An appetite for life: A Review of Jill Munro’s collection Man from La Paz

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Publisher: Green Bottle Press (July 1, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1910804001

Jill Munro’s Man from La Paz, made perfect train travel reading recently on one of my many trips to and from London. I love its physical and sensual exuberance, and willingness to tackle the everyday aspects of life with humour and unflinching gaze.

Man from La Paz


I never start on the first poem in a book and so the careful ordering that I know goes into compiling a collection is often lost on me. My initial flick through however brought up the poem Great Tits, Fat Balls. What a title! Men are everywhere in this bold and original collection and their behaviour closely examined. The builders in this poem (p 5) make derogatory comments about womens’ breasts though the poem appears not to judge them for it merely state it as a fact, as an aspect of male behaviour , along with nipple squeezing lovers, and the son’s suckling long past one (age and am). The lovely tongue in cheek portrayal of Sean Bean as a knitted footballer with well toned thighs and cappuccino coloured knees (p.27) is  wonderful as is the knitted Man from La Paz, with button hole slits for eyes. My favourite has got to be Allotment Man who sprouted from the land naked,/ with a large onion in each hand. Like food men are to be enjoyed, played with and remembered with affection in the hands of this poet. Even one of the UK’s most loved writers is reduced to being Teddy Thomas and the non descript siding Adelstrop, is revealed as having the rather more bizarre name of Titlestrop  long before Thomas’s visit,  and with speculative humour the poet explores the idea that this poem  (known as the poem to mark the end of normal quiet country life before the out break of World War One) might not have been written  had the old name persisted.

Munro’s appetite for life is irresistible. To be human is to enjoy physical and sensual pleasure as well as the intellectual and this is particularly evident in the twin poems: On Turning Vegetarian and On Turning Carnivore printed on adjacent pages. These literally ooze with the pleasure of flesh. Munro gives us bright Lecter-liverish blood/to dribble down my chin along with a full bodied warm/chianti to wash all trace of evil clean away. The casual reference to one of fiction’s most chilling killers is audacious and the love affair beautifully portrayed through the change of eating habits as the reader is drawn from one poem to the next. Men here are regarded as meat to be besotted with, and  deep fried halloumi though it did do it briefly for a while is destined not to last. Maybe revenge for great tits? 

This is a highly original collection and well worth a read.

Susan Jane Sims, January 7th 2016