Review of Amanda Huggins’ poetry collection The Collective Nouns for Birds from Maytree Press…

I was happy to receive an E-ARC of this collection from the author; I’ve known Mandy ever since we both had our flash fiction collections published by Chapel Town Books and her writing career has skyrocketed since then, with many publication credits, a collection of brilliantly observed short stories, Separated From the Sea published by Retreat West Books and then the glory of making the Costa Short Story finalists’ list for the Short Story Prize then going on to win 3rd prize with her story, ‘Red.’

The cover of the poetry chapbook is by artist Alice Parker and is a thing of beauty in itself. It could be a poster on my study wall.

The collection is available from 28 February to buy on amazon and elsewhere.

Here’s the link for Waterstones:-

I don’t actually read much poetry, I know, mea culpa, as I tend to read around my genre – horror and dark fiction. I don’t regard myself as a poetry expert either. So I come at it very much from the point of view- do I understand the poems? do they touch me? do they entertain? and do they create wonderful word pictures in my head?

This collection ticked all of those questions – with a resounding yes.  I can say unequivocally, that if you read only one poetry collection this year, then make it this one.

Amanda Huggins is a brilliant wordsmith, conjuring up whole stories in a few words- I’ve picked some out:-

“two homespun girls…”

“one-trick town..”

“jellyfish danced in puffball skirts..”

“salt-licked boots..”

“A ziggurat of half-read books…”

“stitched motorway lanes ..”

“tow-haired lasses on piebald ponies…”

and these are just some of my favourites- they roll off the tongue, so pleasingly, conjuring up luscious, sensory, charming images.

Two of my favourite poems were Dizzy With It which is a flashback to the writer’s teenage years, filled with shopping at Chelsea Girl, making music and recording it on cassette tapes, whilst wearing up “patched-up pale-sky jeans”.

The whole poem resonated with me as it could have been my teen years – I still remember a fab bright yellow tie neck blouse I bought at Chelsea Girl and eating at Wimpy bars wearing my patched jeans. All my clothes back then were second hand or charity shop purchases, so my patched-up look was not ‘cos I was trendy but due to necessity.

Another favourite was the witty and gentle Chris Clarke-with-an-e.

When you meet your first love at a friend’s wedding years and years later, you’re both the same and both so different and this poem explores that dichotomy. “Half-curious to know our different ending…”

Every poem is a little gem and pays rereading. These poems are accessible, but that doesn’t mean they are facile. There is much to be gleaned from the subject matters on display here – some pretty big stuff like life, relationships, falling in and out of love, moving away and growing up.

I could imagine some of them being set to music too. They have a lyrical feel to them.

So in short, an elegant sharply observed collection which I really enjoyed.

5/5 stars




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