Review Blog

Feb 06 2020

Somebody give this heart a pen by Sophia Thakur

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Walker books, 2019. ISBN: 9781406388534.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. An ode to the emotional release of writing, Gambian-British poet Sophia Thakur's poems are courageous in the exploration of identity, racism, love, violence, sorrow, faith and so much more. This is the first published collection of poems by the performance poet who has been writing, speaking and performing since a teenager. When I found her extremely moving spoken performance of her title poem 'Somebody give this heart a pen' on YouTube I was surprised at how young she is, because the tone of her work sounds mature and experienced, and her language is so rich and expressive. And while the subjects may sometimes be harsh there is none of the swearing that characterises some slam poets, so this volume of poetry can easily be recommended for teenage as well as adult reading. Some of the subjects will resonate with teenage readers - such as conflict with parents, and love and relationship break-up. Also, political topics such as refugees and racism could be focus for classroom discussion.
Following an introduction titled 'the process', Thakur's poetry is ordered into sections: Grow, Wait, Break, and Grow again, following the path of life experience. It is clear she sees writing as self-expression and growth. She writes Slow down and clock back into yourself / Give your heart a pen. Her final poem is also an exhortation to write - Write through and write around / Absolutely everything that tries to steal your sound. I think young budding song composers and writers could find her words inspirational. It was Thakur's love of hip hop that initially fuelled her passion for writing. Her book shows that performance poetry can be read and enjoyed over again in written form. I can recommend this book for teenage readers and also for adults who enjoy savouring the language of poetry.
Helen Eddy

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