The blurb on the back of this book calls it ‘a unique and brave unfolding of young fatherhood’. I would add insightful, witty, clever, innovative, moving and long overdue. What makes this collection of poems about Richard’s journey into parenthood even more poignant is its ability to de-segregate the emotional and powerful journey of men and women on their journey as parents.
Richard Thomas, father, partner and poet has published a collection of poems about becoming and being a father that transcend the traditional gender experiences, that carry you up with a word, a phrase, a feeling, a simply acknowledged experience, regardless of whether you are mother or father, man or woman. These poems are so very human.
Richard’s poetic journey as a parent is not linear. It may start with the ‘apple seed fashioning intestines – brain – lungs – heart – liver’ in Zygote Poem but it swoops backwards and then forwards again into such small but superbly observed poems as She Craved Tinned Pineapple Chunks – ‘I was Roald Amundsen of the vital pregnancy quest’ and The Shoes – ‘I was an easy sell amongst the footwear’ until you reach the marvels that are A Diet Coke Goes A Long Way and These Things I’ll Teach You.
In my humble opinion, the sign of a good poem is that it should make you weep. That is quite a big ask I know but many of the poems in this collection do just that, by documenting the minutiae, by being at once knowing and unknowing, by pulling you in with the sheer honesty of the words – the phonetics that Thomas deploys are an added bonus, a mark of that honesty. They make you stop and really read the words. The joy here really does lie in the honesty of the poet, the wonder of the experience, the encapsulation of the learning curve documented by the carefully chosen words that Richard plucks seemingly effortlessly from the myriad at his disposal and that he then weaves into his rich tapestry of very personal and yet very universal poems. He is not trying to be a clever poet and he makes the art of writing poetry seem so easy but I know that it is not.
These are not simple words easily written. These are words from the heart and the soul. These keenly felt and beautifully articulated contemporary poems are not just for the modern twenty-something new parent. These words so carefully chosen are more than their subject matter. They showcase the skill of the poet wielding the pen. They are modern and traditional, old and new, me and you, all beautifully melded together. They remind me of Auden’s ability to capture the smallness of the experience and the enormity of the emotion and write it down in a way that nobody else could but in a way in which everyone can relate to.
I am not a big poetry fan, I find a lot of it too earnest, trying to say something in a very contrived way but Zygote poems is not that. I love this collection of poems. There is no contrivance and while I am clearly a fan of this work I would recommend that you read it too because my way with words is not as beguiling as Richards. I cannot do his poems justice. I cannot explain how he weaves his way into your heart and mind. You need to read them and find that out for yourself and you don’t need to be a parent or a poetry fan to do that.