This is my current favourite excerpt from Into Temptation (Tollington Press), a collection of 27 poems by open-mic regular Sophia Blackwell (left). In her own words a “performance poet, cabaret vamp, burlesque wannabe, feminist lesbian warrior princess and Italian pasta-momma” – all I can add is to say if they taught poets like this in schools, I’d never have to cringe when I am forced to admit that what I like to write “actually, kind of includes, um . . . [gulp] poetry.”
Treading a brilliant line between the tender and the gutsy, Into Temptation is split into three sections: Mad Love, No Angels and Ordinary Joys. It has a wealth of experience in life and love, a devil-may-care attitude which glows through the collection, and an anger directed in all the right places. I’d challenge anyone to not fall a little bit in love with this book. Sophia Blackwell is an accomplished performer, and having seen her live a few times I occasionally wasn’t sure if I was enjoying the words on the page so much as the live delivery I could imagine as I read them – but either way the influence of having honed these in front of live audiences is apparent: these poems are tried, tested and the rhymes and flows are polished to a sheen.
In ‘Wilderness Years’ the sheer verbal feats, let alone what they express, are thrilling:
“I like when this world in its hugeness astounds me,
amuses me, bruises me, screws and confounds me .
I smile as its brutal great beauty surrounds me
I’m free in these wilderness years.”
Pieces such as “Wilderness Years” or “Red Dress Blues” have an almost anthemic feel about them – a neat summation and celebration of life for women who have no intention of waiting until they are old to start wearing purple. Or red:
“I don’t give a damn what the preacher said,
I’m reeling from a night in a stranger’s bed,
that face above me like a figurehead.
My dress has to be red.”
Throw away your Frida Kahlo postcards and your dreary Sylvia Plath: I’ve found someone better. And all those of drinking age – catch Sophia at a poetry night sometime soon.