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. 🙂