A collection of poems by Kathryn Simmonds, told in an accessible voice. She confronts the dilemmas of a young woman living in the city with considerable humour and a poignancy. An element of surrealism often invades her poems, taking from the quotidian to the suddenly unsettling and strange, as when a secretary flies up into space, or a laundrette becomes a place to strip off skin!
Formally adept, slyly witty, the poems in Kathryn Simmonds' first collection engage with both the quotidian and the transcendental. Often set in urban or suburban contexts, her protagonists struggle with mundane tasks such as cooking or commuting or office work, all the obstacles of modernity, and then, by some shift of attention, or by some keen narrowing of focus, they chance upon the surreal or the spiritual. This is a poetry of subtle contexts and allusions, as much concerned with the vulnerability of the body as for the fate of the soul and the idea of 'keeping faith' in God and life. Her juxtapositions are often sweetly humourous, her imagery lures us in unexpected directions.
"Simmonds incorporates life's bits and bobs into her poetry: changing mats, Yellow Pages, a jumbo marker. But what raises her book above the average… is a desire to bring the spiritual into the quotidian."
This delightful first collection of poems by Kathryn Simmonds proves that poetry doesn't have to be difficult or obscure or terribly 'highfalutin' to convey human truths and feeling. Poetry can be accessible, grounded in the familiar, a simple pleasure to read - and still make you think differently and experience the world in new ways.
The opening poem, 'The World Won't Miss You for a While', implicitly invites the reader to stop, relax, let go of all the doing and, even for just a moment, step into a world of being, where 'the angels sigh, / sad for the smallness of the living', who fill their short lives with 'millions of ideas' and a 'billion worries [...] more real to them than flame-lit trees' ('Angels at Rest'). Simmonds returns again and again to this human paradox whereby we fail to notice the beauty of the ordinary, yet literally worry ourselves to death about ordinary things. There is the rhythmic, patterned beauty of 'The Boys in the Fish Shop', with their constantly repeated actions and mannerisms, and the tender humour of 'Leftovers', a hymn to those who habitually find themselves rummaging in the fridge for that little bit of something that is rarely there. But there is also 'The Woman who Worries Herself to Death', which has enjoyed the distinction of appearing as 'The Saturday Poem' in The Guardian, and the much lighter 'What Not to Do with Your Day', both of them gently calling our attention to what is, and is not, genuinely important in life.
'Sunday at the Skin Launderette', which won the Poetry London Competition, is perfectly chosen as the title poem and placed right at the centre of the collection, epitomising the poet's gloriously quirky, yet deeply earthed, take on the world. The everyday sparkles into life in these quietly accomplished poems whose humour and compassion encourage a fresh and more positive perception.
Suzy Ceulan Hughes @ www.gwales.com