'Waiting For Another Velvet Morning' by Julia Macpherson. Reviews!
Posted by Insertponceyfrenchnamehere on Fri, 29 Mar 2019
This one is personal for a few of us on ABCTales. Julia (Overthetop1) was one of our much loved users as is her mother Coral (seashore). Two of our most talented poets very kindly agreed to provide reviews which you can read below, and then I've copied Cerasus Poetry's post which contains a link to buy the book. I've read it. You should too. It's extraordinary:
Julia MacPherson’s Waiting For Another Velvet Morning
by Maggy Van Eijk (maggyvaneijk)
“From one kooky brain to another”
I came to ABCTales in my late teens, a time when I felt everyone in my life was moving forward and I was stuck in static. I struggled to make connections until I typed ABCTales into my browser. I soon landed into a safe space where I could haemorrhage some of that loneliness into poetry. I found kindred spirits in aspiring writers. Before I uploaded a new poem I’d make sure I was up to date with everyone’s recent entries. The comment sections became gatherings where we’d huddle together and pour our hearts out over each other’s writing. Soon enough my ABC Tales friends felt just as important as the flesh and blood variety, one those people being Overthetop1 aka Julia MacPherson.
Julia was a voracious writer and generous commenter. Her poetry and prose depicted heartbreak and other emotional turmoil, often with long winding sentences and razor-sharp imagery that would grab you by the collar and shake you about. Julia was older than me but I found myself relating to a lot of her writing, finding fragments of myself littered amongst her rebellious form and evocative metaphors.
Tragically, Julia passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Her life wasn’t always easy. As her mother Coral Jane writes in the beautiful forward toWaiting For Another Velvet MorningJulia’s life “had little stability and was frequently interrupted by illness”. This instability is apparent in Julia's work. Chaos snakes its way throughout this collection; often shattering the narrator’s sense of self.
When placed in the hands of health professionals the self depicted in Julia’s writing is under siege: “the drugs they fed me bloated me and my features dissolved, until I was unrecognisable.” Julia’s voice dissociates from her body: “I hear myself screaming in shame, but // a woman in uniform shouts and shouts at me” It’s never implied in Julia’s writing that she doesn’t want to get better, it’s that she has to be the one to do it, not the faceless professionals. The power of words is Julia’s ultimate salvation: “If I seize good images, they ricochet me // into other peaceful flickerings”
The collection isn’t strictly chronological, which would be far too neat for Julia. However there are themes that tie it together: childhood, feminism, mental health and relationships breaking down. Reading all of Julia’s writing together you’re presented with a courageous life, a passionate life but a life that often rattled from one extreme to another as “a million demon goblins dance around my heart.”
Within that journey it’s apparent that Julia loved literature. To read this collection is to witness Julia fall in love with with poetry; with different forms, schemes and imagery. She references the War poets and there are dashings of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson and the playwright Sarah Kane. Despite the heavy topics Julia writes about, there is a lot of fun in her writing. Try saying this tongue twister of a line out loud: “poetic sludge-sluts, I am the slipshod slapper”.
The strongest poems in Julia’s work confirm her image-making ability. There’s a youthful urgency in her writing, it crackles with life and raw talent and it’s a tragedy for readers everywhere that we’re bereft of new material.
I left a comment on Julia’s story And The Beat Goes On back in August 2011, applauding her wonderful writing and she wrote back: “Maggy that means a helluva lot to me...from one kooky brain to another.” Thanks to the love and devotion of Julia’s sister and mother we’ve got this magnificent collection, a homage to a wonderfully kooky brain.
by Simon Whitworth (fatboy74):
“I wish there was one more inside me, to pull
from the pink, bright me of hearts and harvests.
It would be perfect and smiling, a replica of
you and me when I am sunset-sheen.”
My Poems Julia Macpherson
I was so pleased to hear that Cerasus would be publishing a collection of Julia’s (Overthetop1’s) writing. Our conversations on writing and a variety of other topics (The Stone Roses, Simon Cowell?) are some of my most vivid and enjoyable memories of my time on ABCtales and what I remember most about her, was her warmth and vibrancy, the encouragement she gave to others and her wonderful sense of humour - her poems and prose reflect this. She was genuinely surprised that others enjoyed her writing – and it isvery easy to enjoy Julia’s writing.
