My grateful thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for Gold Light Shining by Bebe Ashley. I’m delighted to share my review today.
Gold Light Shining is published by Banshee and is available for purchase here.
Gold Light Shining
Within five minutes, I knew
I loved the stranger in my head.
In her debut collection of poetry, Bebe Ashley spins gold from the detritus of the internet. A landscape often depicted as a wasteland is illuminated in poems that explore celebrity, obsession, sexuality, coming of age, and that charismatic enigma, Harry Styles.
Inspired by sources as diverse as Styles’s track listings, Scandi webseries Skam, and One Direction newsletters, Ashley spins us across continents on a tour of the surreal highs and absurd lows of celebrity culture. These are poems of youth and yearning, yet they’re suffused with the hard-won wisdom that the communities we build can be as meaningful as the families we’re born into.
Perceptive, witty, and exuberant, Gold Light Shining introduces an essential new voice; one that captures how pop culture’s Technicolor joy disrupts our greyscale world.
My Review of Gold Light Shining
A collection of poems exploring modern life and culture.
I have to be completely honest and say that, had I read the blurb before reading Gold Light Shining, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to investigate this collection. I have no interest in celebrity culture and am barely aware of Harry Styles’ existence so that I’d actively have turned away from reading these poems. And that would have been a mistake. In Gold Light Shining Bebe Ashley has illuminated a world I knew little about and, vicariously, has introduced me to writing I found fascinating and to music I hadn’t previously heard but now enjoy!
There’s considerable complexity in this collection. Bebe Ashley takes her reader on a journey through time and place so that I actually found much that resonated with me. References to popular culture and fashion from my past evoked long forgotten memories so that reading these poems reignited my own past for me. There’s both a visual and auditory quality to the writing and I really enjoyed the variety of physical structure on the page, the use of white space for emphasis, the compound words of swirling colour and the references to more prosaic aspects like food, that somehow made the poems simultaneously mysterious and completely knowable. At times it felt as if I were reading through a kind of prism so that I could bring my own meanings to the writing as much as those meanings Bebe Ashley may have intended. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of my reading.
The themes Bebe Ashley explores in Gold Light Shining give much for the reader to ponder. From art to drugs culture, sexuality to love, there are many layers to uncover in this slim volume. With both first and third person voices singing across the pages I think there is something for any reader to identify with too. I especially enjoyed ‘the boy who’ poems in the Fanfic section because there’s an underlying wistfulness that I found quite emotional.
From wondering what I’d let myself in for in reading Bebe Ashley’s Gold Light Shining and thinking I may have chosen a text that wouldn’t suit me at all, I discovered an eclectic mix of styles (and Harry Styles), images, themes and references that I found extremely interesting and very much enjoyed reading.
About Bebe Ashley
Bebe Ashley lives in Belfast. She is an AHRC-funded PhD candidate at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. Her work can be found in Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Poetry Ireland Review, Banshee, Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry Jukebox and The Tangerine.
When procrastinating from her PhD, she takes British Sign Language and Braille classes and writes pop culture articles for United by Pop, specialising in Harry Styles.
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