My thanks to Anne Nolan at Two Rivers Press for sending me a copy of Yield, a poetry collection, to read and review. This will be my last blog tour for a while and fair to say, a very different one. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s what the collection is about.
Three definitions of the word Yield give meaning to the odyssey undergone in Claire Dyer’s third collection: a journey which sees a son become a daughter, and a mother a poet for both of them. Charting these transitions, the poems take us through territories known and familiar landscapes of childhood, family and home into further regions where inner lives alter, outer ones are reimagined. Whether evoking clinic visits, throwing away old boyhood clothes, grieving over what’s lost, these honest and unashamed poems build to celebrate that place at the heart of motherhood where gender is no differentiator and love the gain.
I’ve put my ‘thoughts’ rather than ‘review’ for a specific reason. I am not a poet. I have attempted them with little success. I’m still not very sure how I managed to get a good grade in my O-Level English Literature paper (yes, I am that old). I hated analysing every line and word looking for meanings that might not actually be there in the first place. I wanted to enjoy the poem as a whole without thinking about alliteration, line length, syllable count etc. When I was asked to review a collection of poems, I hesitated – am I really qualified to do this? In many ways, no. But as a reader I can appreciate the poems as a whole and so my ‘thoughts’ stem from that.
I listened to a radio interview that Claire Dyer did and for her the word ‘yield’ has three meanings that are then reflected in the collection. Firstly, to bring forth, or more specifically, to give birth or life. Secondly to surrender, give in. Lastly, a gain – not a financial one in this instance but an emotional one. As the above blurb says, Yield charts the journey that Claire travelled with her family when her son announced he was transgender. There’s shock, confusion, anxiety, grief and acceptance. As Claire said in her interview, this collection isn’t a political statement. Instead, it’s deeply personal and she had full permission from her family to publish.
There are so many wonderful poems here, and on second reading, I welled up more than the first time. There are lovely little lines such as ‘Etch A Sketch of shopfronts’ from In this town. More than that there’s the emotion that pours out of each poem – the goblin who comes at night to prey upon fear and anxiety, the memories that surface when emptying a wardrobe of clothes no longer needed and the thick skin that arrives like a parcel in the post.
Although the poems are borne out of one specific situation, many could relate to other issues people are going through. My favourite poem is Some Guidance on Leaving where the author goes down to the river and casts all her pain into it. This is a poem for anyone in a difficult situation. Even though I said how much I disliked English Lit., if I were to choose one poem from this collection to be on a GCSE syllabus, it would be this one. It is so beautiful, full of emotion and meaning and I know it’s one that I’ll return to again and again.
The final poem, Afterword: Like This, highlights the final meaning of ‘yield’ – emotional gain. I’m not too sure what to write about this poem but there’s a sense of peace after being through such a turbulent time and surprise that peace is there at all. It’s the start of something new that will perhaps bring more joy than had life stayed the same.
So those are my thoughts. Thank you Claire for sharing such a difficult but precious time in your life. It would have been so easy to have kept these poems in a notebook. And to steal a refrain from some of your poems, thank you for being brave, wise and kind.
You can buy Yield here.
Claire Dyer holds a BA in English & History from the University of Birmingham, an MA in Victorian Literature & Culture from the University of Reading and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. She lives in Reading, Berkshire. Yield is her third poetry collection.