Written by Sophie Collins
‘The Engine’ was a poem about another world. Inhabiting this world was a brood of small white monkeys that moved around like injured birds, like furtive healthy birds, like monkeys. …
It took me too long to recognise ‘The Engine’ for what it was – the story of my life until now, or quite recently. It took me longer still to recognise the monkeys for what they were, collectively: my white symbol of shame. – from small white monkeys
small white monkeys is a fragmented essay, including poems and images, on self-expression, self-help and shame. Beginning with the image of the small white monkeys, the text examines the author’s relationship with shame through a series of short studies on, amongst other things, cats, hair as a metonym for the self in poetry and fiction, and perceptions of sexual violence.
Made through research into Glasgow Women’s Library’s Archive Collections and Lending Library, small white monkeys incorporates material from the library’s archives and the work of female creators past and present, including Anna Mendelssohn, Jean Rhys, Selima Hill, Adrian Piper, June Jordan, Denise Riley, Carolee Schneemann, Vahni Capildeo and Veronica Forrest-Thomson.
Sophie Collins grew up in North Holland and now lives in Edinburgh. In 2016 her poems were featured in Penguin Modern Poets 1: If I’m Scared We Can’t Win, alongside work by Anne Carson and Emily Berry. She is the editor of Currently & Emotion, an anthology of contemporary poetry translations, also published in 2016, when it was named a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year by critic Jeremy Noel-Tod who described it as the year’s ‘most generous, intelligent and illuminating anthology’. Her translations of contemporary Dutch poet Lieke Marsman were recently published in Asymptote. She won an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry in 2014. She is currently Assistant Professor of Poetry at Durham University.