The Girl Aquarium

The Girl Aquarium

The Girl Aquarium explores the realm of rotten fairy tales, the possession of body and the definition of beauty. Weaving between whispered science and circus, these poems turn a cracked mirror on society and ask who gets to control the twisted tales hiding in the wings....

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Title:The Girl Aquarium
Author:Jen Campbell
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Girl Aquarium Reviews

  • Renee Godding

    by Jen Campbell was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, for multiple reasons. Not only did I love Jen’s previous works, especially her latest short-story collection

    , I also love Jen as an author and as a member of the booktube community. This always makes me a little nervous to pick up a new release by such an author, but I’m happy to say that

    by Jen Campbell was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, for multiple reasons. Not only did I love Jen’s previous works, especially her latest short-story collection

    , I also love Jen as an author and as a member of the booktube community. This always makes me a little nervous to pick up a new release by such an author, but I’m happy to say that this did not disappoint.

    delivered exactly what I’ve come to expect from Jen Campbell: slightly unusual but stunning language, imagery as dark as it is whimsical, and fairytales and myths woven into topics that are clearly deeply personal to Jen herself (as many of them are to me).

    It explores sexuality, love, bodily differences, disability and disfigurement, the uncertainty of change and what the future holds.

    Jen is a master of stringing together words that seemingly don’t belong together, but form a completely unique and coherent picture in my head. Her work reminds me of that of Kirsty Logan, or even the poems of Sylvia Plath (a bigger compliment I cannot give, as Ariel is my favorite poetry collection of all time), in the sense that they have a dreamlike quality to them. An uneasy fever dream that is, that feels familiar, yet leaves you with a sense of estrangement and unease. To me, it feels like being lost, but also like home. I’m sorry if that makes zero sense to anyone but me, but it’s the best way I can describe the feeling these authors give me.

    The only downside to this collection for me was a purely personal one. A portion of the poems are written in Georgie dialect. For me, no matter how comfortable and familiar I get, English will always remain my second language, and having to put effort into understanding a dialect always takes the flow out of my reading a little.

    That being said, I do see how it adds personality to the writing and I can see how it could be a selling point for many other readers.

    Favorite poems:

    - The Exorcism of the North Sea

    - Memories of Your Sister in a Full Body Wetsuit

    - The Girl Aquarium

    - A Song of Herself

    - Hello, Dark (almost made me cry)

    - The angel of the North

    - The Woman’s Private Looking-Glass

  • Andreea

    “Smash this circus to the ground. Howl fiercely at the moon”

    Jen Campbell’s The Girl Aquarium has a very distinct poetic voice. It’s like entering a dream where all the fairy tales, folktales, magical creatures, and children’s stories are participating in the same circus. The term Robert Lowell used when introducing Plath’s Ariel was ‘a controlled hallucination’ and it’s the same term that first came to my mind when reading Campbell’s collection. In addition to the beautiful imagery, there are in

    “Smash this circus to the ground. Howl fiercely at the moon”

    Jen Campbell’s The Girl Aquarium has a very distinct poetic voice. It’s like entering a dream where all the fairy tales, folktales, magical creatures, and children’s stories are participating in the same circus. The term Robert Lowell used when introducing Plath’s Ariel was ‘a controlled hallucination’ and it’s the same term that first came to my mind when reading Campbell’s collection. In addition to the beautiful imagery, there are insights to the inner world of womanhood: perceived by the male gaze tapping on the glass of female aquariums whilst simultaneously containing overlooked multitudes. The corporeal existence of womanhood divorced from all the potential, feeling, and depth. There are limbs severed and scattered all over this collection, and a great focus is placed on movement and performance. In “The woman’s private Looking-glass” the poetic voice urges us to “smash this circus to the ground” and to “howl fiercely at the moon.”

    This collection plays with form, it is cohesive and well-edited, and acts as social criticism in the disguise of a dance with words. There’s fluidity and movement not only in the form of the poems but in their content. I will try to focus on one component of all I’ve described. The distinction between how a woman is perceived versus her inner world(s). In “Luminiferous Aether” the poetic voice narrates:

    “…there are limbs reaching out / for the Peter Pan collars of speechless girls. / They wait in skin that is not their own. / In the dark they forget the names / of each others’ mothers…in fractured handbags they carry/ knitted souls. They Stretch themselves…..their poor/scarred heads. They know too many things now.”

    There is so much to unpack in this single poem. Young girls forced to grow up so soon, to stretch themselves out in skins not of their own and fit a mould of something they have not chosen. To forget that they too need care and protection and are just as lost as the boys. To know so much and be unable to break out of the corporeal prison. No matter what you say or do, you will never be perceived as anything more than something to be admired in your tight claustrophobic aquarium. We are reminded of this gaze throughout. For instance in “The Exorcism of the North Sea” aside from the voices of the past, the ‘ghost birds,’ the grandeur and splendor of the sea and nature, our head is forcibly turned to look at the reality beyond the sublime:

    “….we are snow globes…young boys peer…girls in bathing suits. We stretch out our carol sheets and hum like bees.”

    In the poem “The Girl Aquarium” the poetic voice shows the dual nature of being both forced to perform, whilst made to feel guilty for actively participating. Craving care and attention, whilst simultaneously being trapped into being perceived differently from who you are and lacking the deeply desired human experiences:

    “Labelled doors, interactive exhibits….girls with extra limbs. They scuttle into corners, pretend they’re shy. …hashtag girls….hashtag nothing you’ve ever seen before in your tiny little life….a teenage boy bangs the window, gives them the finger. / The girls rush forward, lips open, kissing the glass…All the better to see you with”

    Contrast this poem with “Movement”

    “On the bus home, I think of all the constellations / hiding under my skin. / I think of the word vein / and decide I don’t like it. / I think of you and how – maybe / you flit and fit / within a different galaxy. / I write in my notebook in code / and think about gravity. / I think that maybe we’re both lost / in the skins of human planets.”

