Book Review: September by Cherry Doyle
Grief in Bas Relief
“The mourners are
directed to the school- today the children’s
voices are replaced by choirs of thrushes.
Hearts dry up and crisp along the vine,
while sprays of jasmine fall above like stars.”
–Funeral Parking at Bryn Offa School, Cherry Doyle, September
I read a lot of poetry centred around sad subjects. Sometimes powerful poems just drench me in the darkness and that’s okay. But, there is something about a poet who can give us shadows and light that sets emotion right on the blade’s edge. The language chosen here is careful, and deliberate. It seems like an odd setting for funeral parking at the primary school, but it is like so many situations in life. These things happen. A poet notices. As I read the last two lines of this poem I knew this image would stay with me. I look out at the ivy on the sides of buildings now and think about them drying up, crisping on the vine. Doyle has taken a sight that I see on a daily basis and turned it into something new. Ivy is invasive. Just like grief and it now stands out to me on every mundane walk.
Aftermath and Scars
“My scar feels fat tonight; a chunk of quartz
embossed with threads of blood, like I could pluck
it from my chest and hold it to the moon.”
–Mauve, Cherry Doyle, September
Survival is only the beginning. It is the aftermath of trauma that we live with every day. Scars are a reminder. When I read this poem, I do not know if this is the scar from a surgery, an accident or something more sinister. But, it does make me turn to my own scars. The author asks me to re-frame them visually and I take a closer look. Her rich commitment to detail makes me wonder at the amazing ability of the body to heal. I have ropes of keloids on my body that come from surgery and also abuse. In the dark I can follow them with my fingertips and they become braille to a story of my past. This story is sad and frightening. It is shameful, at times.
In this poem the poet asks “what next, another laboured step?”. I feel the defeat in this line, this wail against the wind where nothing feels fair. There is a keening in this poem that cannot be denied. Healing is painful. It is not linear and it is hard work. On top of the physical healing, there is the emotional work that can last for years, maybe forever. And when Doyle asks this question, I feel the question in my own mind that comes up in more desperate moments. Why Me?
Like so many of the poems in this book, Mauve is full of rich imagery that peels back the surface layers. She also asks “when will I go back to being me?”. This is the question for so many survivors. I feel a deep emotional connection with the narrator here. It is rare for words on a page, from a poet I’ve never met to make me feel like I am so understood. Doyle does this with such a light touch that it feels non-invasive. There is camaraderie.
Seasons of Life
“Your hair used to fly in curls of candied bramble
in the low sun of September, my fox-fur bracken
blood-lit with our copper twists of DNA.”
–September, Cherry Doyle, September
By the time I get to the title poem of the book, it is every bit as rich and delicious as I expect it to be. As the poem unfolds, a treasure of images spills onto my lap. Seasons of nature collide with colour and emotion in a way that makes me pause. In the above quoted passage I can see the autumn colors twisted into copper curls and feel the wildness of them in the cool September air. Indeed, if bramble was candied, this is what it would look like. Have I ever considered bramble dipped in amber candy, as hardened sugar? No. But, I can tell you that now every time I go through a forest and see bracken I will think of the lines of this poem. The brilliance is how Doyle layers meaning throughout, weaving it so tightly that one image or emotion cannot be separated from another.
September, by Cherry Doyle, is a poetry pamphlet to remember. It demands a closer inspection of the elements around us and fuses nature with humanity. The poet gives a sentience to the most mundane of objects and holds them up so we can inspect them closer. Again, this is another book beautifully produced by Offa’s Press. Autumn is headed our way, and I highly recommend this powerful collection of poetry as we snug in for the colour change and cooler temperatures.
September, by Cherry Doyle, is available for purchase through Offa’s Press.
About the Author
Cherry Doyle was born in Shrewsbury and now lives in Staffordshire, near Cannock Chase AONB, whose landscapes and wildlife provide inspiration for much of her poetry. She works in business change and is one of the co-ordinators of Blackenhall Writers in Wolverhampton. In 2018, Cherry completed a BA in Creative Writing with the Open University. Keep in touch at www.cherrydoyle.com.
About the Press
OFFA’S PRESS is “dedicated to publishing and promoting the best in contemporary West Midland poetry and poets. It will do this through a series of publications and performances where the watchword will be ‘good on the page and good on stage’.
Offa’s Press is eclectic in range. It receives some development funding from Arts Council England and is run as a co-operative by a number of regional writers and poets with Simon Fletcher the Editor / Manager.”