Book Review

In Protest: A Review

"In Protest: 150 poems for human rights"
Published by the Human Rights Consortium, school of Advanced Study, University of London 2013.

An anthology of poems organised under thirteen headings concerning human rights - themes such as 'slavery', 'exile', protest, 'history'. These are poems relevent to the modern world, highlighting issues both current and important.

The pupose of this review is to express my disappointment in the book and my sense of unease as the problems of the book are seen to be repeated elsewhere.

A reader could be forgiven for coming away from nearly all the poems nonplussed. Each one is anecdotal but short on information; referring to incidents, times and places, in an inadequate way leaving the reader none the wiser.

Then the reader refers to the thirty-seven pages of biographal notes. Here the veil is lifted as explanatory notes speak eloquently for themselves. Only now might the reader feel the poets indignation, grief or anger.

To me this reveals the failure of poem as journalistic reportage. If the explanatory notes are doing all the work what is the point of the poem?

I've been keen to address what I see as a monumentally huge problem for poetry but my verdict on this engaging book is positive. Its hope to make poetry lovers aware of human rights issues, and human rights activists aware of poetry is laudable. It would make a valuable contribution to any bookshelf.

(I'd love to see more book reviews on Write Out Loud. I'm sure we've all got our favourites and reading the reviews of others could alert us to books we might never otherwise encounter.)
12 days ago
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