THE DRIER THE BRIGHTER - reviewed by Cynthia Buell Thomas

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In ‘The Drier The Brighter’, Judy Kendall acknowledges foremost her thanks to the teachings of Buddha. We reasonably expect, then, that some of her writing will be in the metaphysical vein, symbolism seeking substance. Her introspective verse is the journey of self- knowledge, reaching a hard-won understanding that things are what they are, whether it be a lost love or old age.  Supporting the book’s title, many poems feature ‘rain’. Whether as reality or metaphor, interpretation lies with the reader.

Judy’s probing  mind sees, absorbs and records, but deliberately does not interpret. She gently shares her own intuitive  moments experiencing the ‘is-ness’ of existence.

Judy captures colour, shape and space in vivid imagery of sensual immediacy. Nature is word-painted and personified  ‘bright yellow daffodils/running down the bank/not quite falling’  (the verge).  A  solitary person becomes an arresting snapshot ‘his face a quiver of sky’  (Scenes from Doctor Bach’s Flower Remedies). Ordinary action takes on cinematic qualities   ‘three black figures/rise over the horizon man, woman, dog’ (Treading the Cotswold Way).

Judy ‘shakes up’ language! She challenges our Western perceptions stratified by structured form. She creates Poetry Puzzles and Shapes, playing such games of language manipulation that have enjoyed  intermittent crazes for centuries, and are once again  back in ‘mod mode’.  Some of her most profound ideas are in these ‘search and find’ poems. She sets the bar immediately with ‘lost’ by starting with only a comma, as in: “Create for yourself all that has been said before.” In ‘unfamiliar’ she ends boldly with just a full stop, clearly shouting: Point made! End of story! ‘Still Life With Quinces and Lemons’, with adroit boustrophedonicwriting, draws the eye around the page exactly as one would scan a painting.  The few lines of  ‘how your whole life’ make words almost physical, dragging comprehension out of confusion. Also tantalizing is ‘On I Tow’ which, when read aloud exactly as written, probably sounds like Chaucer’s Middle English. This little gem is sly; given the subject matter, surely ‘vul va’ and the shape of the poem is no accident.

The reader of a few poems will appreciate Judy Kendall‘s kinship. Even greater pleasure awaits those who consider all the verses under this provocative title. Humour speaks throughout: let us enjoy a promised laugh. Her opening piece, like an introit, says, ‘Because I left the door ajar/a sparrow hopped inside…’  (Accidental Commitment). In her own way, Judy invites our positive receptivity to her poetic art.

Cynthia Buell Thomas

THE DRIER THE BRIGHTER by JUDY KENDALL, Published by CINNAMON PRESS, 2006                                                           

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