Today out in paperback (if you must) A totally wonderful book
There are some books that demand to be reviewed. Gifted with the good fortune of discovering them, the only adequate response is to offer the gift to others. This is such a book. Nothing that I might say about it will come anywhere near adequate, nor begin to plumb its richness or its artistry. This is poetic genius in its purest sense, original, completely modest, and awe inspiring.
This collection of polished portraits is like finding a small gallery in the side street of an unknown town. On entering there is a surprising space, perfectly lit and falling on each framed free jewel to both isolate and connect it to a revelation of their growing narrative. The story they tell is the ‘portrait of the artist as a young woman’. This is not the narcissism of a Tracey Emin shouting and shocking, but the incremental uncovering of those pure (and usually inchoate) depths of a soul, the fathomless longing, the exuberant celebration, the sudden awe at ordinary perfection, the perfection of Creation. So much joy moves one to tears, and gratitude that someone is capable of finding the words to remind us what we are at out best, at our deepest.
So much has been written about the ‘Divine Feminine’ neglected by the Judeo Christian domination of the modern world. Well here she is, as naked as the Rokeby Venus gazing in the mirror of her truth. Unlike that painting of privilege these poems find her in the kitchen, or on the sandy road of an ordinary thought. ‘I go where the laughter is, pure and simple, and I say/ this ball of clay is really an onion, a snake coiled/around a bouncing ball, a swirl of petals exploding from bud. Love is the pack on a /hitchhikers back, everything he owns, everywhere he goes, the only article that can’t be left behind’.
I am tempted to quote line after line, but if I desist it is to urge everyone to buy this Christmas present to yourself, keep it, as I do, by your bed and close each day with a visit to your own nobility. Through them you will see life renewed, through an instinctive worship of the ordinary.
Not only the poems, but the book itself is beautiful, beautifully bound with paper as rich and lavish as clotted cream. At last a publisher who understands the honour of bringing an author to the table, perfectly served.
There is no way to express the power of this collection. Studdard is a poet at ease with herself. Nothing is contrived or precious; none work too hard, they are as skillful and instinctive as the calligraphic master whose loaded brush flows onto the page with perfect lines to enclose an impulsive idea, a rising response, before it flies like a dove.