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Review by Jenny Sharman
Amina Amal describes the poetry within Joanna Ezekiel’s Homecoming as an “atlas of vivid local moments” and I couldn’t agree more. Ezekiel manages to effortlessly transport the reader from the mundane yet nostalgic feel of home, to the “bullet-hole windows” of Syria; from the vibrancy and excitement of Mumbai, to the “birdsong” of a protest outside London parliament, and then back again.
This fleeting snapshot of our modern-day world and the idiosyncrasies of everyday life are explored throughout the collection’s thirty brief yet dynamic poems, each with their own unique twist of Ezekiel’s refreshing perspective on the world. In one sense, this circular narrative through poetry is full of satisfying imagery and emotion; from the eponymous poem, ‘Homecoming’ with its vivid metaphors of colour, to the wistful and sentimental tones of the finale, ‘Even Though You Are Where You Love.’
Some of these short yet charismatic poems, ‘Bridesmaid, Essex, 1976’ in particular, manages to evoke feelings of homesickness and longing for family, even while I was sat in my own home. The subtle comical tone marries well with the theme of family within the aforementioned poem. “I follow her satin dazzle. She is marrying my cousin who Mum says is the spit of Elvis”, writes Ezekiel – the familial mood of this poem is enough to provoke empathy from any reader.
This underlying comical tone is present in a number of the poems, notably the amusing ‘Mary Has Been Invited Along to Make Up the Numbers.’ The title alone is humorous, yet the progression of the narrative within the poem conveys an interesting message. The exploration of the stereotypes of the millennial youth culture such as “her heels are techno beats on cobbles, herds of lads are jiving in” are evident, but with an interesting perspective. “Why can’t she be home?” Ezekiel asks, “Neon signs churn her to the bone”. From my view, this poem conveys an alternative angle on the pressures and expectations of modern-day society upon young people – something which Ezekiel should be applauded for.
My personal favourite from this collection is “Sari and Chapattis” which taps into Ezekiel’s sentimental view on her Indian-Jewish heritage. The vivid sensory imagery introduced in this poem creates a tender mood of the poet’s past. For example, as “(her) neighbour brought over a sari, wrapping the yards of scarlet satin around (her) six-year-old body”. This quiet inspection of the happiness of childhood is in juxtaposition with her subtle commentary of the effect this has on her present day, “Now I buy chapatti flour, e-mail my mother the recipe, roll the dough.”
I found the poems overwhelmingly emotive and welcoming as I was invited to explore the themes of family, culture and childhood. Overall, Homecoming is a wonderfully vibrant collection of poems which invites the reader into an unknown place, but through imagery, mood and tone, that place is made to feel like home.