Review: You Sad Feminist – Megan Beech

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Rating – 5*

Last year, when I read When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard I thought I had found my perfect poetry collection, the one I’d keep coming back to again and again, that was until I read this. Megan Beech surpassed herself in this second collection, and I don’t even know how to put in to words what I am feeling after reading You Sad Feminist because it was amazing, and I feel amazing after reading it.

In You Sad Feminist there is not only hard hitting feminist poetry (what isn’t to like in that sales pitch?) but also it explores her personal experience, and feelings, about mental illness. That was a theme in her previous collection, but it was more pronounced in this second helping of her work. This last year I’ve really struggled with my mental health, and I am so proud of myself for where I’ve got to in just a year, and in this collection I found myself identifying even more with what she was saying. This is the sort of poetry I wish I could write, because every word of this collection was incredible and resonated with me. It put in to words my feelings about myself, my mental health, and even the world in general in the most eloquent way and I found myself reading, and rereading poems in this book throughout a day. I probably read it in it’s entirety about 3 times over the course of a Sunday, and I’ve dipped in and out of it since just revisiting favourite lines.

In my review of her previous collection, I touched on the fact she was a performance poet and how that doesn’t always translate well to the written word – once again she nails it. Since reading this I’ve looked on youtube, found a few clips of her performing poems form this collection and while the words are a lot more hard hitting when read aloud, the meaning isn’t lost when just reading to yourself.

One of the bits that hit me most was in the last poem The Workshop. This wasn’t only because I’m the biggest Wizard of Oz fan, but also because it put in to a few short lines the last year of my life:-

This greyness, this staleness will not last.
You do not have to suffer.
Like Dorothy in Oz, your life that was can wash from greyscale to technicolour.
From this, your spirits can lift and your body can recover.
There is another road, a life of yellow brick gold in which you can find health and heart and home.

I sincerely urge people to look this woman up because she’s incredible. There are plenty of clips of her performing on YouTube – and I hope one day to be lucky enough to see her perform in person. In the mean time, please read or watch her work.

Naturally, this is a 5/5 read and one I have left copious amounts of post-it notes in so I can revisit as and when I wish to.

Review: Stranger, Baby – Emily Berry

027 - Stranger Baby

Rating – 3*

One of my many bookish resolutions this year was to read more poetry – having seen glowing reviews of Emily Berry’s newest collection, I felt like maybe Stranger, Baby was a good way to go. I will tell you now this will be a shorter review, simply because poetry analysis never was (and never will be) my forte!

While I can appreciate that this book was probably incredible from a technical standpoint, for me I felt I wasn’t able to grasp the content of the collection in full. Some of them I did find myself connecting to more than others, which is only natural in a poetry or even a short story collection. For me, I think a lot of this went over my head which is a shame because I think the themes I did pick up on were things I really, really wanted to get more out of them than I did.

Most of the poems in this collection focus on the death of Emily’s mother – they’re intimate, personal, and in a way when reading it it did feel like I was invading her grieving process. Some of the places she went in this collection, those that I did connect with, I connected with quite deeply. Having had loss in my family which is still impacting me, having suffered with depression – parts of some of the poems really hit me but I lost that connection as quickly as it came.

For me, I think this is maybe a book for someone more “experienced” reading poetry. While a lot of this was raw, expressive, and beautiful I found myself disconnecting quite a lot from this collection (and it was quite a sporadic thing, some poems really had me at the start and lost me, others didn’t have me then got me!). As someone inexperienced with the nuances of poetry and being a very emotional reader, I did find myself getting a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to fully engage or connect with the content.

As I have said previously, poetry is a very personal thing and something that no two people will ever have the same reaction to. There are some poems in here I will definitely want to be revisiting, and I think honestly I will revisit the whole collection in the future – probably not this year, maybe not even next year, but definitely in my reading future I will pick this up again.

Review: The Dead Queen of Bohemia – Jenni Fagan

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Rating – 3*

I find it very difficult to review poetry collections – mainly because it’s not something I read regularly, or feel I have many things to say on. So this review is likely to be brief as I don’t really know what to say. Now that disclaimer is out of the way, I will go on to talk about this collection briefly.

I haven’t read any of Jenni Fagan’s fiction – although I have both The Sunlight Pilgrims and The Panopticon on my shelves and I have heard rave reviews about both. However, as someone who likes to break the mould a little, I thought I would start with her poetry. This book contains her new poetry as well as her two older collections which are both now out of print.

For me, this was very hit and miss. I found a lot of it repetitive – teenage angst and drug taking can only be told in so many ways. However, some of the poems – particularly those which focus on depression – really hit a spot with me and came in to my life at exactly the right moment. Two which stand out in this category of came-in-to-my-life-at-the-right-moment are Instruction Manual for Suicidal Girls (Boys, Trolls & Troglodytes) and Hitching a Ride. Those two were ones I found myself re-reading, flicking back to, and comparing other poems in the collection to – none made it to the same level as those two for me.

On the whole, this was good. It isn’t my favourite poetry collection, but there were some shining moments for me. I can’t wait to read her prose, that much is certain!

instruction manual for suicidal girls (boys, trolls & troglodytes)

Review: When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard – Megan Beech

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Rating – 4*

I have said it before, and will undoubtedly repeat myself many times, I am by no means an expert on poetry. What I do know however is that I absolutely adored this poetry collection and would very, very highly recommend this.

