And from a dead poet you've probably all heard of (TS Eliot) to a living one that's much newer in poetry town (JoAnne McKay). McKay has a pamphlet just about to come out called 'The Fat Plant' and it looks like this:
Copies are available from the author, price £5 – email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to buy.
If you don't think you recognise the name JoAnne McKay you may have seen her commenting round these parts lately under the name Titus (accompanied by a lovely photo of a dog - border terrier in fact). I'm not sure why JoAnne chooses to blog as a dog (rather than as her good self) but you know, we're not judgemental at this blog...and we like dogs on the whole (especially border terriers) so we welcomed her (furry face and all). Her blog is here and there are quite a lot of sample poems posted from 'The Fat Plant' so you can read a couple before you think about buying the wee book.
Now you're all clever people who can make up your own minds about poetry to an extent...but for what it's worth here is what I think of her poetry so far...(and please remember I make no claims to be a poetry expert...perish the thought).
For a start I think she has variety...
...yes, in fact she has so much variety she has it in big, wide, dig-your-garden-up-in-minutes-missus spades. Her writing shows variety in its style, its atmospheres and its content and whilst there are only sixteen poems in 'The Fat Plant' it feels like a much bigger book. McKay may not know it yet but she is ambitious with her writing (and I don't mean she wants to be Head Sonnetwasher at the Poetry Society...I mean ambitious about what she's doing with the writing itself). I very much admire that in a writer (probably because I feel a bit that way – I want to write EVERYTHING!) and I don't think poet Hugh McMillan is far wrong in his charming introduction to this book when he says she will “prove herself to be a writer of importance”. McKay is a near neighbour of McMillan's in the Dumfries area so it seems Dumfries and Galloway is quite the hotbed of exciting writing these days (must be the Burns in the burns...).
Also I think she has something new to say...
...well, how many poets have been police officers for a start (McKay was for eleven years)? How many grew up around the family slaughterhouse (as she did in Essex)? Plus she seems to be one of those people who knows lots about all sorts...encyclopaedic knowledge I believe they call it (never suffered from it myself, sadly). Of course it isn't her rich and unusual experiences and broad knowledge that make the poems interesting but I think it certainly helps to have some different, gripping and wideranging subject matter to get to work on (which she most definitely does). Partly because of some of this background the poems are sometimes harsh (but without being cruel) and they can be visceral too (but without being shock-happy). I'm pleased to report though that there is also a lot of thought throughout this little collection and it has its share of tender moments and, thank the lord, it has humour as well (and I mean proper humour not crappy poet humour that only other poets can understand). She writes about faith, about history and, most of all perhaps in this selection, about family (from every angle). Probably my favourite poem in 'The Fat Plant' is 'Mourning' (about the funeral of her father, the chief slaughterer) and particularly its section about the 'floral tributes'. I could quote from it but it's the whole poem you need to read really. I like funeral poems in general (death, can't get enough of it...) but this is my new best-friend funeral poem for sure.
Well, that should do to get you started. Go visit her, buy her wares, take her dog for a walk...
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