The Mermaid’s Purse by Fleur Adcock

Fleur Adcock began writing the poems in this book when she was 82. The two chief settings are New Zealand, with its multi-coloured seas, and Britain, seen in various decades. There are foreign travels, flirtations, family memories, deaths and conversations with the dead. Katherine Mansfield, incognito, dodges an academic conference; there’s a lesson in water divining as well as a rather unusual Christmas party. We meet several varieties of small mammal, numerous birds, doomed or otherwise, and some sheep. The book ends with a sequence in memory of her friend, the poet Roy Fisher.


When you pick it up, is full of

squirmy larvae –

she doesn’t carry actual money



(@BloodaxeBooks, 25 February 2021, ebook, 72 pages, #ARC from the publisher via @edelweiss_squad and voluntarily reviewed)




I’m quite a fan of the poet. I’ve read a lot of her work. I was looking forward to this. I liked the title and the image on the front cover. The collection is not what I expected, given the title and image on the front cover I was hoping for poems about the sea and sea creatures. Very little of this can be found in The Mermaid’s Purse. Still, I enjoyed the poems nevertheless. Water and nature do recur as a theme in the poems as do familiar tropes such as death, grief, friendship and human fragility. Adcock has a way with words. My favourite poems were The Mermaid’s Purse, The Islands, House, Siena, Divining, Novice Flyer and Tatters.

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