Hannah Raymond-Cox has previously won the Stanza Slam and is a former Scottish finalist of the National Poetry Slam Championships. Having spent her childhood in Hong Kong and San Francisco, she has been living in the UK since the age of sixteen and is a graduate of St Andrews University, holding a degree in International Relations and Modern History. Apart from receiving various awards, she has performed on the BBC Stage at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, as well as in diverse venues like the Royal Albert Hall and a Hong Kong dive bar. Her debut collection revolves mainly around the theme of food – and appropriately, it contains a smorgasbord of verses based strongly on this, complete with ‘tasting notes’ at the beginning of each.
The title is a pun on the term ‘amuse-gueule’, which, according to the ‘aperitif’ at the opening, is a complimentary dish given to diners by the chef to ‘awaken their palate’ before their meal. Its English translation is ‘mouth amuser’, which the author suggests is a ‘filthy concept’ whose name also has an ‘unpredictable and inherently sensual nature’. She ends her opening by saying that the verses contained within the volume are ‘intended to enliven the palate, satiate the mind, and make you feel like you’ve been on a weird ass culinary journey’.
The contents page is set out like a standard menu, with four ‘courses’ and a concluding ‘burp’. These poems focus on a variety of themes, from childhood memories (‘Fish Fork’ and the harrowing ‘Service Plate’) to sex (‘Meat Fork’, with its inevitable wordplay) via commutes to work, sexual assault and a variety of other themes – all of which are interlinked by food in one way or another.
Amuse Girl is a solid demonstration of Raymond-Cox’s talent and why she has secured Fringe gigs and slam awards and many more in between. That being said, it is evident that her work is designed to be read aloud, and this should be kept in mind while enjoying the work on offer in this collection – read it, then go and see her live if you can.
Amuse Girl is out now, published by Burning Eye Books.