Caught by the River

Glass As Broken Glass

Sophie McKeand | 21st March 2017

Glass As Broken Glass by Martha Sprackland
(Rack Press, stapled paperback, 16 pages. Out now and available here.)

Review by Sophie McKeand

In Glass As Broken Glass Martha Sprackland’s poems thrum with a delicate fragility. These are words that push gently at life’s fissures to reveal a quiet understanding of the splintered and fragmented nature of the world and our place in it.

Hunterian Tryptic (also recently published in the London Review of Books, thereby dramatically increasing the number of female contributors) has Frankenstein-esque echoes, with its Ranks of failed experiments, the dreaming small / of muntjac deer and armadillo packed airtight / in sterile wombs. The mind attempts to fathom the huge femaleness omitted from this masculine and ghostly archive, where A wasp-sized mouse is wrapped in a twin, / a crocodile [is] still umbilical to the egg: all is preserved-yet-broken in an eternal state of both birth and death.

Which is exactly where we find ourselves in the opening line of Superposition and collapse, where the collapsed world of the modern-day mobile phone lying face-down beside the kerb – like Schrödinger’s famous cat – returns us to a parallel childhood memory of finding a broken, abandoned robin’s egg.

In this pamphlet, nature is as desolate and fragmented as the title Glass As Broken Glass, with empty woods, sun as broken glass and fallow fields; the one exception being Tricksters Shark and Selkie, (my favourite) which also includes the wonderful line A piece of sea breaks off and muscles into view.

If I have one comment, it is that I would have liked there to be more poems in this pamphlet, but still Glass As Broken Glass is a beautiful piece of work. I have loved hearing Martha read both Snail and Dooms at recent Caught by the River events, and this has added a rich dimension to the work that cannot be wrestled onto the page. It is interesting that these poems bookend the pamphlet, because both echo with the horrible inevitability of fate, or death, or life. The titular snail could well be Roy ‘Dooms’ Sullivan himself – both are tough-yet-broken heroes, hanging onto their fragile lives whilst the reader is already imbued with the knowledge that fate has other ideas.

This is a competently produced pamphlet from Rack Press, imprinted with beautifully crafted words that guide the barefooted reader through the broken glass of the heart, the natural world, and our fragmented lives, leaving you yearning for more, and feeling that you have experienced so much more than seven poems printed onto something as insubstantial as paper.


Glass As Broken Glass is available here in the Caught by the River shop, priced £5.00.

Sophie McKeand’s poetry collection is out with Parthian Books this June. Visit Sophie’s website here.

Sophie McKeand on Caught by the River/on Twitter

Martha Sprackland on Caught by the River/on Twitter