Publisher: Emma Press
Date of publication: Out since January 2018
Review by Urussa Malik
The Emma Press Anthology of Love is a linguistic treasure trove of love in all its forms – platonic, sexual, intimate, absurd and existential. Each of the 65 poets write of love in a manner which is simultaneously unique and mutual. Such is the strength of this anthology, whose root concept of love makes for a heart-felt read, it is as though the poems are written just for you. As a small publishing press, they can, and have, taken on smaller names in poetry and elevated them, allowing the poems to stand on their own two feet.
One of the first poems to catch my eye was Cynthia Miller’s Falooda which I recognized as the Urdu word for a traditional cold dessert. Piqued, I continued my foray into this exploration of love which was complemented by more food items with an exoticism invoked in the ”saffron ices, rose syrup […] Persian cucumber ice cream”. However, there is also a simpler sustenance hiding in the poem; that of water as a geographical jewel ”desert [which] hides a well”. I’d even go so far to say that phonetically the word flood is invoked in ‘Falooda’, thus the simple and the exotic sources of sustenance parallel to invoke a love enjoyed luxuriously and simply. If Miller is saying this then this poem is very cool. If not, cool nonetheless.
Jack Houston’s Letter Composed to Genghis Khan in my head (whilst in bed) is visually scattered across the page, with gaps every so often between words. It makes for a visual stream-of-consciousness seeing the words as though they did appear ‘in my head’. Indeed, lineage plays a strong role in this poem with the gaps forming a sort of double-helix seen in the famous presentation of DNA, pertaining to an idea that love’s arbitrary nature coincides to a deeper degree to the ones we are blood-related to. A question posed in the poem ”Did this make your life worthwhile?“ alludes to the existential idea of love. The connection between joy and offspring, in this poem, is tentatively reduced to an abstraction of love – the existential question of whether that is what all love is for: survival of your own species or for evidence of your own love. Both ideas intertwine in this poem where the love as a parent and as a partner coincide to make for a deeply compelling exploration of love I have not seen, especially one which pairs the parent and partner’s love side by side.
For a poetry book, the illustrations were strangely eye-catching. The illustrations are sparse and carry an organic sort of aesthetic – by that I mean it looks either very childlike, with broad strokes and lines and also an impressionist mood. It accentuates the poetry’s individuality, avoiding the over-use of the typical heart imagery, it is a more nature-driven look with the simple line taking center stage.
Out of 65 poems, I picked two which immediately formed a connection to me and of the remaining 63, there seems to be a vast sea of love that the poems are invested in exploring. It would make for a lovely gift, even for those not into poetry, as the topic at hand is timeless. The anthology anticipates and avoids the difficult abstraction that love can fall in danger of becoming in poetry and is instead a humble, lovely read.