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Success Stories

by Emily Hinshelwood


ISBN 0 9548149 0 8
Roynetree Press, 2004
78pp, paperback
Retail price 6.99

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Review by Deborah Fisher



Poetry is meant to be read aloud. That being said, poets are not always the best readers of their own work, as recordings of many great poets demonstrate. Emily Hinshelwood, on the other hand, is a performance poet, and specialises in reading her own work to audiences varying in size from a handful to several hundred. In 2003, she proved how talented she is by beating off the competition to win the John Tripp Spoken Poetry Award – no mean feat, as those who have attended the finals in recent years will testify.

When you have seen and heard a gifted performance poet in action, you recognise how much of their own personality they put into their work. Ms Hinshelwood is a vivacious performer, who quickly captivates her audience. The book’s cover photographs, by Elin McCallum, help convey this aspect of her personality. She would not, however, be as successful as she is if her poetry was not equally memorable. Poems like First Year and Bills and Moon demonstrate the auditory qualities of her work, qualities that cannot be easily reproduced on the page even by imaginative spacing. Read them out loud, to yourself or to others, and you begin to understand.

Other poems in the collection, such as The System Stinks and Blood in the Grass, show a different side to Emily Hinshelwood, one that understands suffering and is not always looking for the obvious rhyme or a humorous punch-line. Humour is never far from the surface, though. No More Old Maid is one of the funniest poems you’ll have heard in a long time – though, like most, it has particular significance for a female audience. For sheer imagination, this poet takes some beating. Transit of Venus opens up the possibility of men taking up reading as a large-scale hobby, while The Grand Fiction Ball presents literary genres as various stereotypes of party guest. How do I love you?, whilst acknowledging the influence of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is an effective love sonnet in its own right.

It’s a nice-looking book altogether, with a pretty title and an attractive, colourful cover, the contents divided up into sections with headings that follow up the "sticky fingers" theme. The clever black-and-white photograph of a bee creates a motif repeated throughout the volume. It’s quite chunky for a poetry book, too, with thirty-eight very diverse poems to get your teeth into.

Self-publishing, whilst always a risky business, makes perfect sense for an accomplished performance poet, since it is public readings that provide the publicity required to sell their work. The poet thus gets to keep every penny of the purchase price, to offset against the cost of production, completely cutting out the middle man. This might sound obvious, but it is a critical point, and serves as a lesson to other self-publishers on the topic of marketing. Emily Hinshelwood’s book is exemplary; other poets should buy it just to see what can be done with two covers and a few sheets of paper.

Right of a Voice

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