Every Girl Has Her Limits - Reviewed by John Webber
Just the other evening, I watched a TV programme about dreams and what their purpose could be. One of the time-honoured theories is that they serve the purpose of working through problems and experiences in order to make some sense of our waking lives and to keep ourselves together.
While some poetry directly confronts the everyday, Whitworth’s collection seems very often like reading a book of dreams (and occasionally nightmares) whereby she is trying to make sense of the experiences she has encountered, thereby rendering them with an often ethereal quality and language, resulting in the construction of her own unique world and voice.
This is then, a very strong manifestation of her inner voice and is, for the purposes of presentation, divided up into five sections, or facets of her vision. Each of these draws on often quite intense personal experience, and moves around them like a three-dimensional freeze-frame, examining from every angle.
In the first section, for example, Divisions is a perfect example of this, delving into the individual’s invisible lines that they will not let others cross:
There is invisibility among humans.
A line, if you will, that often keeps
Others at bay…
The poem is also typical in that it suggests a resolution to this common human condition and expresses a yearning for barriers to be broken down:
The truth is, if we all had x-ray
Vision and were able to see
The invisible, we might be forced
To admit we are all similar,
Frail beings, a wonderment.
In so doing it also demonstrates a recurring theme in the poems, the balance between strength and fragility and suggesting that these traits are often interwoven.
Moving on through the poems it becomes a real pleasure to gradually let Whitworth’s poetic language take over and guide you on journeys through emotional and physical landscapes, doing so with a fluid ebb and flow. The opening lines of Iowa for example:
Iowa welcomes you with genteelness,
Her expansive fields arrayed in tempting
Summer greens. Each evening, breezes
Alight with fireflies stir precise rows
Of corn and soybean into waves
Rippling across an endlessly earthy sea.
There are a number of relationship poems expressing, by turns, dejection, venom, discovery and joy – indeed the full rainbow. My preference is for the more joyous and there are some wonderfully constructed metaphors to be found here, as in Take My Hand:
The planets keep on spinning,
I’m left dizzy by their motion,
And the fullness of my moon is
Drawing nigh unto your ocean.
The most abandoned of these poems, Limits, from which the book’s title is taken, beautifully combines humour with a strong sensuality that is actually quite startling in its intimacy.
Every collection has its show-stopper, and for me the best is saved until last with the quite majestic Tabula Rasa. This is from the idea that every human is created as a blank slate onto which all their experiences and perceptions are slowly drawn, and for me perfectly encapsulates Whitworth’s style and view of life that she presents in this collection. The closing lines are full of hope, even out of what may sometimes seem a bleak existence, which is where I will conclude:
But through the nexus of our existence
We longed for absolution to put an end to this
A miracle arrived when our planets aligned,
And with a Tabula Rasa, we welcomed tomorrow.
Every Girl Has Her Limits, ISBN 978-1-905796-21-2, is available from the UKA Press (www.ukapress.com)
Jolen Whitworth is a prolific writer of poetry which has won her both publishing and competition successes. She has also worked as an editor on a number of poetry and writing projects. She now lives in England with her husband James.