Sacrifice Zones | Samuel Tongue
Samuel Tongue is a widely published poet with two pamphlet collections: Stitch (Tapsalteerie, 2018) and Hauling-Out (Eyewear, 2016). He won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2013 and poems have featured in journals and newspapers including And Other Poems, Blackbox Manifold, Envoi, Magma, Gutter, The Herald, Interpreter’s House, The Scotsman, The Compass, Northwords Now, The Scores and the anthologies Be The First to Like This: New Scottish Poetry and Best British and Irish Poets 2016. He is former poetry editor at the Glasgow Review of Books and former co-editor of New Writing Scotland. His day job is project coordinator at the Scottish Poetry Library.
The poems in Samuel Tongue’s debut collection explore the meshwork and mess of living lives dependent on ‘sacrifice zones’: places, peoples, and animals that become expendable in the maintenance of civilised society. From medieval animal trials to extinctions in colonial Van Diemen’s land; from personal online data collection, to Quint’s Ahab-like obsession with killing sharks in Jaws, these poems trouble and are troubled by the cost of sacrifice. If the ritual roots of sacrifice (sacer [holy] + faciō [to do/make]) are intended to render the material world sacred, then what kind of religions are we caught up in now? With poems that muddy the religious and theological with the animal concerns of weevils, ticks, magpies, and whales, Tongue finds the beating engine at the heart of things.
‘Samuel Tongue’s forceful and wide-ranging Hauling-Out considers the mysterious whale, setting biblical quotations against international law: ‘Canst thou draw out Leviathan with an hook? (…) Whales must be measured when at rest on deck.’ Hauling-Out has many dimensions. One moving and ingenious poem describes the use of whale oil by soldiers in the Great War to keep their (doomed) feet ‘soft and ripe as fruit’. I was particularly struck by Tongue’s imaginative return to the tides from which humans ‘first emerged gasping’.’
—Alison Brackenbury, PN Review
‘Stitch is an impressive, wide-ranging pamphlet exploring the human exploitation of power, people and planet with bold lyric, form and tone. Tongue looks for the animal within us while questioning our treatment of animals, searches for spiritual belief while questioning the confinements of religion. This is poetry that should touch a raw nerve, spark a flame, call you awake.’
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