The Suitable Girl

The Suitable Girl

Michelle McGrane

McGrane demonstrates her obvious passion for the music of language. She plucks words from specialist lexical fields and unselfconsciously weaves them into the fabric of her own poetic voice.

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The Suitable Girl

The Suitable Girl deals with contemporary issues such as societal expectations, gender, death, grief, anorexia and poverty as well as mythology, and the sensuous aspects of food, love and travel. Though there are strong threads uniting these poems, they are of broad scope, varying in style and tone which makes reading this volume a multi-textured experience. This collection transports the reader from sadness to exaltation, from desert to village to outer space.

McGrane demonstrates her obvious passion for the music of language. She plucks words from specialist lexical fields and unselfconsciously weaves them into the fabric of her own poetic voice. She gently introduces her readers to succulent new nouns, spices the texts with the exquisite vocabularies of lunar realms and 19th century apothecaries as well as incorporating the simple patterns of everyday life and speech.

Unlike many poets, McGrane does not indulge in obscure abstraction. She is not afraid of furnishing her poems with concrete detail these concrete ‘things’ give her work a tangible stability. McGrane’s strength as a poet lies in her descriptive prowess and ability to illuminate the dark, neglected corners of the world and its people, to instil the ordinary with scent, poignancy, colour, and magic. After reading The Suitable Girl, its perfumes, flavours and atmospheres will continue to resonate in your mind for hours.”
Gaia Holmes, author of “Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed”

The Suitable Girl does not fit neatly inside her own story. She speaks to us from myth and through time; she is sending postcards from the moon. McGrane’s poems are packed with sumptuous words from a library-full of lexicons, sometimes earthy-sensual, sometimes sunlight-sharp. They open up your windows and rearrange your desk.”
Helen Ivory, author of “The Double Life of Clocks” and “The Dog in the Sky”

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Michelle McGrane

Michelle McGrane was born in Zimbabwe in 1974, spent her childhood in Malawi, and moved to South Africa with her family when she was 14. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of Fireflies & Blazing Stars (2002) and Hybrid (2003). She lives in Johannesburg and she has a poetry blog at Peony Moon, where she features different poets every few days. She is well known in poetry circles; she used to review books & interview writers for LITNET.

Michelle McGrane's author page

“Every poem in The Suitable Girl grabs the reader immediately and then proceeds to take her, by a surprising route, to its strange conclusion, taking in much wit, irony, lyricism and sensual detail on the way. These are trips well worth the taking.”
Joanne Limburg

“Michelle McGrane’s The Suitable Girl shows a sophisticated range of reference together with a powerful and moving emotional address. There is great technical range here which includes prose poems alongside sinewy lyrics; elegy jostles with imaginative sci-fi, humour with horror in language which is often as gorgeous as it is precise.”
Ian Duhig

Kylie Thomas in the Mail & Guardian, 2012-02-24

Michelle McGrane’s The Suitable Girl is a book of imaginings, not all told in the voice of the poet and so a sort of relief from the confessional poems that make up the largest part of Modjaji’s recent offerings.

McGrane is a poet’s poet—her work is dense with literary allusions, ­history, bits and pieces of French and even something that looks alarmingly like Gaelic. Who is this marvellous multiple-tongued wordsmith? The poems collected here will not yield this secret and demand real interpretative work.

Even if you, dear reader, are not up to the task, fear not and read the book anyway for “You will carry/ the music of this memory with you;/ and from time to time/ in the small, ­withered hours/ your body will sing its remembering”.

“The Suitable Girl reaches the heart” by Madri Victor 2011-05-19 on

It should be clear from the start that this is not so much a review as a discussion, or a contemplation on what makes poetry enjoyable, and whether my latest read, The Suitable Girl by Michelle McGrane, counts as “good poetry”.

Robert Frost said, “There are three things, after all that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or mind. It is most important of all to reach the heart of the reader.” Michelle McGrane’s third collection of poetry, The Suitable Girl, does exactly that. Dealing with themes such as grief, gender issues and society’s constantly changing expectations of women, these poems show the reader a world that is sensuous, strange and laced with mythology as well as, at the same time, familiar, disturbing and concrete. It cunningly comments on the expectations of women as portrayed in modern-day media. It speaks to our fears and ignorance. Our time is not as far removed from that of Augusta Fabergé, Marie Antoinette or even Jane Eyre’s Bertha Mason, all of which feature in this collection. Society still has very distinct ideas about what is suitable or not.

Nick Raubenheimer on Kagablog; July 21, 2011

In ‘The Suitable Girl’, her third collection, local poet Michelle McGrane unveils a graceful feast of language and storytelling. In its rich atmosphere the world she has woven into presence swells with keenly detailed variety – here are mischievous confessions whispered by inanimate objects; postcards penned by astronauts in hyper-exotic vistas; the stark and tender emotions of everyday domestic transactions; here the charged halos and musks of infatuation; liberating voices lent to famously mute literary characters; the humble ecstacies of the olfactorial and palatic.