Peter Scupham

Leaps and Bounds

No Map Could Show Them


Chatto & Windus 70pp £10 order from our bookshop

Undying: A Love Story


Canongate 122pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

The Wilderness Party


Bloodaxe Books 72pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

As Thom Gunn put it in ‘On the Move’, ‘One is always nearer by not keeping still’. The ostensible subject matter of Helen Mort’s No Map Could Show Them, climbing and running, also shows that the concomitant is ‘reaching no absolute, in which to rest’. Her collection is an extended metaphor for testing, reaching for the unattainable and failing – or finding a finger-hold where ‘seems’ becomes ‘is’, water becomes land, rock becomes air. The figures in these unforgiving landscapes are usually women, from Jemima Morrell and her 1863 Alpine tour to Alison Hargreaves, who died on K2 in 1995. They play handy-dandy with rock, snow and ice, so that each becomes the other. ‘Mountain’ makes the identification explicit, with references to the subject’s ‘skin-coloured sandstone/wedged where your breasts should be’. Its ‘words are rockfall’, its ‘eyes collect new rain’. In ‘How to Dress’ there is a mordant disrobing of Victorian clothing: a woman is told she must ‘put on the mountain’s suit’ and find ‘your mouth becoming fissured/and your ankles malachite’. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,