Megan Beech is a performance poet; sometimes performance poetry just does not translate well when written down and read, this collection however translates to the written word beautifully. I found getting in to the rhythm of these really quite easy, it sometimes took a bit of slowing down to find that rhythm but it wasn’t in any way impossible. This easy rhythm made Beech’s voice come across clearly for me, although I am very aware that other people have struggled in finding this.

The poems themselves really resonated with me. Her point of view is one I really identified with and I found so much of myself and my own opinion in her words. What she was just saying sung to my soul, however cheesy that sounds. Her words are fearless, and it was both beautifully poetic and yet raw, exposed and quite brash. On the whole, I’d say it was amazing – and very, very passionate. One of my favourites in the collection was possibly Dadverts; actually it’s one of the more quiet pieces, it’s slower, but it really stood out for me.

I was torn as to whether I could give this 4 or 5 stars. It’s definitely the best poetry collection I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and one I will be revisiting. I loved Kate Tempest’s work, but if I’m honest this was better (or at least resonated more with me individually). I’m going to be keeping my eyes peeled for more by Megan Beech because this woman is amazing. Really, give this a go because it’s wonderful.

Review: Brand New Ancients – Kate Tempest

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Rating – 3*

At just 48 pages this is possibly the shortest book I have ever read, or rather listened to. I’ve previously read Hold Your Own, and adored it. The experience of reading that is what pushed this higher up my to read. Because it’s so short, and I’m no expert on poetry, this is a very hard thing to review for me.

Brand New Ancients is a poem in the style of those epics crafted by Homer and Ovid, and listening to it was an absolute joy. The trouble I have had with poetry in the past is finding the rhythm and listening to it took all of that out of the equation, it was read how it was intended to be. It is lyrical, there is beat to it and it as just incredible. Some of it is made to be simply read as written, but so much of it is sung or rapped and it just fits so, so perfectly with the tone of the story.

In a nutshell, the idea of this poem is that the mythical is still present in our modern lives, that gods live within us. It centres around the interconnected lives of about 10 people, and how she makes all of these characters have voices and individuality in a mere 47 pages is simply incredible.

However, for me this just wasn’t as good as Hold Your Own. Don’t get me wrong, it is incredible, it just wasn’t as good. If I had read this, I would probably have only given it 1 or 2 stars, but the simple act of listening to it boosted it considerably. I’d definitely recommend giving this a go because it’s a pretty fantastic hour of listening!

Review: Hold Your Own – Kate Tempest

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Rating – 4*

In absolutely no way am I an expert on poetry, but it is something that once in a while I do enjoy. This book has been everywhere in the bookish community, but I was unsure if I was capable of appreciating this. I read some of the first poem, which spans about 20 pages in all, and I just fell in love.

The theme of this is that it’s based around the myth of Tiresias, a young prophet in Greek myth who was transformed in to a woman by the Gods, only temporarily. It’s simply inspired. The collection is split in to four sections, inspired by the stages of his/her life: childhood, womanhood, manhood, and “blind profit”.

This poetry is easy to get through and it’s relatable. And while there were some which I just couldn’t get in to, I think that’s the beauty of poetry though because even though I couldn’t get the rhythm of some of them, I still liked what they were saying. For me, there were a handful of standout poems in this collection, but my favourite in the entire book was On Clapton Pond at Dawn. This one I found myself reading several times, flicking back to to re-indulge myself.

Honestly, I think this collection has made me more likely to pick up poetry as a whole, but also I really want to pick up more by Kate Tempest, both Brand New Ancients and her novel which came out in the past week or so! This is a very solid 4*; I don’t feel I can give it 5* because I’ve not got much poetry to compare it to!

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Review: Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense – Lewis Carroll || Blogmas Day 12

jabberwockyToday I bring you a review, and it is of Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense, a collection of the poetry of Lewis Carroll. I’ve learnt one thing while writing this review and it is simply that reviewing a poetry collection is quite difficult. I’ll start by saying that I loved this book but I’ll follow that up with a disclaimer of I’m not good at reviewing poetry!

Firstly, I have to say the title of this book is somewhat deceiving – there isn’t all that much nonsense! A lot of the poetry is quite serious and melancholic and I actually really enjoyed it on the whole. It’s a nice blend of the nonsense and the serious poetry in this edition (Penguin Clothbound). Carroll was famous for making up words and what I really appreciated was the notes on the text which explain at least some of those words.

My favourite sections were those from Alice (both the first book and Through the Looking Glass) and the poetry that I was already familiar with. I remember loving Mouse Tails as a child because I adored the formatting! There are also a lot of riddles in this book which I had fun with and made me think. While a lot of this poetry is nonsense and a little childish I got just as much out of it as an adult – in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I’m not a poetry expert by any stretch of the word. I just like reading it once in a while and this book was pretty good for me. It was fun and really quite charming to read. I think this is really a book that the whole family could enjoy as kids love rhyming poetry and nonsense! I have to give this a 4* review because I really enjoyed it, even if I have very little constructive to say about it.