This week I’m doing a 2-in-1 book review of two poetry collections from Maranda Russell.
From Both Sides: A Look Into the World of Foster Care from Those Who Know It Best is a short book of prose poems that’s written both from the perspective a foster child and that of a foster parent. Maranda herself has been a foster parent. She explains that her aim is to clarify the challenges faced by foster kids and parents, and bring encouragement and inspiration.
Themes in the poems about being a foster kid include feeling like damaged goods, being shuffled around and lacking permanence, and self-hatred. One poem that I found particularly moving is False Hope, which is about being led to believe that a return home will be happening soon. One of my favourite lines in the book: “I’m like fruitcake, the gift that no one really wants.”
The parents section talks about things being stolen, the ongoing effects from the child’s previous abuse, powerlessness, and a flurry of other challenging emotions. The poems provide insight into both the rewards and the difficulties that go along with foster parenting.
In Not Afraid To Be Real: A Poetry Collection, Maranda writes that she prefers “gritty, down-to-earth poems that speak to the heart and make us see life in a way that we might not have before.” The themes in the book move from love to struggle and darkness and then on to hope, concluding with some quirky fun.
I really liked the ending of the poem Accept Me As I Am:
“Hurt me –
then heal me.
And most importantly,
keep loving me
even when I
refuse to love myself.”
The Living Dead looks at expectations that we let go of dreams that are no longer considered acceptable. Other themes running through the darker sections of the book include feeling dismissed, unwanted, and unaccepted. Everybody Loves You ponders the rose-coloured glasses through which we tend to see those who have passed on, and whether its worth being remembered in such a way.
And, fitting for this time of year, does flatulence belong in Christmas? Absolutely, and it makes an appearance in Bad Christmas Poem!
I very much enjoyed both of these collections, and they’re written in a way that’s very accessible and real even for people who don’t typically read poetry. Maranda definitely delivers on her preference for a gritty, down-to-earth style of poetry.
You can find my other book reviews here.
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