Visceral can be an over-used word, but it could not be more apt to describe Waiting For Another Velvet Morning– this is not a book for those who like their poetry saccharined. The honesty is brutal. In one of the early poems Seven, no quarter is given in its description of sexual abuse and the confusion and devastation left behind. In the poem Diary of a Hypochondriac, the shifting narrative from child to adult intensifies the desperation and confusion of illness and forced separation. Sickness becomes a shameful thing: “The nurse tells me, ever so quietly, that I am very bad indeed…the children at school covered their eyes and refused to hold my hand – made vomiting noises when I was near.” The ending is desolate, no answer comes to the cries for help - but even in so bleak a poem as this, there is humour and there is love, “I gripped her fiercely, my small body suffused with love.”
Each of the six sections of the collection ends with a longer piece of writing. Some are closer to poetry, as in the mesmeric and lyrical And the Beat Goes On, where we are pulled down the rabbit hole and come up gasping for air, impatient for the next ride. Others like the OrwellianThe Day I Dared to Wear Lipstick, a nightmarish account of an interview with a health professional, are straight-up prose – each highlights Julia’s versatility as a writer, the energy she brings to the page, her unique and dazzling wordplay, her truthfulness.
The Fly, Psychobabble and All Thatis a wonderfully comic account of what must have been an extremely distressing experience. A recurring theme throughout Julia’s writing is the shifting sense of reality - of what is real and what is imagined, the frustration of an incredibly sharp mind that at once both recognises the truth of her situation, but is unable to overcome her fears and anxieties because of the firm grip illness has on her. She sees through the psychobabble bullshit and the end is a satisfying two-fingered salute to smug authority. That fly was real.
A Valentine From Berlinis a poem of massive scope where “chaos and history” intertwine, framed against the barely concealed, bubbling tension of a straining relationship. The word play and imagery are incredible. So too in Cream Teas and Wasps, one of my favourite poems in the collection, a wonderfully hopeful burst of positivity and joy and an unashamed celebration and recognition of her own “Indian Summer.”
There is so much more to recommend: the brilliantly observed Supermodel; Gone in a Heartbeat, that so perfectly captures the hurt we give to those we love and the finality of loss; Resurrectionresonates with anger and power, driven on by forceful imagery; Peanut Crunching at Plath’s Table is a somersaulting barrage of language and images, musing on the relationship between Hughes and Plath and its tragic conclusion. As Usualtakes us into the mind of one disbelieving that they are able to function, even on the most basic of levels, and forces the reader to question our preconceptions of those around us and what lies just beneath the surface. I could go on, there is so much here and so much worth discovering.
My Poemsis not only my favourite poem in the collection, it is one of my favourite poems in any collection, even though its subject is one of my least favourite topics for a poem – the writing process itself. Of course, it’s about so much more than that… I will give the final word to the poet herself, although I think she is mistaken, she really did get the damn thing right.
“I haven’t had kids, but I do know that often writing isn’t necessarily a pleasure but a kind of pressure that’s building up – getting stronger as you write and struggle to find the right words. If you are like me, it’s like a dog with a bone – you can’t leave the damned thing alone – always tampering and tweaking, and it never really feels like you’ve got it right.”
A record came on, maybe around 4.00am:
‘Some Velvet Morning’, the singer intoned.
We looked at each other, listened.
It had captured our mood so accurately.
After it ended, we all said we would not
forget this night. It was one of those
sunlit, spider-web moments that cannot be
The latest release from Cerasus is a collection of poetry and prose that represents the life’s work of Julia (Overthetop1) Macpherson: a young woman who died too soon, before the full extent of her writing talent was recognised and realised.
It contains much original material, which has never been featured on ABCtales.
Having worked for the publishing house Virago and for the mental health charity Mind, it is no surprise that she writes with candour about being female and about her struggles with psychological problems.
The influences of Plath and Sassoon can be heard in her words, but she also has her own distinctive voice, often humorous and always forthright, with which she describes her childhood, family, womanhood, loves, relationships and health.
She does not shrink from the tragic recognition of her own decline, nor from depicting the blunt edged bureaucracy of the care profession that ultimately fails her.
Yes, there are moments that will break your heart. And yet, many of those same moments will also make you laugh.
Above all, ‘Waiting For Another Velvet Morning’ is a celebration of Julia’s life, made possible by those she loved and who loved her in turn, and who love her still.
The net profits from this book will be shared equally (33% each) between Mind, the mental health charity and The Compassionate Friends, supporting bereaved parents and their families.
(Please note, this book contains references to suicide and self abuse, which some readers may find upsetting.)
Available to buy now, either directly from Cerasus (for UK customers) or from Amazon, in two formats: 128 page trade paperback £8.99 or ebook in Portable Document (.pdf) Format £3.99.