21 May 2011

Poetry reading: The Book of Blood by Vicki Feaver (12/52)

I first came across a poem by Vicki Feaver several years ago when I was nosing through some poetry anthology that a friend had for her poetry course at university. I was really struck by her poem - it was about Judith, whose story is told in the Apocrypha. I'd written a bit about Judith too in my poem about Artemisia Gentileschi and her paintings: 'Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593–circa 1642' - Gentileschi painted several pictures of Judith, including two of her beheading Holofernes (which is what she was famous and celebrated for).

You can read Vicki Feaver's poem 'Judith' on the English Poetry Archive site. It's a poem written in the voice of her protagonist - something that I've enjoyed doing to. It was a poem that made me want to read more of Feaver's work, and I've looked out for books by her around the place - in bookshops and libraries - but never saw any. So, now with the wonders of the internet, I decided to order a book. The book that Judith is from, The Handless Maiden, is out of print, so I bought the more recent The Book of Blood. It arrived surprisingly quickly.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with this book. I wanted there to be more in there that I loved, but a lot of the poems just left me kinda cold. They didn't feel rich, they didn't feel necessary. But, looking back on it, I have fond feelings about the book, remembering how it very quietly seemed to tell a cumulative story of a life. Of sadness, of being left, and then finding love again, but that not solving everything.

In any case, there was one poem I really love, which makes the whole collection worthwhile: 'Hemmingway's hat'. It's a sort of genderbending poem about new love. No, it's more than that - it's about how we are the sum of various parts, of our histories. It ends with joy.

1 comment:

Kathleen Jones said...

I really empathised with some of your comments here. So many collections by really good poets leave me cold. I loved your requirement that a poem should feel 'rich' and 'necessary' - that's absolutely it.