Review: Vivat Regina by Maz Hedgehog

Hedgehog, Maz, Vivat Regina, Superbia Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781907133862.  £5.99.

Vivat Regina is a chapbook written by Maz Hedgehog, published by Superbia Books in early 2019. It was one of three winners of the Superbia Chapbook Prize, funded by Manchester Pride. Maz Hedgehog describes herself as a fantasy poet and Vivat Regina is no exception. Interweaving references from Edmund Spencer’s the Faeree Queene, to Shakespeare, Maz Hedgehog creates a startlingly vivid and fantastical mythology of her own that nonetheless encompasses a very human notion of “evil” in an otherwise un-human world.

In imagining the Fae Queen to be human, Hedgehog explores notions of imperialism in which the Fae Queen is undoubtedly the villain. As the description of the chapbook highlights, Vivat Regina is not a retelling of Edmund Spencer’s The Faeree Queene, but features original poems, drawing on characters and illusions to Spencer’s poetry and more.

From the start, as early as the prologue, Hedgehog begins reworking notions of folklore as if weaving a dream with words. She sets a world that is at once familiar and strange when she writes, ‘This is your dream, though you have no dominion over it’, and, ‘Like a child stealing into her great-grandmother’s house, you are in a different country that smells like fear smells like spice smells like travel like home like distance’ (‘Prologue’, Vivat Regina). This diverse, but all-encompassing atmosphere created by the chapbook is captivating, immediately drawing you into her fantastical world.

Steeped in metaphor, often with a captivating use of floriography, Hedgehog builds her fairy world, mapping the ‘ascent’, ‘reign’ and ‘fall’ of the ‘Fae Queen’ in the three parts this chapbook is divided into. She describes two worlds. First, the one to which the Fae Queen is born:

where they measure power

in commas and concrete. where

hypocrisy is poured in the

foundations

(‘Eagan Hooded’, Vivat Regina).

And the second, the one she has heard about:

where cruelty is more

honest;

where the world is remade on a whim.

(‘Eagan Hooded’, Vivat Regina).

Through her narrative chapbook, Hedgehog takes the reader through this girl, turned Fae Queen, who believes that,

she will create them.

with a mind like hers

and a magic like hers

and dreams like hers, she

can make anything.

(‘Eagan Hooded’, Vivat Regina)

Through poems that imagine the Fae Queen’s attempt and failure to maintain power of the fairy world, Maz Hedgehog examines the constructed nature of history, the politicisation of cultural memory, and as already mentioned, imperialism. It is through the exploration of these significant themes that Hedgehog brings the fantastical and sadly too familiar world-views together in a wonderful critique.

One standout piece of the collection is the prose poem ‘Clarion Argent’. In this poem, featured in part two, ‘Her Reign’. This poem presents a ridiculous and therefore comical royal court proceeding in which the deceased Earl of the Even Mists is placed on trial and members of the court are called to ‘give glory to Her Majesty’s flights of fancy’ and essentially, tell her what she wants to hear, ‘until even Justice himself be overcome.’ (Clarion Argent’, Vivat Regina).

Hedgehog creates a medieval atmosphere that is sustained throughout the chapbook, but in an accessible and comprehensive manner. Whilst having a familiarity with Edmund Spencer’s Faeree Queene will cast some light on the characters that appear within her narrative (and I only have limited knowledge of Spencer’s work) for the most part, the chapbook relies on folklore tropes many will be familiar with. Although there were some moments of confusion for me, these moments were easy to ride through, for I was, perhaps, ready to embrace the chaos and confusion of the fairy world, and was still able to follow the magically destructive narrative.

Ultimately, Vivat Regina is a wonderful chapbook by a wonderful poet. Maz Hedgehog manages to balance between strong, many layered metaphorical descriptions with a comprehensive narrative that dwells on poignant themes. Both medieval in tone, but relevant in content, Hedgehog’s poetry is a perfect reminder of how stories always have a ‘Teller’, an angle, and a power-riddled context – it is a fantastic read in so many ways!

 

Beth O’Brien

 


 

You can buy Vivat Regina here.

Beth O’Brien (she/her) is a third year English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. She has published poems with Foxglove Journal and Nine Muses Poetry, and is a reviewer for Mad Hatter Reviews.She has also written articles for sheswanderful.com and the Graduate Recruitment Bureau blog.

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