Michelle was born in Zimbabwe in 1974, spent her childhood in Malawi, and moved to South Africa with her family when she was fourteen. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of Fireflies & Blazing Stars (2002) and Hybrid (2003). She lives in Johannesburg and blogs at peony moon.
Reviews for The Suitable Girl
“Every poem in The Suitable Girl grabs the reader immediately and then proceeds to take them, by a surprising route, to its strange conclusion, taking in much wit, irony, lyricism and sensual detail on the way. These are trips well worth the taking.”
Joanne Limburg, author of Femenismo and Paraphernalia
“Michelle McGrane’s third collection, The Suitable Girl, deals with contemporary issues such as societal expectations, gender, death, grief, anorexia and poverty as well as mythology, and the sensuous aspects of food, love and travel. Though there are strong threads uniting these poems, they are of broad scope and vary in style and tone making the reading of this volume a multi-textured experience. This collection transports the reader from sadness to exaltation, from desert to village to outer space. Some of the poems are sharp, pared down, direct and straight to the point. These poems contrast against poems that pulse, swell and hum with rich, evocative sensory description.
McGrane demonstrates her obvious passion for the music of language. She plucks words from specialist lexical fields and unselfconsciously weaves them into the fabric of her own poetic voice. She gently introduces her readers to succulent new nouns, spices the texts with the exquisite vocabularies of lunar realms and 19th century apothecaries as well as incorporating the simple patterns of everyday life and speech.
Unlike many poets, McGrane does not indulge in obscure abstraction. She is not afraid of furnishing her poems with concrete detail and it is the presence of these concrete ‘things’ that gives her work a tangible stability. McGrane’s strength as a poet lies in her descriptive prowess and ability to illuminate the dark and neglected corners of the world and its people, to instil the ordinary with scent, poignancy, colour, movement and magic. After reading The Suitable Girl, its perfumes, flavours and atmospheres will continue to resonate in your mind for hours.”
Gaia Holmes, author of Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed
“The Suitable Girl does not fit neatly inside her own story. She speaks to us from myth and through time; she is sending postcards from the moon. Michelle McGrane’s poems are packed with sumptuous words from a library-full of lexicons, they are sometimes earthy-sensual, sometimes sunlight-sharp. They open up your windows and rearrange your desk.”
Helen Ivory, author of The Double Life of Clocks and The Dog in the Sky
“Michelle McGrane’s exquisite, assured collection looks at how women, historical or actual, have shaped their interior landscapes and, in doing so, shaped the world……by way of myth, legend and literature, McGrane offers the reader fine, elegant cameos which, upon closer inspection, are both sharper and more darkly beautiful than they first appear to be.
McGrane is the master of the subtle; of the sideways glance, the intimate detail. The Suitable Girl is the work of a divinely gifted writer whose work deserves to be widely read.”
Fiona Zerbst, author of Parting Shots, The Small Zone, Time and Again and Oleander
From The Suitable Girl:
Two hours ago, we docked
at Crater Plaskett’s northern rim.
Plumes of spent gunpowder
eructed from the landing strip,
spinning into galaxies and starfields.
It clings to our helmet visors,
sifts into our spacesuits,
fine, jagged particles
infiltrating hinges and joints,
shrouding instrument dials
with an electrostatic film.
II. Hadley Rille
I am writing from a lava tube
at Hadley Rille, near the Sea of Rains.
We spent the day gathering
silica-rich soil, shattered rocks,
glassy, fist-sized specimens
sampled from the basalt crust.
The Lunar Roving Vehicle
has exceeded all expectations.
Jack and his crew will be pleased.
I look forward to your news.
III. Space Gourmet
We season freeze-dried macaroni
with liquid salt and pepper.
Water is distilled, recycled
from our breath and sweat.
After a week of granola bars,
nuts and bitter orange juice,
the Commander’s arm
begins to look tasty.
IV. Counting Clusters
the lunar module
ticks and hums.
I shift restlessly
in my stellar nursery,
trace the constellations
of your freckles,
striving to sail
these light years
home to you.