Reviewed Poetry Book

The Broken Word

by Adam Foulds

This is Foulds' debut poetry volume. It is an impressive poetic sequence that highlights and animates a dark period in British colonial history. It is concerned with the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. It shows the power of the verse narrative. This is depicted in a tragic episode from Chapter 5 Night Fires.

She gave him no trouble to speak of.
After one good slap that salted her mouth
she was compliant, only
repeating some phrase over
and over, like some stupid bird song.

The atmosphere in the camps is lucidly evoked. This can be seen in an extract from Chapter 6 Screening.

A hundred yards of wire, diamonds of sky,
the night getting colder, whirring,
fur-trimmed with moths.

Later, the main character Tom, returns to England and expresses regret for his actions in Kenya. This is illustrated in Chapter 8 Who Were These People?

What he could tell them about there,
if he wanted to, to shut them up,
if they believed him.
But it wasn't even possible,
so wildly unmentionable,
like bringing up wet dreams
or school things.

This verse novella is a brave attempt at telling the story of a disturbing moment in history. It asks tough questions about atrocities and attempts to provide answers in a poetic medium. It is not clear whether it has been wholly successful.

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