It’s been awhile since I have added a title to this site due to busy schedules and personal projects getting in the way, though I still read like a beast. So I am delighted to start again recommending more than reviewing books, chapbooks and literary magazines. I say recommending more than reviewing because I see myself as a lover of literature, non-judgmental and always that person who wants to nudge you in the ribs and say ‘Hey, have you read this!’.
In my pile of chapbooks and books I would like to start with a neat little chapbook, compact with just 20 poems yet surprisingly full of modern-day predicaments, energy and strong imagery and this is ‘Hellsteeth’ by Jessamine O’Connor, her début chapbook.
The poems in ‘Hellsteeth’ move along at a swift pace due to the simple yet alluring language that you may be tempted to move along with, equally as fast and finish the book, yet it would be wise to take your time with these poems as all is not what it generally seems, where mystery is hidden and questions need answering such as the beginning of ‘Regular’ (one of my favourite) ‘That’s the silver spoon in her mouth/ has her talking like that’ a curious opening to one of her darkest poems; a chilling encounter in a bar that ends with the lines ‘Later, untangling her hair from his hand/ he wondered if he had gone too far’, disturbing.
O’Connor’s poems will have you wincing, smirking, laughing and begging for more from such a small little chapbook but that’s the beauty of this small book which is full of different emotions and topics from pregnancy to ageing, motherhood to relationships and are honest, engaging with a tip of the hat towards confessional poetry.
Take the poem ‘Scan’ for mixed emotions, peculiar and spooky, the baby has ‘squirming bones’ and ‘hollow eyes’ and it rolls away ‘turning its back on us’ where the narrator ends with the line ‘I recognize instantly the child of my lover’ a laugh out moment followed by oh wait!.
Hellsteeth is O’Connor’s first chap book and though there is a slight imbalance of quality as there a couple of weaker poems, you get the sense that she is poet to keep an eye on (as I do) and will be one to watch in development over the next few years. It may be a small chapbook but it is one I like to read again and again and recommend you do the same.
About the Author:
Jessamine O Connor is working on a collection of poems centered around Lough Gara. She has self-published two chapbooks with the help of an artist’s bursary, and is widely published in journals, most recently Agenda; Crannog; Incubator; Ink Sweat & Tears; Shot Glass Journal; Poetry NZ and The Roscommon Herald. She has won the iYeats and the Francis Ledwidge awards, and been shortlisted for the Hennessy Literary Award amongst others. Founder and facilitator of The Hermit Collective art/music/poetry ensemble, and the weekly Wrong Side of the Tracks Writers, this year she is also judging the New Roscommon Writing award. You can check out her new Chapbook ‘A Skyful of Kites’, reviewed here by Emma Lee over at Sabotage website, as well as purchase a copy of ‘Hellsteeth’ on her website here.