An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Poems by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2005
The Poetry Society 22 Betterton Street

visit the website of The Poetry Society
visit the website of The Foyle Young Poets

NHI review home page
FAQ page
Notes for Publishers

book reviews
other media

Web design by Gerald England
This page last updated: 10th December 2007.

The publication WHEN THE THUNDER WOKE ME celebrates the winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2005. There are fifteen poems in this collection, and a further 85 winners names are included in the back of the book These poems were all written before their authors were eighteen years old.

To have the winning poems between the covers of a book is an important event. One thing that struck me in my reading of the collection is how fully connected these young people are to the world presented in their poems and how readily the poems can be entered. Freshness of insight and perception abound. This is evidence that these young writers have learned quickly, and effectively, about which themes truly honour their impulse to write.

There are poems that focus on the senses and others that are celebratory. Some of the poems revolve around the themes of isolation, old age and death (which is somewhat surprising given the age of the poets.) They are often personal but in a way that invites the reader to share a world of intense feeling whether it be for a girlfriend, a dying child, ageing, a grandfather.

The book begins with TOUJOURS by Adam Beaudoin which effectively establishes that it is written by a young man about his girl:

	And afterwards,
	without a doubt, there
	you must have laid your lips.
There are other poems of enormous variety, sometimes enriched by the format of the poem as in UNTITLED by Philip Knox, with its brief lines and spacing between phrases:
	a friend
	just told       
	sister's boyfriend's cousin
Elsewhere, KID MOTH by Jeneece Bernard is an exhilarating poem about a family of moths teaching the baby moth how to become part of elemental processes and is an example of Bernard's command of the poetic line as the rhythm of the poem gathers pace, the shorter lines concede to longer ones:
	At night
	They listened to her navel for whispers,
	To see if she could hear the lunar proverbs.
	She learned to sing,
	learned their audio.
Another poem, HOW TO WATCH A CHILD DIE (Amanda Chong) is a poem of significant accomplishment but also of considerable daring which displays a mother watching a dying child on television whilst her own
	teenager leaves her food
	uneaten on her plate.
COUNTRY LASS BY Emma Lawrence has a last-line refrain in each stanza
	I'm a dirty country lass in a fouler city
which effectively binds the poem together. Dora Sharpe-Davidson's poem UNDER LOST/FOUND COLUMN . . . is about an advertisement placed in the newspaper to find a lost bird, and contains brief one- to three-word lines that make the poem more poignant. There is as much pleasure here in the sound of the words as in the meaning of the poem:
	you mourn
	that empty
	i cry
	for the one
	who didn't escape
	who took
	nine years
	to reach paradise
Richard Osmond's poem TRIVIA transgresses the boundaries between modes of representation from the real to the imaginary, from memory to fantasy, often within the same stanza:
	Every time I described something
	I did it an injustice, shrunk it into
	A silhouetted representation.
	I talked God down off his perch
	And into my pocket.
The reader must shift ground, as the depth of this poem lies in its nonconformity.

The world Martha Sprackland creates in BEACH draws directly from an occurrence in an environment where a child and an older persona are juxtaposed and inevitably fused by their experience:

	Awkwardly she twisted her
	tiny hands around my palms
	scavenged the liquid from
	my skin which clutched her to my clothes to dry.
In FINDING A VOICE (Ella Thompson) there are flashes of lyricism:
	Still the cavern grows, and smoke-backed birds
	drift, suspended at its mouth,
	then peel off to gossip and speculate.
In this poem a remarkable nostalgia and a strong sense of imminent danger defy the poet's years.

FISH EYES (Sharon Wang) is a poem that demonstrates a high level of refinement and a depth of form and content. Wang indicates a thorough writing practice through her rhythm and phrasing. The language is simple (yet not less lyrical), and this enhances the intense imagery of the text. Wang achieves effect through a constant process of familiarisation with the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and the way in which this trauma impacted on her grandfather's life:

	I think of the day you went blind,
	imagine you stiff-armed as the Cultural Revolution
	marched into your lab, swept your chemicals
	up with street-brooms.  It is hard
	to amputate your cane from these images.
WHEN THE THUNDER WOKE ME is a book that you'll want to return to often. It offers so many essential insights into which topics young people are interested in writing about. The poems are fresh. Some display powerful emotion and others, tenderness and vulnerability. These are all combined in the poems about such unlikely objects as a gasmask (GASMASK by Charlotte Geater), a travel map (TRAVEL-MAP, SUMMER 1938 by Alice Malin), a cat skin (CATSKIN by Laura Marsh) and a lift (LIFT by Julia Rampen), where the authors, accepting the nature of things transience and vulnerability in a world of mighty force imply that these are the very conditions which provide a source of beauty and wonder.

In conclusion, I'd like to say what now must be obvious that it was a pleasure to read this selection of poems by young up-and-coming poets. I hope it attracts much praise. It certainly deserves to. I'll close this review by a quote from what, for me, is an outstanding poem, THE DIVER by Emily Middleton, about a boy whose life flashes before his eyes as he plunges into the sea the denouement of the poem I'll leave for the reader to discover:

	The wind defines
	his premature wrinkles and his skin is moulded
	easy as clay
	into a Picasso-like sculpture.  The disorder
	reflects his state of mind: a multitude of thoughts press against
	his temples; he dismisses them as annoying little buggers
	but as each individual notion becomes obsolete, another
	slips in, quick as the Fido he wishes he'd had,
	to replace it.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.