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Wales Book of the Year shortlist review: I Think We’re Alone Now by Abigail Parry

22 Jun 2024 5 minute read
I Think We’re Alone Now by Abigail Parry is published by Bloodaxe Books

Rhian Elizabeth

I won’t write you an intelligent analysis of this book, because I’m not capable of doing such a thing, but I’ll tell you all about how much I like it. I really like this book, in fact.

I like a book that’s full of serious stuff but also silly stuff. And I like a book that’s full of weird stuff but also human stuff and this book has spade loads of all of that.

Sometimes I don’t understand the poems but that’s okay. It’s a poor reflection on me, not the poems or the poet –but, I tell myself reassuringly as I scratch my head, that’s what all good poems are supposed to do, aren’t they?

Challenge you. Get you to ask questions. Get you to dig deeper into the words, into yourself.

I first heard some of these poems performed live before I read them. At the launch of Taz Rahman’s debut collection, and then at Tiger Bay Poetry just a few weeks later, and I was intrigued by Parry.

I thought she was super cool, casual in her delivery of poems that were thought provoking and funny, otherworldly, scientific yet so so human.


Abigail Parry has worked as a toy maker in a previous life, I believe, and I can almost imagine her crafting these poems in the exact same way.

With delicate hands that act as tools, with care and mechanical meticulousness and the end results are poems that you want to take apart by their screws and hinges – poems to play with, poems that play with you.

Is is the lark that sings so out of tune

The days that come and go
like dull beads on a joyless abacus.

This is a book about intimacy (or the lack of it), about our many failures as human beings… failures of connection, of relationships and of language. It’s also about beetles and pop music and churches and smear tests. But not really.

Abigail Parry takes a sample of Humanity, mixes it up in her petri dish and then puts on her goggles, casts her eye on it under her microscope. And Aha! Here you go, guys. She presents her findings with seriousness and ridiculous.

Life is chaotic. Humans are messy. But these poems are anything but.

In the dream of the cold restaurant

She’ll pull this city to the ground before
she’ll take your plate, let alone your pity.

The composition of this collection is surgical in its precision and in its observations.


So much care has been taken with each poem, each word and line and for me, a poet who throws words around with careless abandon, who doesn’t spend too much time on them and takes a chance on their impact landing or not landing (I’m lazy), I really admire this about AP.

The book is relentless in its pursuit of the analysis of the every day. I wish I could write something like this. Maybe I’ll ask AP at another reading how she does it, pick her poetic brain. And then realise I’m incapable of such craft.

‘Some Remarks on the General Theory of Relativity’ is my favourite poem in the collection. It’s beautiful and remarkable and simple and complex and human and lovely. It is, I think, an attempt to portray the ridiculousness and sadness of our existence on Earth.

How we all live side by side on this massive massive planet, how we are going about our lives with only the slightest awareness of each other. Which is sad and heartbreaking and lonely but real. It encapsulates our lack of intimacy as humans.

How we are all alike, duplicate creations, how our lives run in parallel and repetition (depressingly so) alongside one another, how we are going through the same things, the same monotony of life, washing dishes, taking things in and out of identical cabinets, dealing with the same emotions and tragedies and failures… but there are walls between us.

Metaphorical and physical. If we could only reach out…. touch.

she hears that little clunk. She hears me cough at night.
She hears me talking, sometimes, on the phone,
she’s thought These walls are thin.
She’s looked up from her sink to see her twin
in a square of yellow kitchen-light, with ten dark feet between.
We are lonely but we are not alone.

If I Think We’re Alone Now wins Wales Book of The Year, it would be a fair reward for such an important body of work.

This book stays with you for a long time after you’ve read it. As does the bloody song in the title. Cheers for that.

I Think We’re Alone Now by Abigail Parry is published by Bloodaxe Books and is available from all good bookshops.

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