Books of 2022: Relativism by Mary Ford Neal

This is the first book we signed off on after opening for submissions back in July 2021, and we are just as excited about it now as we were back then. Relativism, the second poetry collection by Mary Ford Neal, a writer and academic from the West of Scotland, is a frank and poignant series of poems about family, motherhood, and our inexorable binds to the places we grew up in. Through a voice that is vivid, humane and unafraid to mix humour with pathos, these poems affected us deeply and we’re sure you’ll feel the same. This is a poet with an extremely bright future, and we are delighted to be a part of her journey.

The book will be published in paperback on July 9 2022. Continue below to find out a bit more about Mary and to read a poem from the collection.

Content warning: death, trauma, child death.

Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic from the West of Scotland, where she still lives and works. Her poetry has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies, and her first collection, Dawning, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2021. She has been Pushcart nominated, and was recently commissioned by the BBC. Mary is assistant editor of Nine Pens Press and 192 magazine.

She never shuts her mouth
from Relativism by Mary Ford Neal

She hasn’t shut her mouth in thirty years.
Was it the shock of the savage afternoon
that ripped this lifelong hole in her,
or the power of the blast that blew her
off her feet and dumped her
in the road, bird-broken?

Was it the sight of half her young son’s friend,
blown into the street like a torn piece
of paper, eyes still bright?
His mouth was gaping, like his body;
did hers open in silent answer
and forget to close again?

Was it when she was told, much later,
in the hospital, that her own warm boy
was cold? Did her lips part then
to let her sparrow of a soul escape?
For it did fly off to find and tend to him;
she’s birdless now.

Or is it just that putting lips together
after all these years would feel
like a denial of the bodies, still and moving,
plastered thick in dust and blood;
of ambulance doors swinging,
of shopping bags abandoned in the road?

One thought on “Books of 2022: Relativism by Mary Ford Neal

  1. Reeling. The stark narrative is delivered with the series of photographic images. The rhythm doesn’t lull but does contain and make it bearable to read. But it’s the bird imagery that takes your breath away.

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