poetry

Of Death and of Life

I was recently afforded the opportunity to read and review a book of poetry, by Jenne Kaivo, entitled Poems Mostly of the Sea. And it was a bit of a wild ride, to say the least, but I suspect that was the point. Either way, Kaivo created something rather brilliant.

Cover of “Poems Mostly of the Sea” by Jenne Kaivo via Goodreads

Cover of “Poems Mostly of the Sea” by Jenne Kaivo via Goodreads

This book is made up of 62 poems, all relating in some way or another to the sea. With this in mind, I began reading the poems with some caution. While I adore the sea and anything relating to it—after all, I was born by the ocean—I worried it wouldn’t have much to do with what we normally face over here at Voices in the Attic. We tend to lean more towards the dark and macabre, and while we’ve taken many a detour into feminist anthems and cries for the environment, I wondered where this would fit in. The sea has always been about renewal and a calming presence for me. Of course I’m aware of all the mythical beasts that supposedly live down there, and all the real-world problems like storms, and shipwrecks, and the like. But I wondered where this book would fit in.

And oh, were my worries ever proven wrong.

Kaivo’s book is full of an array of individual poems that all link together to form a grander theme. Initially, it seems like a general ode to the sea, which, as someone who has always appreciated a nice sea breeze across the back of my neck, I can easily get behind. But with each poem I passed, the figurative storms picked up, and her words raced into darker territories.

The book begins with such poems as “By the Sea it’s Safe and Quiet”, “Whitewaterfall”, and “The Lake”, and in them I can easily see a clear message: the world itself is messy, but there is always a sense of clarity and renewal in the sea. This I feel very deeply. And as I read these poems, I thought I understood that to be the message of the whole book.

Photo courtesy of LunarSeaArt via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of LunarSeaArt via Pixabay

Yet as I read further, I discovered poems such as “Lunatic Mood” and “My City Angst”, which denoted a kind of chaos that most people in this world feel at some point or another, and many just can’t get away from. “My City Angst” was a particular favourite of mine, because it was, at its core, about such a simple task. The narrator was roaming the aisles of a drug store late at night. But Kaivo uses language so fluidly and expertly, and instantly such a simple scene is twisted into something more. The streets are dark, and the buildings are dimly lit, and in the distance, wolves are howling. I can almost feel the wind whipping through my clothes, and it’s as though I’ve been sucked into a horror scene.

In “Let Cake Eat Them”, we get something a touch more fantastical. The narrator is in a bakery when suddenly a cake comes to life and attempts to gobble up the bakery patrons. The horror in this poem was particularly clear, and in “Excalibur” it was just as clear, but in a less fantastical, more real-world sense. Glass bottles are being thrown, and a meth-head is curled up alone in an alleyway.

It seems, at first, that all these examples I’ve provided have nothing to do with each other. They seem disconnected, and many of them don’t even have anything to do with the sea (though, with this, I urge you to consider the title of the book: Poems Mostly of the Sea.)

But I think I’ve figured out the connection between it all. We live in a time of extreme climate crisis. Everyone knows it, though an unfortunate amount of people still insist on denying it. It is in a time such as the one we live in, that a book such as Kaivo’s becomes particularly relevant. Her poems denote a state of disaster that the world currently lives in, and yet, they urge us towards rebirth and renewal. Everything feels fresher by the sea because it’s such a pure, raw sense of nature, untouched by man. It’s just our duty to keep it that way.

Towards the end of her book, Kaivo cycles through such poems as “You Must Know How We Grow on the Dead”, which describes how most plants grow out of the death of those that came before them, and “There is a Traffic Jam on Everest”, which more or less speaks for itself. There are many horrors in nature, but there’s also beauty in it when you stop and appreciate it for what it is. That is the main goal of Kaivo’s poetry: to appreciate the forces of nature for what they are, using the sea is her main example.

Fittingly, Kaivo’s collection of poetry concludes with a poem entitled “Daylight”. It speaks of waking up to a new day and is, essentially, the rebirth and renewal the rest of the collection worked its way towards. It denotes a new dawn, a new beginning, and precisely what awaits at the end of every horror.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

RECLAIM

Check out  https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/  for more information about this stunning collection!

Check out https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/ for more information about this stunning collection!

RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry addresses the need for women to regain control and autonomy over their own bodies, and acts as a platform to represent their struggles and backgrounds. In this first part to the two-part anthology series, readers will not be disappointed with the diverse body of writers, connecting to different cultures, orientations, and races.

Published in May 2019, this anthology features forty-seven female writers, building a community within fluid poems that spread smoothly out over the pages. Engaging by how the voices promote unity in their struggles and encounters, this impressive collection will linger on in the minds of readers.

Easily shifting the balance, writers snatch at their own bodies and examine the carcasses left behind by society. This impressive literary collection features a variety of excellent work, but in particular “Training Bras” by Wanda Deglane andFat Girls on Trains” by Djamilla Mercurio demand for swift attention. Their concepts and experiences of bodies are immediately relatable, grabbing at attention. Often, women become disconnected from power and control over their bodies, and these two poems bring forward a whirlpool of emotions and experiences.

