Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's Missing, what's found

Missing by Beverly Rycroft
(Modjaji Books, R145)

I picked up Beverly Rycroft's debut collection of poetry, Missing, while waiting for a flight home. Airports are never a good time to read - announcements shatter your concentration repeatedly.
But, from the first poem, I was drawn in and found myself devouring these poems hungrily. Rycroft takes the intimate nature of her life and shapes the experience into deeply-crafted works.

Much of the poetry in this collection is concerned with her struggle with breast cancer, a seemingly grim topic, but don't let that put you off. Her poems are heartfelt and you don't have to be a woman, or to have suffered breast cancer, to have these poems talk to you.

The subject in Friday: Diagnosis is cancer, and the words are transformed into sharp, shocking weapons: The telephone, once a domestic creature/has turned into a raptor/? The Doctor's voice spinning from it/ steamed warm/and sticky as fresh entrails:/malignancy/ chemotherapy.

And yet there is humour, too, in Rycroft's examination of the disease. Here, in David's Visit David tells her that: in his Aunt's day/breast prosthetics were bolstered/with bird seed./After a sweaty game of tennis/one afternoon/she found/her bosom had begun to sprout.

The equally intimate nature of love, marriage, togetherness, and the delights of having and watching children grow up, is another topic explored compellingly in these poems.

These themes coalesce in the poem, If this bed could talk, in which the narrator speaks of a bed which has hosted love "lying together", a youngest child who has colonised the bed, a mother-in-law urging a husband to eat, a daughter singing, and a woman waiting.

Meanwhile, in What I learned from you the poet writes of a marriage in which she learns that: a brown Gomma-Gomma bedroom suite/isn't the worst way to start a marriage. But what she learns is also bittersweet, that in the end: if we really had to/you and I might/just/manage without each other. And then, gratitude for life: "laughter/good friends/my love/ this poem is the heart of an achingly simple poem: Bequest.

Rycroft's poetry is very accessible, vital and necessary: a fine debut.

Published The Star Tonight, October 7 2010

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