Review of Mark Haddon’s poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea


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In truth, the dwarf worked in a betting shop / and wore an orthopaedic shoe. / The ugly sisters were neither sisters, nor, indeed, women, / nor were they remotely interested in the prince. –‘The Facts’

Haddon’s subject matter is wide-ranging and, characteristically, quirky. He deconstructs the everyday, thereby raising interesting questions for the reader. Such as in ‘The Penguin,’ which is about a trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park, where he muses, ‘A whole world and every part of it / a short walk from the tea-room.’ In ‘Nuns’ he speculates on the personal histories, and potential futures, of women who choose to live such a chaste, ascetic existence. ‘The Model Village’ is written from the point of view of an old man who has lived in the same village all his life.

These brief moments, which Haddon reveals, are both simple and profound, as well as being highly amusing at times. Take the poem, ‘Woof,’ for example, written from the point of view of a dog speaking to his human: ‘You bite me, everybody wants to know. / I bite you, no one gives a damn.’ Or in ‘Poets,’ where he writes, ‘There are whole streets / where their work is not known.’ My favourite poem in the collection is ‘This Poem is Certificate 18,’ which is a humorous assemblage of references to poets and poems both modern and traditional.

Although I’ve read (and enjoyed) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I was unaware that Haddon also published poetry. I came across this collection in my local library, while searching for another book. The title instantly attracted me and, seeing as it’s such a slim volume, there was no reason not to borrow it. And I’m glad I did. The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea is an enchanting assortment of poems, full of the same imaginative intellect which created The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

If you’d like to learn more about what lies behind these poems, you can visit Haddon’s website:

Follow him on Twitter: @mark_haddon

Buy the book from Amazon:

And don’t forget to pay a visit to your local library. You never know what treasures you might discover there. 🙂



Do you visit a library regularly? I do. I’m lucky in that I have a fantastic library just ten minutes’ walk from where I live.  In fact, after having visited numerous libraries throughout London while researching The Forest King’s Daughter, I’m convinced that my library is the best.


Islington Central Library

I visit every week–sometimes twice a week–to pick up books, music, dvds and also to print when my printer refuses to be of any use. As a writer I find the resources my local library provides to be invaluable. Not only can I search their online catalogue and reserve items (for free!) but I can also use the space provided by the library as a free study/writing space—no overpriced lattes required (however, if they began offering them I wouldn’t object 🙂 ).

I’ve used their materials to help me research stories as well as to assist me when doing practical things like attempting to fix the bathroom sink and applying for graduate school, as well as for not so practical things, like trying to bake a special cake.


Of course, a lot of this information can now be found online, but I like the idea of going somewhere to discover, to explore, because sometimes sitting at your computer can get a little dull.

Recently I’ve taken out several books on Native American history and culture as part of my research for my next novel. The fact that I can get the books for free allows me to sample them in a way I couldn’t afford to if I had to pay for them all.  It means I can try out books before purchasing them, if indeed I decide purchasing them is necessary. I can also take out music which is related to the subject I’m writing about, painting and photography books, all of which help me to create and build the world I aim to depict, to immerse myself in the story.

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The library also allows me to dabble in other subjects I might not be able to afford to otherwise, like poetry. Recently I’ve been exploring the work of Seamus Heaney and Benjamin Zephaniah, amongst others. And when someone recommends a book, I can try it out before buying. The fact that there are so many free books available at the library gives me opportunities I would not otherwise have as I can’t afford to buy books every month, and books bring me such a lot of enjoyment. 🙂

Some people can afford to do some ‘retail therapy’ when they’ve had a bad day. I go for the ‘library therapy’ option. Bad day? Go take out a new novel, or how about a dvd to take your mind off it? Okay, I know a lot of people have everything at their fingertips through their computers now, but you still have to pay for films that you watch online, and music you download from iTunes, but at the library it’s free! And guess what, they also loan free e-books! So you don’t even have to visit to enjoy what they have to offer.

But I still like to, because I get tired of everything happening through my computer screen, a phone or some other electronic device.  Sometimes it’s just nice to go where there are books, and people. You know, the kind with arms and legs who walk places?

011 stick figure from morguefile

How about you? Do you use a library regularly? If so, what is your experience of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Until next time!