All the Naked Daughters “is a stunning cabinet of curiosities” (Bill Greenwell).
Anna Kisby is a Devon-based poet and archivist. After growing up in London, she studied
Literature and Film at the universities of East Anglia, Sussex and Paris-Sorbonne, taught
English in Prague and sold cowboy boots in Massachusetts, then training as an archivist and working with women’s history collections. Her poems are widely published in magazines including Magma, Mslexia and Poetry News and anthologies including 154: contemporary poets respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets and Furies: a poetry anthology of women warriors. In 2017 she was part of the collaborative poetry performance Somme Suite – a First World War commemoration. She won the BBC Proms Poetry competition 2016, the Havant Poetry Competition 2016 and was commended in the Faber New Poets Scheme 2015-16.
Against the Grain Poetry Press commissioned Anna as their first poet and launched the press with her pamphlet All the Naked Daughters, available to purchase under Shop.
The Fallen Alices
Of all the stories told by the Thames this is ours:
we are the curious, the questing, the covetous, the lost,
we are the girls who never grow up. We are hanging
from bridges because the river listens to our petitions.
We are flower-selling under arches, distracted by the ticking
of this gentleman’s fine pocket-watch, we will follow him home.
We are the eat-me drink-me, the locked room, the golden key
on the glass table. We are the drugged, the tricked, the riddled,
the concealed. We are led to pianos that turn into beds, we are not
let be to dream under oaks or dance quadrilles. We are unstill.
We swell, we open and close like telescopes. We are the pretty-army
dropping curtsies as we set your tea-table, always an arm looped
through ours, always the sharp chin on our shoulder in sculleries.
This fall is fast but feels like tumbling through one hundred years.
All our petticoats are parasols to slow our descent, to clog,
to waterlog. All our breasts are aproned to do our job, to prove us
clean, and all our little kicking feet are dandelion seeds
scattering, so many buttoned boots. We are late, we are late.
We are disgraced, seduced, we are trafficked and raped.
We fall prostrate before your smiles, out of reach at the tops
of the tallest trees. We are the punished, found drowned
in pools of our own tears. We are rushing towards you downriver.
Speak of us. Our elegant corpses are the stuff of ink, pen and paint.
Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865 during a period of anxiety
about the Fallen Woman and female suicides into the Thames
i.m. Emily Wilding Davison, suffragette 1872-1913
When I hold your purse in my hand –
to catalogue your archive
of school reports (glowing),
militant with hope,
a Derby pass,
hate-mail hoping you die
more painfully than Anmer
(the King’s felled horse)
and a flag folded against the grain
to show its bloodstain –
it fits in my palm like a paw.
Film reel shows you fly
up from hooves like a scrap
of matter. Your purse is warm
as a thing just-caught.
When I roll its clasp undone
between index-finger and thumb
it’s like stepping too sudden
from the kerb
into a traffic roar.
I lay it in a perspex case
flanked by what it last held.
Your unused return.
An outbound, its torn edge
like fur under my finger.