Emily Kate Groves reviewed my debut collection ‘Sweat-borne Secrets‘ (Burning Eye Books) for literary blog Poejazzi. I was pleased as punch so thought I’d post it on here. You can also read the original article on Poejazzi.
“Sally Jenkinson’s debut collection opens with a declaration of failure, “Look I was going to say, / look what I’ve brought for you” – grazed knees and squished fruit. ‘Offering’ sets the tone for the following onslaught of reality. However, failure is not the tone Sally sets, but a “squashed show of splattered blackberries”, squeezing the juice out of human experience.
This is a collection that asserts “stop looking out of the window, we are home”, reminding us to focus our attention on the tangibly profound, rather than those emotions we are unable to make concrete. Not that this is a collection that in any way disregards emotion, but it communicates it without the vulgar bluntness of a Facebook status. Sally vests a poetic trust in images, allowing them to sing. She possesses an incredible ability to make an image not merely evoke feelings, but be a feeling. These poems are “holding
‘Haven’t Really’ is a stunning example of a poet who can capture feeling and unfeeling, “the sports-hall echo of a memory tells me once / that I did ache”. This is a poet who wrestles with the heart and stuffs it into fantastical metaphors, “wrapped up safe and loved as a falafel.” At first such images seem utterly absurd, but quickly become more meaningful than the generic proclamations we are so used to.
In ‘Lullaby’, a lover’s “body gapes suddenly like a question” until their “white bones sing awake”. Yet in the same few moments we are reminded of “leftovers in the fridge”, asked to “like make us a rollie, babe”. What is perhaps most remarkable about such a visually powerful collection is that beauty is not forced into the poems for poetry’s sake. These beautiful images pepper our existence, without a three-hour journey to the beach to watch the sunrise. It is eggs boiling in a pan and the “secrets in the sock drawer” balanced against sleepless nights and “scratchy eyes”.
This world oscillates between the certainty of an emotion and the uncertainty of its longevity, between the beautiful and the tedious. There is genius at work here, lines that stick with you through the mundane, my favourite coming from ‘Haiku’, a struggle to find wonder in many a poet’s favourite season, Spring. “You know those days / when the sight of the sun setting over Pizza Hut / is enough to make you cry?”
Sally’s ear for life, the rhythm of a personal moment made wonderfully recognisable, is a skill to be marvelled at. Some lines slip smoothly down the throat like “the sanctity / of Heinz Tomato soup”, only to throttle you all of a sudden with the jarring turbulence of life’s upsets. Whilst the image-saturated poems could become suffocating, Sally’s command for cadence turns the mundane into lyrical magic. This is where a relationship is no more consequential than “a puddle in a car park”, and yet somehow one lone puddle can reflect an entire world.
It is not a collection without flaw. On occasion this rhythmic skill can shape a poem into a performance rather than something destined for the page. The sudden shifts in pace can be a little dizzying, as though one poem is a patchwork of two or three. Nonetheless, in these instances, the message is still moving, and I find myself enthralled by what is being shared, if not the way that Sally shares it.
‘Swear-borne Secrets’ is a highly intelligent and intrepid journey “into bruising Swiss-quartz seconds” made universal. If this is the first offering of someone still seized by the throes of youth, get excited for the control that maturity can bring.”
About this Author – Emily Kate Groves is a poet and fromage fanatic from West London. She was winner of The Sunday Telegraph and Rose Theatre ‘Poetry for Performance’ competition and has since graduated with a first in English and Creative Writing from Warwick University. She was a Young Producer for Poetry Parnassus and helps to run ‘Beats and Bars’ in the West Midlands. She performs poems about suburbia, love and revolution and is interested in how education can put poets back in the heart of popular culture. Emily believes happiness can be found in champagne, camembert and company, but will always settle for knock-off cider, mature cheddar and penguin documentaries alone in the dark.