Insatiable Carrot by Judy Kendall (Cinnamon Press, 2015)
For many writers, the garden, as a natural environment partly shaped by the individual’s personality, has maintained a considerable attraction. W.H Auden writes in his poem ‘Moon Landing’, ‘…give me a watered, lively garden, remote from blatherers/about the New’, asserting a preference for the tangible, domestic space in place of man’s progress into new territory. Composed in the latter part of the poet’s life, the simplicity of looking out on a stretch of tended land he could call his own represented a retreat from the accelerated intensity of the modern world. It also provided a security Auden had rarely been afforded, a sense of belonging.
Judy Kendall, in turn, employs her poetry to articulate a connection with the land, how the tactile and physical work of maintaining a garden, and the attention this requires, can be channelled into poetry, and may in fact embody the same characteristics.
The poems form observations of the continuous processes of life happening outside ourselves, from the slow progress of growing vegetables to the shriek of an owl at night. Subsequently, many examples draw from features of the Haiku form, with a focus on individual moments of action or stillness. Movement and a sense of the dynamic are key throughout, with the text moving fluidly over the page, resisting constraints or predictability. Through this, Kendall communicates elements both of her gardening and writing processes, and the essential relationship between them. The division between human activity and the natural world, and the poet’s resistance to this, is succinctly but strikingly probed in the line:
‘garden house divide
as thin as that?’
Throughout there are experiments which offer new challenges to the reader in this immensely varied collection, displaying Kendall’s exploration into the use of visual poetry and typography, and increasing the reader’s engagement, as they become involved in bringing its nuances to the surface. There is a huge creative energy and vibrancy behind the work, and its range is broad, spanning lyric poems, such as traditional sonnets, one or two-line fragments, arrangements with a variety of fonts, and examples where the text is effectively double exposed in appearance, as in ‘A little hedge-cutting?’, where this innovation potentially mimics the vibration of operating an electric hedge trimmer.
As a result, the poems are ambitious in their desire not only to represent experience in language, but to communicate some of the fundamental elements of the activity or object observed through maximising the poems potential, and what can be achieved with the written word on the page. The text works to provide more immediate and multi-sensory data of the experience than a simple re-telling.
In this way the poems, through their innovation, suggest a return to the source, a quest to assist us in remembering our place in the interconnected and co-dependent environments we inhabit.
A selection of Judy Kendall’s work is included in Long Exposure Issue 2, you can access it here.
Purchase a copy of ‘Insatiable Carrot’ here.