If good poetry is about revealing one’s true self, this book is full of good poems. Anne Walsh Donnelly is revealing a great deal of her life and strongest feelings in her writing in this beautifully produced book. The title is significant as the owl and a tattoo are both significant features in a book which is primarily about relationships. Husband, parents and children are all featured, together with the growing realisation that her thoughts are increasingly directed towards other women. This is far from a gentle book of love poetry however; the telling phrase and the often painful imagery of body and memory dominate these verses. This is poetry at its most raw, but also touching and truthful. I was grateful to have the opportunity to experience and review this book as part of the blog tour.
The book opens with a poem called “Guide to Becoming a Writer”, which shows both how not conforming to expectations and yet trying to fit in provides the experience and drive to write. The visit to “a therapist” who “tells you to start writing – Just Do It” provides the impetus towards poetry, and hence this book. “The Tawny Owl” reveals the poet’s love for an owl, and what she comes to represent. Animals are significant throughout the book, as images and also in the hard reality of their farming life. She comes to realise that her husband will never keep his vows, his promises. Her therapist confronts her with the truth that will propel the rest of her life, as she takes a look at herself in many ways and discovers new ways of loving. A series of poems reveals her coming out to her children and parents, and their individual reactions. Her son’s reaction is perhaps the most beautifully described “His acned cheek touches my forehead/his gangly arms wrap around my shoulders./Same as his toddler arms used to, but different. Similarly, her father’s verdict is also touching “you were my daughter the day you were born/and you’re still my daughter.”
There are so many other strands to this book of emotions elegantly, painfully and truthfully expressed. The poems are not long and wordy, each is taut and compressed, each word carefully chosen and balanced to the whole. These are pictures of people, of the poet, making a difference, dealing with new truths, creating new creatures. The honesty of this book is powerful, masterly in the way it is presented, and this makes for a book that makes an impression. Contemporary poetry is presented here in all its shocking power, and this publisher has done much to make it available to all.
This is my third poetry book this mother I think – I will be getting a reputation for it! I have enjoyed looking at them, and maybe one day I will do more. What do you think?