One of the benefits of Metrorail’s delays and break downs is more reading time on the way to work. I’m only in the second month of this project and I’m already behind on publishing the pieces on the books that I’ve read.
That pile doesn’t even include this current one, or Gemsquash Tokoloshe which I finished two weeks ago.
Helen Moffett’s collection of poetry Strange Fruit took me a train ride to read one morning in September, but it has sat with me ever since. The poems are vivid and powerful and cover a wide range of topics including fertility, sex, relationships with parents, and the way that personalities change when travelling.
I only started reading and writing poetry this year, so I am by no means an expert, but as my first ever reading of a collection of poetry I was really pleased. It was enjoyable, and easy and I think that my mistake in the past has been to read poetry that wasn’t written by a woman. J That’s too simple, but it is interesting to read feminist poetry dealing with themes I found interesting and could relate to. Moffett also has a great sense of humour, which comes through in her descriptions of courtship and sex.
The title poem Strange Fruit was definitely one of my favourites, along with the poem about waking up early with her mother. I think so often in films and popular culture we are presented with images of women as simple, flat characters who don’t have any other goal than finding a life partner or losing some weight. Strange Fruit reminds us that women are more complex and that their character is certainly not just skin deep.
I also related to the idea of a hard exterior, which she described in Strange Fruit. In my line of work (women’s rights research and activism) a hard shell is often required in order not to spend all your days despondent and in tears. I loved the image of an “invisible fault-line” as well, because that line is always there, and when people know you and have found that line, it helps to remind you that you’re not hard. That it is the world that makes you that way. I believe in celebrating the idea of ‘being emotional’ because I think it has been used as an insult against women (and to limit men’s emotional range) for too long.
I recommend reading this collection as a chance to reconnect to emotion and power.