Empty Mirror received a review copy of this book.
Many of the poems in Jack Willetts’ debut poetry collection, The Beauty of being Hated, explore the way we label and think about feelings. Here are the pain and hope that spring, intertwined, from the aftermath of failed relationships and beginnings of new ones, and what lies between. Not all emotions are pure: lines blur, converge, and tangle in relationships with loved ones, friends, family – and the ones we have with ourselves.
Some portray environments of self-harm or despair, or a mother’s love (“Suicide Cardigan,” “I loved to watch my mother smoke,”); others probe the ache and loneliness of relationships, and of dreams uncaught (“Rent,” “Pendant,” Sonnet,” “This will be a memory”).
In “Pendant,” Willetts writes,
I carry your pain –
like a charm
I take it with me
wherever I go
The poems cover a wide range. “Ode to Trailer Trash” is a long poem for a woman, deeply loved, and left behind. “Dr. Poetry” remembers a writing teacher. “Poem written at call centre desk B2B” is a love note written in a digital age. “Sunflower,” “Child,” and “Goodnight Moon,” meditations on the life cycle and childhood, are inspired by a little girl.
Willetts’ poems have a painterly quality, and an economy, expressing, with just the right details, volumes in just a few lines:
I watched my mother
walk towards me once,
the ballet colouring every step
a dance for life
she told me she had flown
when she was young
in a room full of mirrors
she tried to fly in later years
A measure of pain may sprawls over many of these poems, but understand: through each darkness weaves a vein of light: a mother’s love, a child’s joy, a hope, or a realization. With this collection, Jack Leaf Willetts deftly explores the connections between seemingly opposing emotions, and the beauty that can blossom from the soil of negativity. It’s an impressive debut, and one that makes me look forward to his future publications.