Darling by Jackie Kay
26th Aug 2010
This particular book, Darling, is a huge collection, spanning over fifteen years of her published history. Several of her previous, shorter, books of poetry are re-presented here, along with a scattering of new poems. If you wanted to immerse yourself in the writing of this particular author, you won’t find a better starting point.
On the other hand, if you’re not a seasoned poetry reader (I’m not), you may find the sheer volume of poetry quite overwhelming all at once. Remember, this book is actually five smaller volumes frankensteined into one; there’s no shame in only reading one at a time, then taking a break to digest the material.
The nature of the beast also has an effect on the content, as Kay’s poetic stylings do evolve over the 1.5 decades this collection spans. As a result, you might find yourself gleaning more enjoyment from some segments than others.
Personally, I favoured the later works, especially 2005’s Life Mask, as it seemed a little more natural, rather than trying to impose complex structures. But a reader already familiar with poetry may well prefer the less straight-forward poems. I’m told that’s one of the appeals of the form: it speaks to different people in different ways.
But regardless of which section you like best, Jackie Kay seems a fine poet, and does great work in both weighty emotional musings and, my personal favourite, capturing everyday life. Not to mention an excellent phonetic Scottish accent, which is a hard thing to pull off.