Women have spent decades struggling to find a platform for their voices. Pulling together groups of like-minded individuals, they have brought forward countless issues of gender experiences, and fought to be heard. Even with historical groups lobbying together for change, certain voices were sidelined and left unheard.

This anthology helps move forward. How we navigate our own lives is often an isolating experience, but this community of women pulls together their own experiences, and knits together an entire voyage of individual voices. Readers will certainly be enriched by this collection of poetry and group of women.


If you are looking for a host of voices that linger over the pages, do not hesitate in picking up RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry today.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Olivia Gatwood is the Life of the Party

Both Olivia Gatwood and New American Best Friend were a gift given to humanity. Her first book of poetry was published in 2017 and was an expertly crafted collection of work. In particular, Gatwood focuses on the elements of being a woman and living in modern America. In particular, her series of odes are particularly breathtaking in their raw honesty and presentation.

Cover image from  Random House

Cover image from Random House

We did not deserve Gatwood when she slammed her way into popularity with her viral videos like “Ode to My Bitch Face” and “Ode to the Women on Long Island”, and we certainly did not deserve her new collection, Life of the Party. This collection expands on what her earlier work started, and further projects her voice into covering topics like violence and victimhood. Gatwood excels in writing about womanhood and sexuality, and has a huge audience desperately waiting for her next collection to be released.

As an educator in sexual assault prevention, her work has been showcased in publications like Poetry City U.S.A and Winter Tangerine. Gatwood’s recordings have garnered thousands upon thousands of views, and her voice easily carries not just words artfully strung together, but manages to convey entire stories that expand far past the pages of her writing.

Life of the Party is deeply inspired by true crime, and Gatwood presents her own perspective on very real situations. America has recently been cracked open and had its dark underbelly forcefully exposed by a multitude of women in the past few years, and her voice further aids to the progress being made. Our obsession and romanization of murdered women is often fixated on by the cold reality that we currently live in. There is danger in being a woman, and especially a woman of color.

The appearances of murdered women on movies and television shows is a constant theme. They act as an object to dwell on, and they also serve to support male leads and their lives moving forward. Dead bodies and the act of murdering has become a romanticized dark area in pop culture, which influences how we perceive violent acts. Staggering numbers of teenagers today admire serial killers and their activities, transforming them into heroic figures while ignoring the bodies behind their statistics.

Books based on true crime have become popular. They analyze crime scenes and present information to the general public, making information accessible. However, often books distance themselves from the identities of the murdered women and victims, and these books slowly lose sensitivity. Like a moth to a flame, we gravitate and devour these books.

When I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara was published posthumously in 2018, we were obsessed. There is something so heartbreakingly compelling about reading the stories of victims and their families living in the aftermath. McNamara had compiled her research and built the foundation of the book with her outlines, previously written articles and a few fully fleshed out chapters. Efforts by ghostwriters ensured that the book was published and McNamara’s voice continued, telling the history of the Golden State Killer.

The book rose into popularity throughout bookstores across North America and was the 2018 winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards. McNamara managed to restore the voices of the victims inside their own narratives.  This artful act of compassion and respectful journalism managed to fixate an entire audience of readers who firmly then turned their attentions to the legal actions against Joseph James DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer, that unravelled throughout that year. Because of McNamara’s efforts, we were able to remember the victims behind DeAngelo’s actions properly. Nothing was glamorized, and McNamara directed out attention to the staggering reality of cold case files as well as both the effective and ineffective abilities that DNA has on solving the ‘unsolvable’.

Photo courtesy of  Olivia Gatwood  via Twitter

Photo courtesy of Olivia Gatwood via Twitter

The connection between Gatwood’s electric poetry and McNamara’s carefully researched writing is obvious. These women are fixated on restoring narratives and weaving a complex story. Without women like these two, we would not experience such carefully pieced together work, and we as a whole would all suffer. When women die, they either become invisible and voiceless, or they are dragged out on display. We need women willing to restore voices and narratives, but also to provide compassionate storytelling.

There’s a reason women carry their keys in their hands and don’t go jogging at night. We also avoid discussing the complex differences between murdered white women and murdered women of color. We dislike engaging in discussions on the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, but we are certainly fascinated with Robert Pickton and his activities. Pop culture builds an image of strangers murdering women, but statistically, women are more likely to be abused by men that they had an already existing relationship with. We need to look beyond media representation and look at the bigger picture, and who is truly impacted.

The conversation around murdered women is heavily limited and censored. Thankfully, we have writers and educators willing to lend their own voice and provide a platform for new thinking.

We are certainly marking down the days to the release of Life of the Party, and you should be too.


Random House will be releasing Gatwood’s Life of the Party August 27th, 2019. You can get your hands on the paperback for $17.00. Until the summer, though, you can catch more of her thoughts @oliviagatwood as well on the podcast that she co-hosts, called Say More.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

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