talk to me about when we were perfect by Amanda Huggins

We understand that it requires a leap of faith to buy a book by an author who is new to you, so we’re going to be sharing a few excerpts from our recent releases to help you make that leap!

Amanda Huggins’ debut poetry chapbook won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet in 2021, and at the start of 2023 we published her first full-length collection, talk to me about when we were perfect.


Talk to me about when we were perfect is a collection of snapshots, a life unfolding in flashbacks, imbued with a bittersweet yearning for the places to which we can never return and the people we have left behind. These sharply observational poems traverse life’s external and internal landscapes in vivid detail, revisiting childhood memories, exploring the joys and regrets of teenage and adult love, contemplating the nature of grief and the vagaries of the human heart. They cast a questioning eye over past misunderstandings, roads not taken, and undeclared love.

We know we’re biased, but we think it’s a beautiful book – featuring French flaps (who doesn’t love them?!) and original illustrations.

Don’t take our word for it, here are a few of the reviews:

“This is a dazzling collection of poems full of light and compassion that stay with the reader long after the last page is read.” Leo Boix, author of Ballad of a Happy Immigrant

“Huggins has a particular gift for highlighting the special moments in everyday life. Even in poems of longing and sadness, there is a tenderness there that will make you smile. There is a delicate interweaving of both the sorrows and the beauty of life, which feels like a celebration of what is.” Bethany Rivers, author of Fountain of Creativity and the sea refuses no river

“It’s magical.” Ralph Dartford, author of Hidden Music

“The writers I love the most really capture how it feels to be human; Huggins is one of them. If you think poetry isn’t for you, try reading this collection. Read slowly; read aloud to feel the words. Huggins proves that she is a writer with great emotional understanding and the technique to express it; her work is deep, beautiful and truthful, free from pretension.” Hannah Retallick, author and prize-winning short story writer

“This poetry sparkles. I love the reflective quality which enabled me to re-experience the confusion or joy and spontaneity of youth. There are some absolute crackers including ‘out chasing boys’ which nails those heady days and ‘dizzy with it’ which captures the exuberance of the time. I highly recommend talk to me about when we were perfect. Treat yourself to a copy.” Gail Aldwin, author of The String Games and The Secret Life of Carolyn Russell

And to whet your appetite, here are four of the poems from the collection, selected by Amanda herself.

You can order talk to me about when we are perfect here: https://www.victorinapress.com/product/talk-to-me-about-when-we-were-perfect/


out chasing boys

We spent summer on the seafront,
two stranded mermaids
killing time.
We rolled up our jeans,
carried our shoes,
blew kisses at the camera
in the photo booth.
Always out, chasing boys,
as if we had forever.

In the clamour and haze
of O’Reilly’s arcade,
we revered those rake-limbed lads
on the slot machines
as though they were gods,
not fishermen’s lads.
And our laughter cascaded
over penny falls
as we pouted, hands on hips,
all flirt and glance,
eyes half-closed with the want
of something we didn’t understand.


no doubt

If I ever question my love for you,
aware that the years have wearied its shine,
knowing we can’t outrun
the ravages of familiarity,
then I picture life without you.

I have you stolen by a nameless illness,
some freak accident or fall,
taken without saying goodbye.
I imagine the house
still strewn with your possessions:
the cracked, tea-stained mug I loathe,
your shaving brush left out to dry
with bristles over-splayed,
a ziggurat of half-read books,
each marked with scribbled notes,
newspaper folded open at the crossword,
waiting for you to solve that final clue.

Not forgetting those four small nails
on the kitchen table,
left there as though to vex me.

I can feel them in my hand,
weightless, featherlight,
yet sharp as loss,
and I know there is no doubt,
no question.
My grief pours out, unstoppable,
until I hear your key in the door.


the sound of a heart breaking

Don’t mistake the slam of a door
or a raised voice wielding careless words
for the sound of a heart about to break.
No, those are cracks, rifts, cries for help,
a rehearsal, a blip, a last hurrah,
all part of love’s fierce commotion
in the fading light.

A breaking heart is something quieter,
something wrapped in the low hum
of a streetlight at 4 a.m.
It is the faint lament of a distant siren,
the chink of milk bottles
placed on an early morning step,
the lone chirp of dawn’s first sparrow,
the percussion of coat hangers
quivering on an empty rail.


the names of seaweed and collective nouns for birds

When I saw Da’s salt-licked boots,
frayed cap tossed over the peg,
I’d throw down my satchel,
punch the stiff latch
and crash through the scullery,
knowing he’d be
hauling coal from the cellar,
cheeks smudged with black dust,
strangely clumsy out of water.

The tug of the tide left him breathless
when he stayed too long on the shore,
and he lived among us only half-listening
to our land-locked talk,
always waiting to set sail again.

Sea child, he called me,
his slip of a fish,
as we dived down
to the coral beds
where mermaids sang
and jellyfish danced in puffball skirts.

Mam hoped he would turn his back on the tiller,
be coaxed ashore to the herring sheds,
be anchored down by kipper and creel.
Yet Da would never trade his fins for feet.

And when I lie awake on summer nights,
the last of the light
holding out in the western sky,
I hear him recite the names of seaweed
and collective nouns for birds.

In dreams I’m deafened
by a clamour of purple claw,
lured by a charm of oyster thief,
double-crossed by a deceit of devil’s tongue,
chased by a scold of landlady’s wig,
outwitted by a gaggle of dabberlocks.

Then at dawn he slides beneath the waves,
drowning with the names still on his tongue,
leaving me alone once more
to run aground without him.


Look out for more Sneaky Peeks, coming soon!

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