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Caroline Carver Tikki Tikki Man

Carver’s Tikki Tikki Man is her fourth collection, coming after Jigharzi An Me (Semicolon Press), Bone-fishing (Peterloo Poets) and Three Hares (Oversteps Books); an impressive track record.

It is hard to know where to start this review; her collection is like nothing else around. It tells the story of two children on the road to recovery after suffering abuse at the hands of the Tikki Tikki Man, “- perhaps when I’m grown up” says Maia “I’ll stop remembering.” At one point when the Tikki Tikki Man goes back to his ship the children tell us

“we wrap our guilt into small bundles
hide them in cupboards
hope cockroaches will find and eat them.”

At times the images are violent as the children try to deal with their pain. Maia “hacks at the hair which reaches to her waist / tears it from her head till her scalp’s bleeding” because she is told, with hair like that, “someone’s going to rape you”.

It is disturbing without being overly explicit; it’s also menacing and heart-breaking. Carver’s language is measured; every word has its place and impact. Within this cruel world Carver still manages to capture the beauty and light of landscapes, “I longed for autumn / so I could gather up mushrooms / put them to dry on the tops of saplings” and tells us the children’s dreams:

“Maia says she dreams of the wolf
trotting the height of land     like a warrior king

he’s made from the earth    he’s part of the earth
he’s a family man   he has his tribe close by”.

Tikki Tikki Man is an astonishing read.

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