Saturday 29 February 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Joelle Taylor, Songs My Enemy Taught Mereviewed by Ellie Julings

I carry the war in my womb.
At night it kicks and sings stories of the
first night that war came calling.

In the first lines of Songs My Enemy Taught Me, Joelle Taylor sets the reader on a journey that begins with her own early experience of abuse, and travels across the globe into the lives of a diverse cast of women, each with a story to tell.

These wrenching, visceral tales are driven home with the rhythmic energy you’d expect from the award-winning slam poet and founder of the youth mentoring programme SLAMbassadors. You’ll hear these lines spat from the stage as you read,

see the child tap dance in a gilded bird cage
see women flicker like neon lights
see a girl catch a bullet in her teeth. and swallow.

But slick and punchy as they are, there’s no rushing past the poems in this collection....

[Taylor] is a conduit for silenced voices, using her own creativity and status to uplift and connect with others, setting out not from a place of detached altruism, but from her own experiences of silence, survival and uprising. And it is this, I believe that gives this collection its weight. Songs My Enemy Taught Me is a lesson in solidarity for both activists and creatives, especially those who aspire in some way to both. Take your time with this book, but do not look away.