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.
Listen to Carolyn Jess-Cooke read her poem, ‘A poem without any vegetables’: