Review: Wreathing by Ali Graham


At Osmosis, our reviewers are encouraged to respond to and review work creatively. The only formal limitation is a word count guide of 250 words. Short, sweet and with a little bite. We see reviews as a chance to converse, whether that’s about form, creative practice, ideas or language. Interested in reviewing with us? Contact our Reviews Editor, Jayd Green.


Wreathing, by Ali Graham. Available for purchase here. Published by SPAM zine & Press.


In a 2020 essay, Graham describes the illusion of film:

A film reel works by flickering; an image is shown momentarily, the reel moves, another image is shown. 

read the full essay here

And this goes a long way to capture the experience of navigating Wreathing, a sequence of fifteen sonnets interspersed by 28 shorter verses.  One characteristically unsettled poem begins:

Small room in I have placed          absorbent
fingerprinted redpink of your hawkface

In spite of the syntactic shuffling and sound patterning, lines like these never feel playful.  Instead, Graham builds a sense of the uncanny throughout the sequence: each poem’s last line serves as the subsequent poem’s title, allusions and images recur, and while one poem asserts

from put upon through mirrors I escape

reading the sequence more often feels like plunging headlong through a hall of mirrors, Roger Moore-like.  The experience is only heightened by Graham’s various typographical tricks: the use of braces, the awkward right alignment of the interspersed poems, the jarring chasms which occasionally appear mid-line.  These are sonnets, but also distinctly not-sonnets.

And while the poems sometimes appeal tenderly to an out-of-shot addressee, or immerse themselves in the landscape and elements, most often they veer violently back towards the speaker’s own image, reflected back, warped or distorted, as if in panels of concave or convex glass:

I go Boy Bitten By Lizard a bit
unsettled is which inversion is least

Both poems and speaker refuse to be still.


The drama of ‘O’, the ‘art’s mouth’, whispers and lingers in this quietly chaotic pamphlet. The embodiment of multiple in these sonnet variations frustrate the readerly desire to make home in a single line or two. A noble refusal of the singular, pristine line – all must be bright here, paralysing the reader. The ‘O’ as a circle, not a letter, is an interesting typographic choice that displays sparsity and gaps that still feel full. From page 10:

what grammar to long 

These poems are turning in bed, pulling the duvet close to the chin, watching a ray of sunlight creep across the room. They weave together pleasure and discomfort, writhing in heartsickness. The reader is taken by the hand, urgently, through this breathless confession. I found it difficult to not match the energy: as I read, I felt the urge to dote and adore. The syntactic surprises delight, and the abundance of partial rhymes does much to reinforce the circular feeling of the poems. From page 12:

Small room in I have placed absorbent
fingerprinted redpink of your hawkface
practice geologic at being smooth
the dissolves involved in spanning
of body of water and further land

A singular refusal of all that must be bright in the quiet chaos. Graham’s poems pull the reader into the crux of desire and wanting, until the final alchemic collage leaves the reader alone once again: ‘if even ever singular I was’. 


Tom England teaches and writes in the North West of England. He publishes and edits the arts and literary journal The Greenhouse, and the experimental poetry zine Offcuts. His poetry has most recently been published in Confingo, Clockhouse and Atlas & Alice. Twitter: @greenhousemags @offcutszine

Jayd Green is a writer, a PhD candidate with the University of Suffolk, and Reviews Editor for experimental poetry publisher, Osmosis Press. Her poems have appeared in Anthropocene, Foliate Oak literary magazine and Footprints: An Anthology of New Ecopoetry by Broken Sleep Books. Her writing and research is concerned with contemporary nature writing practices, ecocriticism, and the ecogothic. Twitter: @jaydgreen 

Caravaggio - Boy Bitten by a Lizard — Spiffing Prints

Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Caravaggio, 1593-94 (on display at the National Gallery, London)

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