'The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet is a team effort, as Cliff has worked in conjunction with artist, Fiona Johnstone and photographer, Ivan Rogers. The book is both slender and aesthetically beautiful. The images are alluring hooks that can either be read as self-contained visual poems or as part of an alternative narrative thread that forges subtle connections with the arc of Cliff’s text. Exquisite.
The poem takes the alphabet as its framing device. Each letter pirouettes upon the possibility of words, the power of words, the shimmering vulnerability of words. The voice of the husbandwoman gives us glimpses, only ever glimpses as we discover in ‘G,’ yet she accumulates, piece by piece, in the relations she unveils. Signals of self in ambiguous traces. You get to the end and hold a trembling portrait that flips and twists to become a portrait of the husbandman. Or is it. The ‘he’ and the ‘you’ slip and slide so you are not sure where husband ends and adultery begins (this poem has its origins in The Adulterer’s Bible).
This gorgeous sequence holds you within its frame. The mysterious code on the final page sends you back to see the portrait in a new light. An intense and aching light and I am not spoiling the hit of the revelation by speaking of it here. The lines are deft and bereft (ah the ache) and befit the narrating woman. Little pockets of confession, reflection and quiet. It is a joy to read.'-- Paula Green, Poetry Shelf