by Megan Beech
Burning Eye seeks to break down some of the barriers that are put up between young poets and publishers to make it more accessible for poets to put work out early in their career. This chapbook from Megan Beech is the third example of Burning Eye working with a young poet in this way. Although still in her second year at University Megan has already caught attention with her infectious reeling wordplay, but, as is already evident in When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard, she is quickly moving on into more complex writing. Megan is not afraid of speaking her mind and grappling with political themes with a confidence missing in many older poets. When I Grow Up To Be Mary Beard captures the sound of a resurgent feminism that demands to be heard and marks Megan out as a name to watch.
When I grow up I want to be Megan Beech.
I practically never review poetry on my blog for two reasons: 1) because I don't read anywhere near as much poetry as I probably should, and 2) I don't think I know enough about poetry to write a fair review. Having said that, this is my blog and, regardless of my inexperience with poetry, when I love a collection as much as I love this one I have to say something about it.
When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard is brimming with fantastically feminist spoken word poetry, from the titular poem all the way through to the very last. As far as poetry goes I'm still figuring out what kind of poetry I like and this collection has made me want to find even more spoken word poets. Thinking about it now I've always enjoyed spoken word poetry; I'd much rather listen to a spoken word poet read their work aloud than read it myself, which is why I've never really found as much joy in reading poetry as I do in reading fiction, and I actually read a lot of these poems aloud to myself, which was such a fun way to read them. Beech uses language and internal rhyme so cleverly and with such skill that, if this is her debut collection, I can't wait to see what she brings out next.
What I loved about Beech's poems, as someone who often finds poetry difficult to translate in my prose-centric head, is that I understood them and I understood the rhythm of them and, most importantly, I understood the message in them. There are moments when this angry, political, frustrated voice breaks through that I identified with so much it's no wonder I love this collection.
Some highlights for me were 'When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard', 'Shakespeare was a Gangster Rapper' and 'Vontrapped', but there wasn't a single poem that I disliked. If I were to put my English graduate hat on and offer any criticism it would be that some of the poems were quite similar in a literal sense; the same words would pop up here and there and I think I only noticed it because this collection is fairly small compared to other collections I own, but it didn't bother me in the slightest. We don't look at the work of poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen and say 'Eh, too much war', so there's no way I'm going to criticise an emerging poet who's using her voice to tackle issues she's passionate about.
Really this is less of a review and more of a gush, but whether you like poetry or not I highly recommend you give this collection a try. I can't wait to see what Megan Beech does next - I'll be keeping an eye on her!
(And if you're interested, you can listen to her read her titular poem here!)