Author: Tanya Manning-Yarde Published: 2017 Pages: 116
This is the first poetry collection I’ve reviewed on Amy’s Bookshelf, so I am a little nervous about doing it. Hopefully I can eloquently express my feelings for this collection. I would like to start by saying that I am not an expert on anything I write about, especially poetry, so I will just say what I thought and I hope that it’s enough to pique your interest.
Every Watering Word is a collection of poems which, (as stated in the blurb), touches on many themes including: women’s self-discovery, explorations of sex, motherhood and marriage, racial and gender oppression, and the trials, tribulations and triumphs experienced by love. The collections is split into different sections to group together poems relating to each other. Ranging from short haikus to longer passages, Manning-Yarde really manages to express her life experiences so far.
As reviewing poetry is different from reviewing a novel, rather than giving overall comments about the book, I’m going to pick out specific poems which particularly resonated with me.
I honestly really enjoyed most of the poems in the collection, but I think the section which stuck with me the most was actually the first one. Named Women Warriors, Manning-Yarde used these to express the female oppression sadly still prominent in society. Specifically Ester, Growing up Red, stuck with me the most. It is about the reality of a 12-year-old girl getting her first period. While at first the narrative is somewhat jubilant, by the end, phrases such as “camouflage in plainness” really hit home with the painful truth of what getting a period means for that girl; it is her passage into womanhood, which unfortunately means she is now a target for the “hunters’ hisses” i.e. the men who would be waiting for such an event so they can pounce. Being white, I cannot comment on her retelling of the black experience, but I can relate to her comments on gender oppression, and she really does nail the way in which a patriarchal society affects the lives of everyday women.
From the section Every Watering Word: The Been, The Because, The Becoming, the poem Wanting-for-Child was particularly prominent for me too. It’s pretty self-explanatory from the title, but this was one in the collection which focused on motherhood. Firstly, I always enjoy a poem that rhymes (it’s just somewhat more satisfying to read) but also I loved the Shakespearian use of the word “country” at the end. In Shakespeare’s plays, he would sometimes use the word “country” to allude to a c*** or vagina, something which I think Manning-Yarde is also cleverly doing here. Here is the said passage:
She dawned, pushing and pulling with might,
Arching head to take first sight.
Into cupping hands of world company,
The balmy blessing of new country.
More specifically to do with her writing, I really loved the poet’s use of homophones and half-rhyme words too. For example in Love, or Butterflies, the phrase “Prism? Prison?” and in The Dreams of Brown Mothers, the phrase: “This duel/dual.” She really has a knack for not only writing beautiful passages, but passages which, when spoken aloud, are punchy and powerful. The Dreams of Brown Mothers also includes this passage, which I love:
we mothers of war,
opening our wombs,
to the dawn,
If you enjoy poetry of any kind, or literature which touches on social issues, the I urge you to pick up a copy of Every Watering Word. If, however, you need any more convincing of Manning-Yarde’s ability to write, then I will leave you with this, particularly stunning stanza, from the poem Slaw of Stars:
Perhaps what is placed on stars
Is too much the weight and wonder
Of the has-been, the to-become
The untrained I
Clusters and congests them.
A diamond in the sky mined
To ferry fortune,
Harbour murmured regret.
Compelled to compete
For solitary. For space.
Thank you to the author, Tanya Manning-Yarde, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.