POETRY SPOTLIGHT: ‘fiona & the snow queen’ by Ali Whitelock

and my heart crumples like a coke can by Ali Whitelock

Our spotlight shines once again on Ali Whitelock, this time featuring a poem from her first collection published by Wakefield Press, and my heart crumples like a coke can.

‘Ali Whitelock writes a poetry of excoriating tenderness. Whitelock is Bukowski with a Glaswegian accent and a nicer wardrobe.’

– Mark Tredinnick, poet and author of The Blue Plateau, The Little Red Writing Book, Blue Wren Cantos, The Lyre Bird & Other Poems

Post written by Reem Ernst

Before we discuss the poem for this week, I must introduce myself. My name is Reem Ernst and I started as an intern at Wakefield Press this week. So far, I have done a lot of reading and it has been a breath of fresh air from my adulthood slash quarantine reread of the Twilight Saga and the legislation I have had to pore over this year.

The poem I have chosen for this week is ‘fiona & the snow queen’. Ali wrote this poem about her sister-in-law’s recovery from a heart attack at forty and her subsequent induced hypothermic coma. The title itself reveals the modern fairytale-like theme of the poem.

fiona & the snow queen

fiona and the snow queen, Ali Whitelock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed the use of personification in this poem; this was a technique we were taught back in primary school and one I have always been hesitant to use since then for fear of sounding cliché. Ali personifies her sister-in-law’s hypothermic coma as the Snow Queen, and her execution of this poetic technique is delicate and meaningful, and not at all cliché.

The line ‘whether the frosts of her winter will thaw and the first green shoots of her spring’ evokes a sense of hope despite the uncertainty the author and her brother face whilst waiting at their loved one’s bedside.

Through this poem, I could feel the bond that Ali has with her sister-in-law as she observes her ‘dreamlike state’ in the hospital, knowing that she, in her coma, is also declaring this situation ‘utter shite’. While the author can rely on her writing to cope with the painful situation – to document what has happened through beautiful metaphor and dark humour – it seems as though her brother does not have the same outlet, stating that ‘he does not want to talk about what might happen’.iona i came from far by Ali Whitelock

What the brother does have is his musical talent, first playing remixes of their songs out loud and then singing to his partner himself, hoping she can hear him. This is even more touching when you recall that the sister-in-law had been the one singing songs out of tune in the hospital, before the Snow Queen visited her.

At the end of the poem, Ali remarks that her brother is musical and she is not; all she can do is ‘record in words to say what has happened’. However, although her brother has something that he can give his partner now, the ability to write in the way Ali does is equally as powerful an act of love for her sister-in-law. Though this poem does not have an ending, I hope the ending in real life was a good one.

Watch Ali’s reading of this lovely piece, along with video footage of Scotland by her brother, Andy Whitelock.

Watch the video embedded below or follow this link.

Discover more about Ali Whitelock’s and my heart crumples like a coke can, as well as her newest poetry collection, the lactic acid in the calves of your despair, on our website.

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