Blood. Flower. Joy! Cat WoodwardSeven eights of the cover is a black and white photograph of a beautiful young woman of colour, head and shoulders. Her hands are open wide, her arms crossed, her fingers touching her shoulders. She is looking to one side (to the reader's left). Her expression is serene but unsmiling. In her hair on both sides she has lavish floral arrangements, and these are in full colour, green and orange and yellow. The author's name appears in small white caps bottom right on the photograph, which does suggest it is a picture of the author. A vertical white stripe, taking up about one eighth of the jacket, occupies the left hand side of the jacket. The title is on this stripe, running vertically from bottom to top. The letters are large and I think dark grey. They take up the full width of the stripe.

Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2020   £8.00

More than meets the eye

Woodward’s sequence starts with joyful playfulness. The poet uses uncomplicated structure and word choice, alongside strong rhythm and internal rhymes. This works to create a vibrant energy. Even more striking is the bold humour, as in the first poem (none of the poems has a title, so I’ll locate quotations by page number):

Greta is great
Jane makes pancakes [ ... ]

[ ... ] get your butts in the car girls
we’re blowing this banana stand!
    [p. 5]

However, there are undercurrents of sorrow and pain, as on page 8:

nothing like a dying pater
serious boohoo

On page 31, a weary determination to keep up the semblance of joy creeps in:

more tired than the dawn
that breaks you there
dead bulrush, dead penny

still i will be merry

In fact, there are numerous instances where the joviality has a sharp tang. The poems build layers that create complexity, provoking the reader to consider what isn’t being said:

when I was a child, I hated pink
now look at me

the bleak mid
resounds with endearment

how good and proper to be nothing’s mother

At first, the spare, jokey style can cleverly replicate the defensive tactic we often use to keep people at arm’s length. On slowing down and really noticing what’s being said, however, there’s a sense of a cry for help:

no you can’t just go around being nice
so quit crying and roughly handle your life

say hello world!
the effect is immediate

just do it
i’m well and ever your friend

On her website, the poet writes about this sequence:

The individual is given less as an index of meaning and more as a node in a dynamic and enormous field of voicing.

I’m not sure how closely I identify with this specific representation of voice, but it certainly gives expression to our joyous, anguished, self-deprecating, uncertain mishmash of emotion and experience.

Zannah Kearns