The Alchemy of 42

‘The Alchemy of 42’ by Polly Stretton is dark, speculative, and sometimes bizarre—these are her lenses and through them we view scenes that comfort and distress, thrill and mesmerise.

Written to 42Worcester prompts, there are, fittingly, 42 poems included. What is 42Worcester? It is the only alternative genre spoken word event in Worcestershire. ‘The Alchemy of 42’ is written for fans of gothic, horror, sci-fi and fantasy—described as omni-directional, dark and lyrical, ‘these poems ambush the senses’.

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“Celebrating 42Worcester with a collection is a thrill,” Polly said, “I’m planning to collate an anthology of poems from the 42Worcester poets and writers next year and have another of my own collections ‘Growing Places’ scheduled for next March. ‘Growing Places’ is a very different collection from this one, featuring the places that I’ve lived and relationships in those places that contribute to my growth and life-long learning.”

Eminent poet, reviewer and University lecturer, Michael W. Thomas, said, “Here, we share afresh the terrors of Le Fanu’s Maud. There, we witness a sentinel-crone at the junction of this world and the next as she prepares a treat for a spectral trio. A ‘circus of chaos’ offers not the joy of parti-coloured distraction but an insupportable sense of loneliness. Faerie folk ‘suck on columbine, nectar, blood’ as they caper and madden in the corner of our eye. Circe of the many-hued hands delights equally in fragrant herbal beds and the torment of libidinous sailors. More happily, in the dusk of a carpet museum, revenant lovers unite, as they never could in harsh, uncaring life.”

A Review by Dr Charley Barnes

The Alchemy of 42 by Polly Stretton officially arrived in the world yesterday! It’s an excellent poetry collection, that had an wonderful digital launch last night (August 11); one I was lucky enough to be involved in, and I’m thankful to Polly for having me there.
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I actually worked with Polly to edit this collection a little – not that it took that much work on my part at all! The work is clever, well constructed, and well considered, as Stretton uses poetry as a means for exploring different genres, such as Horror, Fantasy and more.
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The 42 element of the book is Stretton’s tribute to 42Worcester, an alternative spoken word event that she has inherited from previous owners and hosts, and that Stretton now runs. Therefore meaning the book is not only a credit to her, but also a credit to this evening.
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Each poem reads as a response to a certain prompt that was given at 42, making them rich and varied. Stretton demonstrates a commendable use of tone and voice, to create layered narratives and chilling perspectives, and to do that through poetry is, I think, something very special.
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The Alchemy of 42 is another wonderful release from Stretton (one of several, I hasten to add) and it shows her work as versatile and astutely crafted, as well as being hugely entertaining to read.
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