    Presented with constellations and infinite worlds beneath the skin whilst reminded that you will only be seen only for the stretched out, dried, and manufactured covering on the outside. There are no words.

    I loved this collection so much. I allowed myself to be amazed and immersed in the experience upon my first reading and so many lines and ideas kept coming back to me the following days. I couldn’t stop thinking about this collection, and I had to go back several times to unpack and interpret. When I tried to decide what I thought of it as a whole I asked myself if there was anything I would have subtracted or added to improve it, and nothing came to mind. The collection is mesmerizing, cohesive, and superbly edited. I highly recommend this collection to those who love poetry, magical realism, and fairy tales, and those looking to try a distinct voice in contemporary poetry.

    Linkable Review here:

  • Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    I’ve been a big fan of Jen Campbell for a while, and when I saw her first full length poetry collection was being released I placed a pre-order immediately!

    For those familiar with Jen’s work, you’ll find the imagery and whimsy of this collection a familiar comfort, while also delightfully pushing at the boundaries of your imagination. I loved the title poem and the dystopian strings it tugged at, but ultimately fell completely for the poems in the collection written in Geordie dialect. I actuall

    I’ve been a big fan of Jen Campbell for a while, and when I saw her first full length poetry collection was being released I placed a pre-order immediately!

    For those familiar with Jen’s work, you’ll find the imagery and whimsy of this collection a familiar comfort, while also delightfully pushing at the boundaries of your imagination. I loved the title poem and the dystopian strings it tugged at, but ultimately fell completely for the poems in the collection written in Geordie dialect. I actually read many of them aloud, surprising myself at how easily I slipped back into the accent! The Angel of the North was stunning, and having seen the giant sculpture of the same name guarding over the landscape, I loved the imagery Jen’s words evoked! Some of the images used across the collection included toes Morse coding grass, a “listening sea” and “lampshade mouths. Just stunning word combinations!

    Having grown up not far from where Jen did, from a linguistics perspective this collection felt like a celebration of the English I grew up speaking. It was completely delightful and a joy to read, and I look forward to returning to it many times over.

  • Ana

    You know when you read something and you immediately feel the need to go back, again and again and again, because of the way the words sound when read out loud (“Swimmin,” “Netted,” “Small Infinities,” “Orange Brain. Flowered Brain.”), because of the vivid images they conjure (“The Girl Aquarium,” “Miss Eliza’s Skeleton Factory,” “A Song of Herself,” “The Art of Saving Other People,” “The Woman’s Private Looking-Glass”), or simply because every other line of “Hell

    You know when you read something and you immediately feel the need to go back, again and again and again, because of the way the words sound when read out loud (“Swimmin,” “Netted,” “Small Infinities,” “Orange Brain. Flowered Brain.”), because of the vivid images they conjure (“The Girl Aquarium,” “Miss Eliza’s Skeleton Factory,” “A Song of Herself,” “The Art of Saving Other People,” “The Woman’s Private Looking-Glass”), or simply because every other line of “Hello, Dark” makes you both sad

    happy at the sheer beauty of it all...

    I

    this collection!

  • Yaiza Canopoli

    Such a lovely collection! I loved quite a few poems in this little book. I found the organisation of it a bit distracting, and couldn't immerse myself in all the poems, but overall would definitely recommend it!

  • Katie Lumsden

    A really great read. I think my favourite poem was Angel of the North.

  • Anna (lion_reads)

    There was so much I liked about this book: the rhythm, the imagery, the variety of poems. The language is quite interesting (many were written in a dialect). But I felt that I personally could not quite reach the "meat" of the poems. Still, I'm curious if time and other reading will bring me closer to these.

  • Paul

    I have been following Jen Campbell on various social media channels for years. On those channels, she has been a massive advocate for poetry, regular showing the slim volumes that she gets from publishers and buys herself. She has also presented videos on where to

    amongst many

    Even though she has been published before, this is her first full collection. It is full of poems that have personal elements and things that matter to her that she seeks to wrestle into a linguistic framework

    I have been following Jen Campbell on various social media channels for years. On those channels, she has been a massive advocate for poetry, regular showing the slim volumes that she gets from publishers and buys herself. She has also presented videos on where to

    amongst many

    Even though she has been published before, this is her first full collection. It is full of poems that have personal elements and things that matter to her that she seeks to wrestle into a linguistic framework of a poem. All of them are full of whimsy and the poems swirl with light and dark elements depending on the subject.

    I have read her three bookshop based books which were are all brilliant, and thought I would give this a go as the library had a copy and I am trying to read more poetry. Overall I liked this, the mix of styles and formats worked well and I liked the use of poems written in the Geordie dialect. I didn’t get everyone though and had some that I liked much more than others. 3.5 stars

    Movement

    Swimmin

    Birdlasses

  • Elysia

    Oh my goodness I can't believe that this wasn't already on my tbr, I thought I'd added it. This is one of my most anticipated book releases and I am so excited to have it in my hands

  • Kirsty

    Having loved Jen's short story collection and picture books, I was excited to read her debut poetry collection – and it doesn't disappoint. Themes of bodily difference, feminism, and whose story ultimately gets to be told, all in lush and complex language.

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