimes beautiful, Runaway is at all times apocalyptic and alarming. Any consolation to be found here has the radiance of a relic ... Even occasional breaks in the harshness are disheartening ... Graham is most effortlessly herself in her expansively vatic and apocalyptic mode. The range of her references is part of her power. In this bleak post-human landscape, it is startling but reassuring to find epigraphs by Tennyson and Donne, a poem \'after\' Edward Thomas, and numerous echoes of Hopkins ... The scale and authority of the long lines sometimes recall Whitman, but we are also in a realm we recognize from Beckett. This is a world beyond humanity, beyond nature, beyond culture, and yet amid the ruins there is the undeniable triumph and power (albeit a useless power) of poetic utterance. Perhaps Runaway could use some pruning. But one doesn’t edit prophets, and this collection feels like a belated prophecy – not so much a prediction of a burnt-out, excoriated, digitized world to come as an evocation of that world – a world already in existence.