Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Humour, gender, sexuality, sensuality, identity, racism, cultural difference: when do any of these things ever come together to equal poetry? When Jackie Kay’s part of the equation. Darling brings together into a vibrant new book many favourite poems from her four Bloodaxe collections, The Adoption Papers, Other Lovers, Off Colour and Life Mask, as well as featuring new work, some previously uncollected poems, and some lively poetry for younger readers.
Kay’s poems draw on her own life and the lives of others to make a tapestry of voice and communal understanding. The title of her acclaimed short story collection, Why Don’t You Stop Talking, could be a comment on her own poems, their urgency of voice and their recognition of the urgency in all voice, particularly the need to be heard, to have voice. And what voice – the voices of the everyday, the voices of jazz, the voices of this many-voiced United Kingdom.
‘Kay’s Darling locates her alongside Ted Hughes – even T.S. Eliot – in that elite group whose children’s writing, rather than gainsaying their primary poetic project, informs and enriches it…One of Kay’s greatest strengths is the way she locates individual experience in the collective. As befits an adoptive daughter of peace marchers, Kay is a writer for whom the personal is indeed political… Even such a public poet as Kay, though, writes verse shaped above all by human cadence. She has an immaculate ear for speech patterns, using accent and dialect, in particular, to lift and characterise’ – Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
‘Darling is proof of her place as one of the most deft, most airy, most unencumbered, most fearless and most humane of poets. It culminates in a set of poems whose rhetorical ease and lack of pretension are like a clear starry sky on a good frosty night’ – Ali Smith, The Guardian (Books of the Year)
‘This poet’s history – a black child adopted and reared in Scotland – and the personae that have shone from her previous books in many genres since her first collection, The Adoption Papers, make reforging this particular identity an unusually complex matter. In different forms, tones and voices, these poems flicker fascinatingly between oppositions…The poems explore authenticity, allegiance, origins and memory through multiple masks’ – Ruth Padel, The Independent
‘Warm, tough, painful and often very funny poems’ – Fleur Adcock, Sunday Times
Jackie Kay reads six poems
Jackie Kay was an adopted child of Scottish/Nigerian descent brought up by Scottish parents, the subject of the title-sequence of her first collection, The Adoption Papers (1991). Her poems draw on her own life and the lives of others to make a tapestry of voice and communal understanding. It is through talking her characters into being that she creates her own sense of self through her poems, which are conversational in tone but with jazz-inflected rhythms. In the extract from The Adoption Papers with which she begins this reading, the two characters speaking are the adoptive mother and the daughter (with the birth mother speaking in other chapters). This is followed by her readings of five other poems, some with introductions: ‘In my country’, ‘The Spare Room, ‘Twelve Bar Bessie’ (about Bessie Smith), ‘Old Tongue’ and ‘Darling’, all from Darling: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2007). Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Jackie Kay at her home in Manchester on 23 November 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).