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Mini Skirts in The Waste Land

Published by Hedgehog Poetry Press

Pratibha Castle’s ‘Waste Land’, like that other, read in English class by the pamphlet’s convent school-educated speaker, is a multi-faceted landscape of people and place, snapshots of brief connections, lives held taut by fear and loneliness. From the wide-eyed, ‘skank of damp’ bedsit realities of a young woman adrift in late ’60s/early ’70s London, to the squalor of an escaped-to India, Castle uses vivid, unforgettable sensory imagery to release from the page a psychedelic blast of protest, betrayal, ‘Nam nightmares’, fleeting intimacy, loss. Her eye for key details is pin-sharp: in London, unwelcoming women with ‘pecking gossip’ have ‘Princess Margaret scarves / knotted tight as knuckles’; in India, with its rats and ’roaches, beggers’ wrists are ‘a bangle-clash of need’. But Castle luminously relieves the tense and the tawdry with her deft depiction of tender moments: where lovers ‘licked sugar trickles / off each other’s chins’, and, in Leaven, an exquisite hymn to pregnancy, a woman ‘Coaxes loaves / out of their tins / as if from cradles’. This is language, poetry, to reach out and touch, taste, savour.

Dawn Gorman

Here is a vivid and sensual poetry of short lines and sharp images that carry the fortunate reader all the way from Portobello Market to Mahatma Gandhi Road in India – ‘the air a ferment// of patchouli, rotten apples’.

These poems are vividly-drawn snapshots of a time, and mind, and place – and I am very much drawn in.


Jean Atkin

A Triptych of Birds & A Few Loose Feathers

Published by Hedgehog Poetry Press

‘In Pratibha Castle’s sensual, sacramental debut pamphlet, words hum like insects in high summer, tempt the tongue like the last sweet smear of cake batter, and fly like feathers after a lifelong mother-daughter catfight. From lonely childhood Wimpy Bars to lecherous confessionals, Portobello Market in the Swinging Sixties to a garrulous Friday night down the pub in Kells, remote family homes to mourning walks in the South Downs, all the vivid spirit and pain of an Anglo-Irish girlhood coming-of-age is resurrected in these pages and released like petals on the wind. Castle’s poems have a heady perfume and courageous way with a secret reminiscent of Edna O’Brien and Medbh McGuckian – and a subtle incantatory magic all their own.’ Naomi Foyle

‘Pratibha Castle has matched the flow of these poems to the yearning souls they describe. Her light-footed words often slip free in surprising fashion, nimbly breaking the lines and creating unexpected angles onto a fund of timeless material in which souls yearn for release from the grip of bullying belief-systems, and where nature offers its ancient consolations.’ David Swann, author of ‘The Privilege of Rain’

‘How I have enjoyed reading this collection by emerging poet Pratibha Castle as she guides the reader into the liminal spaces that rest between love, loss and the spiritual world… Her use of imagery, language and metaphor both informs and empowers her work. There is a strong elegiac quality to the poems which adds depth and richness, a delightful tapestry of light, shade and gravity. ‘A Triptych of Birds and a Few Loose Feathers is a beautiful work of art.’ Raine Geoghegan, Forward Prize, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee

‘The poems in this collection are full of nature and memory, love and loss. They speak movingly of the hinterland of self, of how we are shaped by people and places – and how, no matter where we go or who we become, the landscape of the past still lies within us. Pratibha Castle sustains a clear, lyrical voice, but is also not afraid to speak directly to the heart. A great debut collection.’ Moyra Donaldson

From you and her smiling at

me as I curl in bed, puzzling

why you never smile that way

at one another (Riddles)

‘A Catholic adolescence infused with abuse and magical thinking…flaunts(ing) sexual awakening in the Mary Quant generation to follow Edna O’Brien…even ‘nasturtiums writhe/with promiscuous/lithe ache.’

With a language recalling Medbh McGuckian, Castle crosses a South of England Catholic upbringing with a rich, difficult knot of inheritance ‘flashed crazy/like a Kildare mare’ as she signs the death of her mother with a circling of bird-calls. A superb debut.’ Simon Jenner

Competitions and Awards

NADFAS Short Story Competition 2009 age range 13 – 17 Winner

Pighog Poetry Competition 2011 Longlist

Hedgehog Press, Postcards from the Hedge: A Bestiary of the night 2019 Shortlist

Storytown 2020 Poetry Competition: Peacocks 2021 Highly Commended

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition Highly Commended

Brian Dempsey Memorial Competition 2021 Longlist

Binsted Arts Poetry Competition 2021 Highly Commended

The Brian Dempsey Memorial Award 2021 Longlist

International Welsh Poetry Competition 2021 Special Mention

The Bridport Poetry Prize 2021  Longlist

Gloucester Society Poetry. Competition 2021 ‘Long’ Shortlist

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