I was delighted to receive a review of Dancing on Thin Ice from Julia Kobel, who is someone I haven’t met, but picked up a copy of my book from my mentor Ted Eames. I have included Julia’s kind words below as I thought it might encourage some extra sales from an indecisive few.
Dancing on Thin Ice review by Julia Kobel.
Content should be the most important consideration when engaging with new work but I admit to finding the look and feel of a book to be influential. In this case the size, cover illustration, presentation and format seemed very right. The stylised image of Nathan draws the eye and gives the reader a visual connection to the writer before any words have been read, other than the title. And the title is well chosen; it’s something we all do to some extent. Having now read this book I see Nathan’s eyes as two light beacons which cut through and pierce the darkest of places, exposing what is there to be seen if we choose to look.
The introduction and the foreword explain how Nathan’s collection came into being. I always find this kind of information interesting. Much hinges on the fact that Nathan was encouraged to try out the tanka form at Ted’s workshop; one of those chance life encounters which prove so significant.
The definition of Ataxia was factually helpful in that I’m not familiar with this disease. But the list poem was more helpful in that it took the list of symptoms and applied them; giving the reader a comprehensive picture of what having this disease means to every aspect of Nathan’s life. This feels to me fearless writing in that Nathan writes honestly, knowingly and unsparingly; he drives in a straight line at personal issues, not taking the option of going around the block. The lines in italics reinforce the description of ‘living with Ataxia’; and lines directly addressing the reader such as, ‘Did I mention it’s a struggle?’ are very involving. To me this is not the voice of someone whose soul is being suffocated by his disease but someone whose voice/soul is flowing free in its desire to be heard.
I liked the arrangement of the tanka poems being wrapped by the two list poems. Choosing the tanka form to document 2017 was such a good decision. Nathan’s sharp insights are suited to the tight structure, comments hit home because they are so word undiluted. Dividing the poems into three titled sections works well. It helps to establish what is of importance to him. A future workshop exercise could be to read and place the poems into the most appropriate set. I appreciate titles and so I particularly enjoyed the ones which turned well known phrases on their head eg ‘How to lose friends and alienate people’. It did cross my mind that Nathan should put himself forward to write political messages/slogans as he has an insightful mind and his own particular way of truth telling.
Set among the tanka are some haiku. This change of form makes them stand out, in a good way. Their even fewer words crystallise the message. It made me think that the haiku is like the nut inside a tanka word shell.
I read this collection in one sitting because it deserves to be read in entirety and the writing demands this of the reader. It was never intended to be an easy read and it isn’t. Nathan’s writing confronts our perception of what it’s really like to be disabled. There are no tea and biscuit scenarios here, more raw steak and whisky (I hope I’m not offending a vegetarian!). I am an able bodied person living in a bubble world, my life is nothing like Nathan’s. But I recognise that what Nathan is saying is important, important for us all. The poetry vehicle he has chosen to share his thoughts and feelings is appropriate and right. My reading of Dancing on Thin Ice has left me feeling that I have …… learned, been challenged, unsettled, shocked, moved and other emotions I can’t even name. And that is as it should be. ‘Lust for Life’ (one of my favourites) says that it’s ‘Time to shake things up’ ……. be proud, you have enabled that in a most moving way. Thank you.
This review is extremely satisfying for me. It shows that I have managed to reach my audience in the way that I had hoped to. The fact that I seem to have been accepted as a writer of tanka poetry, does tend to make me nervous in a way. I do not think it would be healthy to remain stuck in this style and I should explore other areas of poetry.
This is, of course, quite a nerve wracking thing as it would mean reinventing myself and possibly disappointing readers. I cannot afford to keep repeating myself in the tight tanka structure.
What do people think I should do next in terms of poetry?
You can make a purchase of Dancing on Thin Ice directly through me, or if you live further afield, simply contact me through social media or the contact page of this blog. Don’t forget to include your name and address. I will have to charge £7.99 for those who cannot pick up their copy of the book to cover my postage costs.