The Opposite of an Exodus, Amara Amaryah
Bad Betty Press, 2021 £6.00
This pamphlet weaves a wonderful story of the generations, particularly what passes between mother and daughter. Music is part of that heritage and also plays a strong role in the poems. The golden shovel ‘Roots and Genesis’ includes ‘Somewhere near I am Good Island daughter, etching my history / Into hymn-song’.
‘sonnet in the series of us’ dwells on the mother-daughter relationship, imagining the poet’s mother as an eight-year-old playing with her daughter-to-be:
here we are, two braids, two afro-puffs, two versions of the same
good girl, plaiting resistance over obedience over resistance inside of us.
In ‘I Was Not Like My Mother’ Amara Amaryah writes of her mother ‘Every morning she’d sing our family history in a single breath’, and ends the poem with
Oh I had spent so much time saying I did not want to be like
my mother that I missed the whole story; I was not like my mother — I
was my mother.
The moving specula (or mirror) poem ‘Backwards off the Wall’ has the following two lines at its heart, with a repetition of the line ‘In the end’ starting the repeat backwards:
We watch our mothers name each brick after themselves and climb.
In the end it is the sound of their rebel music that falls back to us.
The importance of music is picked up in ‘10 Things I Am Trying Hard to Say to You, A Haibun poem.’ In section one, singing features: ‘A girl is born. You say she sang. […] At the age of / eighteen she will find lyrics — yours — and remix them in her own voice / for the first time.’
‘What Is the Opposite of an Exodus’ gives rise to the title of the pamphlet. The poet uses waterfall and river imagery very effectively, conjuring up the sense that we are all caught up in the flow of the past, which is also expressed as:
I have walked this backward walk
My entire life my entire life
These poems sing with feeling.
*title taken from the BBC 4 programme