It is currently 5am and I am wrapped up in a blanket like some kind of human burrito while I write this. I was a little smug in my last post, what with all the ‘oh, I am so happy and I will blog regularly and things are so good’, so wouldn’t you know that less than a month later I would be in the midst of what I am calling a ‘transitory period of mild-to-moderate mental instability’. So I am struggling but I am coping and, on the plus side, I have been using the time that I usually waste on things like sleeping to read a bunch of really great books. While the world goes up in flames around us, I have fallen in love with Ali Smith and as I panic about my next creative writing assignment, I have been forced to explore some wonderful poetry. I am all for silver linings and escapism these days.
milk and honey by Rupi Kaur
‘you look at me and cry
I look at you and whisper
but everything can heal’
Split into four sections (The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking and The Healing), this collection is about abuse, survivorship, healing and love. The poems feel deeply personal; Kaur is angry, she is gentle, loving, proud and dissatisfied. The Hurting, with it’s rawness and the detachment that is particular to survivors, that is necessary to let out what would otherwise would destroy us, and The Healing, with a gentle and righteous reminder of the things that we need to teach ourselves in order to survive, were the sections that I personnally loved the most.
Kaur’s writing is short and concise, thoughts and emotions are spilled onto the page and arranged in easily digestible chunks. It feels like poetry for our times, poetry for those who are used to interacting in 140 characters or less. I always feel uncomfortable, or unqualified, when it comes to discussing how technically ‘good’ a poem is but the truth of these poems is in their emotional impact rather than their form. I would suggest you listen to her performing some of these pieces because she reads with an interesting cadence that will impact how you read her words. While I can see why this might not be a collection for everyone, if you need some gentle validation or honey for the soul you will find it here.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
‘These women must be charged with sorcery, witchcraft, reading and sassiness! Their behaviour is INTOLERABLE!’
I want to say actual things about this beautiful graphic novel but mostly I just feel the urge to buy all of the copies and give them to all of the women that I love (which is how my sister ended up with her copy) because it left me feeling so warm and fuzzy and happy inside.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a, sort-of, lesbian retelling of The one Thousand and One Nights. The overarching story concerns Cherry and her lover Hero and their attempts to distract a man whose aim is to ‘seduce’ Cherry for a bet. If he wins, his prize will be both Cherry and her husband’s castle, so each night when he visits, Hero uses her stories, stories inspired by folklore and mythology, to keep him distracted from his intended goal.
Themes of sisterhood and feminine power are at the centre of this lovely book and it extols the virtues of female storytelling as a form of solidarity and protest. Greenberg’s own storytelling is compelling, carefully weaving each tale into the larger narrative and providing a sense of cohesion that can so often be lacking in this form.
The artwork is perfect. There is sadness, there is love, there is laughter. I loved it.
Where the words end and my body begins by Amber Dawn
‘in the morning magnolia buds split
their pink lips I lick
the same raindrop off the tip
of your nose as I’ve licked
for the last six springs’
I rarely buy books based on their cover but this is a spectacularly beautiful cover, so I couldn’t resist. Thankfully, as it turns out, the contents are just as lovely. A collection of glosa poetry, a form which I was completely unfamiliar with, that dialogues with queer and feminist writers, Where the words end places queer identity at its centre, while exploring themes of survivorship, mental illness, community and relationships. Her poetry feels refreshing, ranging from the poignant to the humorous and playful. Using sensuous and lush language, Dawn creates a rawness that is incredibly engaging.
As a collection this was easy to love and I will be reading more of Amber Dawn’s work.
Girl meets boy by Ali Smith
‘I got up to get us a drink of water and as I stood in the kitchen in the early morning light… I wondered if everything I saw, if maybe every landscape we casually glanced at, was the outcome of an ecstasy we didn’t even know was happening, a love-act moving at a speed slow and steady enough for us to be deceived into thinking it was just everyday reality.’
Ali Smith makes magical things happen with her words. I read her short story collection Other Stories and other stories at the end of last year, but Girl meets boy is the first of her longer works that I have picked up and she has managed to utterly seduce me. Once again I am struggling to coherently say why I loved this book because I just want to gush about it and make you read it and tell you that it made me happy cry.
Set in Inverness, Smith reframes the myth of Iphis in a contemporary setting, exploring gender, sexuality and social inequality. It’s a charming story of two sisters, Imogen and Anthea, and Robin, the boyish girl/girlish boy that Anthea falls in love with.