The Hungry Ghost Festival
by Jen Campbell
I'm quite fussy with poetry. If I love a poem, then it'll stick with me, the lines of it rattling around my head and coming to the surface randomly for years to come. But there is way more poetry that I don't like than poetry I've loved.Summary: The Hungry Ghost Festival concerns misremembered and strange things. It's about girls praying to The Angel of the North. It's about a mermaid born in the river Tyne. It's about Chinese lanterns, teenagers at the beach, and a family who run a sacred farm.
You pick my arms up and spread them outso we are matching. Our woollen scarvestouch our noses - catch our breath
like cloth balloons. We dig our feet into the soiland stamp down into the very deep.
Somewhere below, the river sleeps with a lady
screeching. She has arms that could carry boulders
to the edge of cliffs. We wait for herto throw us down...
And I had such high hopes for this collection. I was so convinced it was going to make it onto the small list of poetry I've loved. I've watched a few videos of Jen's where she reads/performs some of her poems aloud and I've adored them. I've read a few she's posted online and it was love at first line. I thought her poetry was exactly my cup of tea, so I expected greatness from this collection.
But...I didn't like it. There was only one poem I sort of loved (the one quoted in the summary). None of the other poems had any of the things that make me love a poem, or any of the things that made me love the poems of hers I'd read/heard before picking this up. I don't know if maybe it's because this collection came first and her style has evolved over time or if it's just that the themes of this collection didn't click with me or went over my head.
Quite a few of the poems were the type that make me feel stupid because I just didn't get them. I hate that feeling so much when I'm reading poetry. I couldn't even begin to interpret those ones or find a meaning in them (and I can forgive that obscurity in poetry, or feeling like the point went over my head, if I like the writing or find my own meaning in them but that didn't happen with those ones).
Some of them felt like maybe they might be beautiful had I heard them read aloud by the author who would get the rhythm of them just right but I stumbled over the lines clumsily in my head (worse when I tried to read them aloud) and got frustrated because it was more like tripping on stones in a stream than words flowing like water.
This is all just my long winded way of saying that this collection was not my kind of thing. I still think Jen is a wonderful writer and poet (and person, based on her youtube channel), but this wasn't the right collection for me. I just didn't get it, or find anything much in it to love. Hopefully the next book or poetry collection of hers will be more my kind of thing.
I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. It wasn't bad, just not right for me personally but I've seen many 5 star ratings and reviews so I'm probably in the minority.