The Illuminated World by Jemma Borg
Jemma Borg was born in Essex. She took a first in zoology at Oxford, where she also completed a doctorate in evolutionary genetics. She has worked as a science editor, environmental campaigner and teacher, and has travelled and lived briefly in places including Australia, Pakistan and Hong Kong. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies, and she has received prizes including the New Writing Ventures Award for Poetry in 2007 and a residency at the Leighton Artists’ Colony at the Banff Centre in Canada in 2009. She currently lives in East Sussex with her husband and young son.
'HOW IT IS WITH THE CIRCLE'
Actually it’s just a line, but all points
are equidistant from the centre without
distortion and that’s what makes it special.
Contained by and within that line are all
the attributes of circularity: the infinite
exactitude of π, a disc too correct
to be a moon or an eye, though sure enough
to be a wheel, a curve that is not
a skull or a country’s anxious border,
but that untroubled arc the compasses draw:
the black lead circle, stark and unbreached. But we haven’t come nearly far enough.
What does a circle become if you puncture it?
All lines and roads and scars. Did Euclid
consider this? Arcs rejoining to make circlets,
their untethered balloons, for a moment,
carrying rainbows, as soap bubbles do.
And the insides – all that was circle –
seeping out into the circumambient air.
What of desire? The body is drawn
towards the shape of its perfect star:
to be something else, to be something more.
Contains ‘The decoration’ – Highly Commended by the judges for Forward Prizes for Poetry.
There is no doubt in my mind this is the real thing, a breath-taking collection. Jemma Borg hunts down ideas like there’s no tomorrow, with all the power of a ruthless concentration. This is an active, passionate and mature mind at work. She eagerly and obstinately presses on in the face of so much we don’t know, determined not to be overwhelmed by our (human) ignorance. Her work – cool and concentrated – demonstrates a rare combination of intellectual rigor coupled with an innate sense of what a poem is and feels like. We read as though in the presence of a new and startlingly confident sensibility that refuses where most beginners might. She leads us down the mysterious pathways of a mind triumphantly enjoying becoming aware of itself. Ambitious, stubborn, ruthless, incorruptible – what more could one ask of a first collection? Nothing if not ambitious, Jemma Borg is a poet to watch and wonder at. This is a tough intellect – sure to hang on in there and go from strength to strength. It’s hard to believe this is a debut collection. - Selima Hill
The range, across space and different habitats on earth, is striking and impressive. These poems exhibit an extremely attractive way of regarding the world, and are not afraid to be aesthetic and metaphysical, replete with myths and jewels. - Peter Forbes
To say that Jemma Borg's background as a scientist rings clearly in her poems makes them sound dry -- they are anything but. It is simply that to language and imagery she brings a scientist's precision and care: this, in combination with an artist's heart, is rare. These varied and emotive poems display a keen interest in human responses and an individual's reaction to a complex world. - Erica Wagner, literary editor of The Times