Julie Maclean
Kiss of the Viking

October 2014. 36 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-47-3 (= PSPS 12)
£4.50 (+ 1.00 p&p), €5.50 (+ 1.00 p&p), US$ 8.00 (+ 1.50 p&p)
 
"Tales from a traveller in search of the famed Nordic darkness. Deceptively light in their tone. Maclean's keen sense of the eloquent image ensures that she not only finds the Noir, but captures it. A child drawing a cart loaded with wood, a tattooed waiter with perfect manners, a cameo in a Stockholm cemetery, a glimpse of an Icelandic execution two hundred years ago: again and again the colour drops out, a sudden silence arrives, and we are there, and there is everywhere, as if through the particular she has accessed something about the global."

David Brooks

"The world of Scandi Noir detective thrillers forms the backdrop to Kiss of the Viking, blending the familiar and quotidian with the bizarre, quirky, and edgy. Julie Maclean is not afraid to address the stereotypes - Ikea, polar bears, the Little Mermaid - along with more personal preoccupations, such as a fascination with the underbelly of Nordic myths and with graveyards, and she brings to them a characteristic versatility of style and delight in language."
Jacqui Rowe


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Table of Contents


Excerpts from Kiss of the Viking

Mermaid Has Landed

Words she wrenched from rusting
cogs through clenched teeth.
I never saw her smile.

Afraid, as if the North Atlantic
would gush from her mouth in a spray
of sild, salmon and small prawns.

Fin-bound, she walked
with spatty shoes, Japanesque,
a mincy step. Then she cried.

I caught her glancing at pearl earrings
in a shop window, hoping nobody saw.
Her nose ring of pink coral

sticks the boy dipping in for a kiss.
Lost loves. They come to her in watery
dreams, etched faces, bruising.

A seahorse has a rigid spine. The way
she moved without moving, her tail
flicked spikes in our eyes.


In Search of Noir

Clark Kent in thin black frames,
smooth as blonde wood,
pale as a white-washed wall
charms the girls   boys too

Seems tired as he speaks
of Nordic crime ...
more blood   more guts
more rapes  more scalps
more sticks up arses
snuff stuff      burning at stakes
serial death   more girly bait
in soft focus    hand-held camera
thinking ... Not more wannabes

Wannabe famous
get off the slush pile
out of this shit hole
wanna break
Kit Kat
burger
bargain
be loved
see sky
hear twang
smell a gum tree
see mum
Go home



Reviews of Kiss of the Viking


"There is no law that says travellers have to be impressed with the countries they encounter [...]. The reality never corresponds to the images Maclean has in her head, and while the disparity is occasionally a source of discontent, the incongruity it creates provides pleasing humour and a refreshing corrective to stock images of the north. A smart, witty collection."

Paul McDonald, "From Risks to Experience", Envoi 171 (October 2015), 84-88; 87-88.

"Maclean addresses the modern-day dark at an angle all her own, which is intriguing. [...] Whatever 'dark' is being observed, it's often down with a humorous or wry tinge."

Anne Stewart, ARTEMISpoetry 14 (May 2015), 51-52.

Maclean's Kiss of the Viking takes the reader to Nordic realms with a number of poems referencing the tragic histories of Europe, the Holocaust, a cholera outbreak, and druid sacrifice. [...] Maclean often favours short, crisp lines, without use of articles, giving some poems a clipped tone."

Anne Elvey, Cordite Poetry Review, 05/02/2015.
Click here to read the full review.

"These poems keep tight control and have an edge sharp and clean as the blades of the wind turbines which appear again and again in these landscapes. Concise and deceptively breezy, the poems employ a scatter-gun effect of imagery and a roaming documentary eye to travel over time as well as place. They touch, examine then move on: the poetry of travelling. [...] Maclean has a good eye for the absurd and the random, noting graffiti or signs, the things people do in public. Some are unflinching and uncomfortable, dealing with the darkness underneath the shining surfaces [...]"

Pippa Little, The Lake, December 2014.
Click here to read the full review.

"This confounding of expectation is at once unsettling and yet recognizable - things are rarely as you expect them to be when travelling to a different country and Maclean captures this brilliantly. The poems also tackle darker material, and offer perspectives on aspects of Scandinavian culture that make for unexpected and even uncomfortable reading. [...] The juxtapositions of compelling images, with lines scored beautifully on the page, ranging from the comedic to starkly serious, sometimes even from line to line, make the poems disarming, and uncanny, as well as quirky and true. [...] Maclean's style is distinctive but she allows each poem to express itself formally in the way that best represents it, making this pamphlet a delight to ponder over and read time and again."

Lucy Furlong, Sabotage, 17/10/2014.
Click here to read the full review.

From Cassandra Atherton's Launch Speech

"Julie's poems express a remarkable salute to genius loci. The spirit of the places haunts each of her poems. The brilliance of these poems comes from their Barthesian punctum, an object or image that jumps out at the viewer within a photograph - 'that accident which pricks, bruises me.' Julie's poems are like subversive picture postcards and there is always something sharp that sticks or wounds."


What Readers Think of Kiss of the Viking

Geraldine Wall:
"I love the way you dislocate your reader, juxtaposing images, observations, memories, speculations into a post-modern collage (or kaleidoscope). Most original to me is the way that violence, longing, banality and incomprehension rub against each other and sometimes collapse centuries into a few lines. The title is perfect because although this collection is unsentimentally observed and cleanly expressed ... there is also passion."



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