Jackie Kay: Fiere

 

Alice Neel, Twins

Beautiful sharp and light. Goodness and love to torment a Caliban: wonderful. In these poems the woman, the poet, the human is there, a fiere, companion, friend. Unsullied, unworried by self, she gives and takes in joy, passes through others as they, as we, pass through her. A person – her or us – delighting in routes and roots, vitally sensitive to accident and circumstance, meetings, pains: she, we, losing our way in the woods, alone and dead, being found by the friend, and our finding the lost friend equally. Motifs of life and death, as losing the spark as well as losing our loved ones, always finding resolution, joy after numbing, swirling time that’s fast and slow at once. And walking always with a twin, both clarified as in Longitude and Twins (the latter after Alice Neel’s painting, a detail shown above), and towards the ineffable sense of belonging not only to another but to life itself, perhaps the fullest meaning of love.

Companion to Red Dust Road, the search for biological parents, dissolving place by evoking difference – Glasgow, the elephant grass of Nigeria – always growing, in love, so her lover loves her to bits and in return I love ye tae hale: hale, hearty, whole, healthful. Love poems to friends, son, lover, adoptive parents, Dad and Mum both wonderfully, lovingly let to wander at ease in her mind, never dead. Poems that bring paintings, figurines and statues to life, not a single cleverness used, just the image itself. Always, always letting the sound of words, her Ibo, her native Scots tongues, mix, flow or stand separate (like the black river that does not mix with the blue lake), bring us music: Kamso Ozumba/ We’ll put some whisky in the silver quaich/ and bless your fine and handsome face. Slainte mhath!

The quite remarkable Impromptu is a formal gem, a tribute to music’s power, jazz building, calling up the great Blue Notes, the poem’s turning a piano to a heron to sky, turning sounds to light to revelation that spirit will not, cannot die:They will be alive, as they’ve always been,/Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone.

Very light trills of Burns throughout, more explicitly in Bronze Head from Ife, and tender evocation of Edwin Morgan in Strawberry Meringue: visiting him at 90, he …asked after my son, and Carol Ann./ Love, you said, Ah love wistfully/If you can be friends you’re doing not bad.

Playful, mischievous with MacDiarmid (A Drunk Woman Looks at Her Nipple), she will take his poetry as starting point, as she does paintings and other objects, as in Brockit (which, I think, resonates with MacDiarmid’s The Bonnie Broukit Bairn).

This is a collection of poems upon which to find out something of who you are.

ka udo di, ka ndu di

(let there be peace, let there be life

Road to Amaudo)