Ayelet McKenzie: Small Bear

The first poem of Ayelet McKenzie's to truly blow me away was Toadstools, reminded me of Sylvia Plath, and which I invited Ayelet to read at my Blue Teapot event in celebration of Plath's poetry.  I was delighted when Ayelet chose to include Toadstools in Small Bear, the volume we published in April this year, with a cover illustration by Nic Sky, and which we launched at the lovely Barrow Library, Cumbria.

Drenched in velvet
with darkest mosses,
where the green white
hellebore grows witchy and wild,
under the shadows of fallen branches,
you’ll find them there;
hoodies – huddled together,
poisonous and up to no good.

One of the next poems to tug at me was Ayelet's Octoluneo, simply entitled Moon, whose sinister story seems to have woven its way out of a nocturnal cityscape of predators, pavements and looming dangers, blended with highly symbolic stars and snowdrops.


The wolf moon
leers down on pavements
dredged with hoar,
on a night lemon fresh
sharp as a cut,
when plaintive snowdrops
shine brighter than stars,
licks his lips at lone women
who shun suitors and cars.
Although her subject matter is sometimes serious, or starkly minimalistic, there is a real flash of joi-de-vivre cutting through so much of this collection.  We gain a window on the love-lives of the gradually uninhibited, enjoy a grandmother's overdue realisation of the beauty in her life, and in the wryly titled One of Those, we meet an unnamed protagonist, who is
turning into one of those women
who carry bags of boiled sweets in their
handbags, proffering them to strangers
whom she got talking to.
Then consider Ayelet's poem Bus Journey   A Mexican wave of rare humanity in a world of seemingly intractable convention, cynicism, and stultifying negativity, Bus Journey laughs off the uptight-ness of a self-conscious and sceptical society in flourish of stunningly simple pleasure:


A girl stands up and offers
her seat to the pregnant woman
on the crowded bus.
And suddenly everyone
is getting up and giving their seats
to each other, a Mexican wave,
and everyone eases up and feels happy,
as if they were on holiday,
each passenger a brother or sister,
and screw the fact that they’ll be late
for work.

© Ayelet McKenzie

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