Poetry Review: Inroads by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

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Inroads by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Seren (ebook), 2010
64 Pages

Poet’s Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Shortlisted for the London Festival Fringe Prize for the Best First Collection of Poetry 2010.

This debut collection from Seren, Inroads, showcases a startling new talent. Carolyn Jess-Cooke has a sophisticated poetic intelligence as well as a great sense of fun.

The opening piece, ‘Accent’ where ‘stowaway inflections and locally-produced slang/have passports of their own’ is a praise poem for the versatility and joy of language, “The way sound chases itself in tunnels and halls, the way senses fold memory…”. This verbal fluency and dexterity are employed to offer us poems that are multi-faceted and often paradoxical. ‘Aeneas Finds Dido on YouTube’ is part satire, part tender re-enactment of the myth, featuring the most up-to-date media platforms.

After this playful start, a difficult childhood is evoked through metaphor in poems like ‘Music Lesson’,’One Thousand Painful Pieces’ and ‘Bitten’, all the more heartbreaking for being indirect. Other high points are ‘Newborn’ with the apt description of a babe in arms being a ‘zoo of verbs/mewling, snuffling, pecking…’. This sweet realism again gives way to metaphor, in the strangely evocative ‘Dorothy’s Homecoming’ in a brilliant take on the classic film ‘Wizard of Oz’, the power of maternal love has turned into a ‘twister’.

Readers will enjoy discovering this striking and versatile new voice.

Poems included

  • Accent
  • Open-Mic Night at the Memory Karaoke
  • Second Hand Words
  • Yesterday, I Failed
  • Aeneas, Finds Dido on YouTube
  • Orpheus Gets Punk’D
  • Place
  • Rewriting the Mappa Mundi
  • Bitten
  • The Archer
  • Because of That Morning in 1983
  • Music Lesson
  • One Thousands Painful Pieces
  • Daisy
  • Pure
  • Lip Service
  • Belmopan, Belize
  • Tourists
  • Jet Lag
  • Reading Mt. Fuji’s Diaries
  • Waterfall at Lake Chuzenji, Japan
  • First Time Buyer
  • Boo!
  • 5 Months
  • Newborn
  • Descartes’ Daughter
  • Dorothy’s Homecoming
  • A Poem Without Any Vegetables
  • Asda, Ten Days Post-Partum
  • Pamukkale, Turkey
  • Fifteen And A Quarter Things To Do With Your Past
  • In Defence Of Multiple Handbags
  • Clouds
  • Three Ways To Look Through A Telescope
  • “Daily, I Forget To Live”
  • Inroads

EXTRACT

ACCENT

Stowaway inflections and locally-produced slang
Have passports of their own, a visa for the twang
That tells me you’re not Xhosa
But a Georgie raised in Grahamstown, maybe. It’s a blitz
Of souvenirs on the ears, the way you bring your bliss
Of home that much closer…

WHAT I THOUGHT

Inroads is an enjoyable collection of contemporary poetry. Not every poem suited my tastes. I like poems that use imagery and rich language but still tell me a story I can understand. I don’t like poems that use so much imagery the meaning becomes vague and obscure. Inroads contains a few poems like this so these left me a little cold. Some of the poems are very good though. I thought Dorothy’s Homecoming was a fantastic poem. I loved it. I also thought Lip Service, Boo!, Jet Lag and Fifteen And A Quarter Things To Do With Your Past were enjoyable. Some of the poems just didn’t work for me which made the collection uneven. I loved the cover though.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

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One Comment Add yours

  1. David N. says:

    Nice review. I wasn’t familiar with this book. I love this line: ‘zoo of verbs/mewling, snuffling, pecking…’ That’s good stuff.

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