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Tag: Natalie Scott

Rare Birds by Natalie Scott

 

 

The ultimate lockdown reading, Rare Birds creatively tells the story of Holloway Prison’s first 100 years through the re-imagined voices of prisoners, staff and others connected to its history. Meticulously researched, the collection brings to life well-known voices such as Ruth Ellis, Sylvia Pankhurst and Edith Thompson, plus a host of lesser-known names, to tell Holloway’s rich and gripping story.

 

 

Thanks to the author for this review copy!

Prison walls seem to talk in RARE BIRDS, a book of poetry about those sentenced to time inside the notorious Holloway Prison. A multitude of characters share their laments with a chorus of voices. These voices come from suffragettes and thieves, pickpockets and murderers, and the author makes nearly all of them sound sympathetic. Some voices are particularly poignant, like the 10 year old pickpocket who marvels at being taught to write his name for the first time (pg.33), or the woman staring through the “hope-sized window” contemplating freedom (pg. 62).

Reading these poems about women fighting hard for the right to vote made me realize how far we have come, for this book brings to life their difficult journey. These voices deserved to be heard in their time, and Scott memorializes their struggle in an imaginative and touching way.

The author truly captures the essence of the prison and its inhabitants in her poems. It is as if she was intimately acquainted with each prisoner and gathered her poem from conversations with each one. Scott did comprehensive work with original documents (you can see which ones, along with a bibliography at the end of the book) to bring the inmates to life. Despite their criminal background (and it’s true some are worse than others) they are all painted in a sympathetic light, as I mentioned before. It is easy to hope that freedom comes quickly for them – even the ones on Death Row. There is a section of poems (pp.124-133) that come from the voices of the executioner, his wife,  a prison officer, a juror, and finally the doomed prisoner herself, Ruth Ellis, who died by hanging on July 13th, 1955. Each voice is different, yet they all contribute to the bigger picture – a prisoner on Death Row who is about to hang. (Ellis was the last woman executed in the United Kingdom; you can read about her here.)

RARE BIRDS is just that – a book of ethereal yet grounded poetry that forces you to think about the prison system and those caught in it. Some are unjustly imprisoned, while others commit unspeakable acts. Whatever the crime, Holloway Prison enveloped its inhabitants in cold bricks and mortar. Scott uses her words here to uncage these birds and immortalize them forever.

You can pick up your copy here. 

 

Berth: Voices of the Titanic by Natalie Scott

berth

Natalie Scott’s debut collection of poetry, BERTH, brings together myriad diverse voices, tapping into the psyche of those affected by the sinking of the Titanic. Ambitious in its scope, Berth seems to unravel the myths that have emerged over the century since the tragedy. From the pathos of poems in the voices of the passengers who died, to the amusing reflections of the iceberg, dog and anchor, this collection commemorates those who were lost and celebrates those who survived that fateful night of 14 April 1912.

 

Thanks to Publishing Push and the author for gifting me this review copy!

BERTH is a delightful little book of poems that are eerie and thought provoking to read. Each one is “written” by various people who are connected with the ill fated ship in some way; a builder, a passenger, a Marconi wireless operator. There are also poems authored by the ship’s cat, an anchor, and the iceberg itself. After the name of the person the reader will find out if the person was lost or saved.

Here is a sample:

James Dobbins (shipyard worker for Harland and Wolff, Belfast. During construction of ship – LOST)

I was with her through the build                                                                                                                                             from the laying of keel plates                                                                                                                                                         to the last bristles of paint.

I considered myself lucky                                                                                                                                                                   to be called for launch-day;                                                                                                                                                         many poor surplus souls                                                                                                                                                               went missing a day’s pay.

I’d been freeing a support                                                                                                                                                           from the shores just below                                                                                                                                                            her hull, as she strained                                                                                                                                                                    on the workings like a feral                                                                                                                                                     animal tied to its post.

When the support was freed                                                                                                                                                       the shore pinned down my leg                                                                                                                                                    and I must’ve fallen unconscious                                                                                                                                                 as I’ve been in darkness ever since.

Please tell me, because I’m dying                                                                                                                                                 to know –  did she make a good,                                                                                                                                                 safe passage to New York?


That’s the first poem in the book. As soon as I finished it I read it again and tried to imagine this poor soul in my mind. It was easy to see Titanic straining like a  “feral animal” at the dock, a behemoth seeking her freedom.

Scott’s imagery is ethereal and true; the passenger’s voices reflect their station in life accurately, clearly demonstrated in the two poems Mrs Alma Palsson and Mrs Hudson JC Allison. These poems are shown side by side, a gentle hint to the reader that the emotions of the women were the same deep down inside, despite their money (or lack of it).

The connection between the poems is the emotion of the writer – some are arrogant, some are in denial, others painfully aware that their hours are numbered. The inclusion of the ship’s cat and a Newfoundland dog (both SAVED) add a touch of whimsy, despite the somber underlying tones.  Scott even creates a poem in the voice of the iceberg;  as much a part of history as Titanic.

Despite the death imagery on most pages, BERTH is a work that will move you by making the passengers more personal in a unique way. We have all read the first person accounts of the survivors and elevated them up to myth-like, god-like status. However, these poems recreate their voices in a way that seems more personal, as they share their deepest thoughts, hopes and fears with you. Even the Unsinkable Molly Brown has new things to say.

At a slim 76 pages this book seems to fly by quickly, making it easy to go back and read certain poems again while enjoying the wordplay and visceral feelings the poems evoke. Without a doubt this will be one of my favorite books this year.

Natalie Scott has created a shining jewel of a book that will be a welcome addition to the shelves of any Titanic aficionado. She has honored the memory of so many with her touching and beautiful words, words and images that will stay with you long after the book is closed.

Pick up your own copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1905374275″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link]. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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