Rising Stars

Today’s poem in our Poetree calendar is Pockets by Ruth Awolola.

Pockets by Ruth Awolola. Reproduced with permission.

I chose this for our calendar as the girls and I firmly believe that life is better with pockets – for with them comes the ability to carry found treasure and enough life support to go on adventures. We believe this so passionately we even have a supply of pockets (recycled from old clothes) ready to add wherever we find them lacking!

Pockets was first published in Rising Stars: New Young Voices in Poetry by Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Ruth Awolola, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme and Amina Jama and illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners.

Showcasing 5 emerging poets (with a more diverse range of backgrounds than I’ve seen in a poetry anthology before) this collection takes risks and excitingly pulls it off with real zing. There’s freshness and depth, beauty and oases of calm alongside a constant edge of vitality; perhaps some of this comes from the fact that all these poets are part of the UK’s spoken word community, a place where poems are born onto a breath of air with an audience very much alive and present, rather than as poems on pages for a much more private experience.

This collection contains much variety, but there are a few recurring themes which struck me. Whether it is the courage that comes from love for a sibling, such as in Awolola’s Superpowers or Cook’s Brother, or reflections on memories and inheritances from parents, such as in Jama’s Car Ride and Cook’s Storm of a girl, family relationships feature frequently. Whilst the poets come from a wide range of backgrounds, the emotions and experiences of family life will remind readers how we all have more in common than we have that divides us.

Many of the poems express a self-confidence and encourage a feeling of worth, for example Cook’s My Body or Hulmes’ I thought I was Small. This positive affirmation and valuing of one’s own identity is one reason why I as an adult will be leaving this collection lying around for my almost-teen to stumble upon. I hope she will see Rising Stars as a gentle but strong reflection of her own resilience.

Though I Was Small by Jay Hulme, illustrated by Joe Manners. Reproduced with permission.

Mention must also be made of the visual appeal of this book. The foil stars on the front cover and the bold title design embody a very appropriate sense of energy bursting off the page. Internal artwork by three first time illustrators, adds a further dimension. I was particularly drawn to the textured prints by Joe Manners.

A sharp, crisp 21st century anthology that breaks down barriers about what poetry can be and poets can do, this is a collection to have in your back pocket.

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