In 'Conversations with Dad', Jenni's father rings her every Friday night at 6 o'clock. The only problem is: her father's been dead for a little while now. Jacqueline Robinson explores the Jamaican cultural processes which surrounds the death of an individual. In addition, the story is a critique of psychiatry in relation to BME communities within the context of grief.
Simple and very short, Jacqueline somehow manages to travel through the character's relationship with their Dad, his death and her grieving (or denial after) in this chapbook. I loved the interrogation of mental health - the twist at the end particularly investigates if mental health professions misdiagnose patients. It also explores whether mental health needs to be medicated. I thought long and hard about this - as I am of the school of thought that if it is not hurting the general public and the person is happier without medication (although can be diagnosed as 'hearing voices') then I can't see why that person's life should be dulled through medication. Of course, there are many exceptions to this thought trail, however the point is that Robinson, in just a few pages, is able to investigate deep themes and leave questions for her reader. Robinson is also able to craft a story arc which immerses a reader quickly and leaves them wanting to know more.
Heather Sweeney's first poetry collection focuses on the textural, minute details of the self and memory. With a sharp awareness of today's culture and the past, this collection flickers in and out of clarity and dream, of the surreal and the painfully true.
'Maybe all I need is a hot Tub and and an endless cigarette To outlive the memes of tomorrow The vanity of this national illness.' The above poem 'The memes of tomorrow' was my favourite poem of this collection. Sweeney's writing is splintered and disjointed - meaning has to be pieced together. It's a very different style of poetry than I usually read and I really enjoy discovering new poets and unique voices. I think I would have enjoyed this collection more if I could identify a thread of meaning throughout the chapbook which joined all the poems together thematically. Perhaps this would have emerged if the collection was slightly bigger. The imagery in this chapbook is rich and sometimes surprising: 'cancer on your cheekbone/a cradle of pacific rust'. I would be interested to read more of Sweeney's work! I love the aesthetic of this chapbook - it feels glossy and made with care. Great front cover designs.