A Collection of Hormones - poetry review

As the Postman handed me today's post, complete with a smile, I looked on in wonder at the neatly gift wrapped parcel he had placed in my hand. Early birthday present? No. Late Christmas present? No. In fact it was a first edition, signed copy of 'A Collection of Hormones' - the debut anthology - by the friendly, humble Joanna F. Morley.

Unwrapping my present with nothing less than childlike anticipation, it was hard to be disappointed with something sealed with such care and honesty. Morley doesn't pretend to be a highly successful, established or - therefore - pretentious wordsmith. Neither does she pretend to be some kind of "working class hero"; she's simply Jo, a young Mother who has always enjoyed writing.

To say "A Collection of Hormones" is the perfect specimen of feminine poetry would be an unnecessarily sensationalist move. Morley's anthology is far from perfect; there are some disappointingly obvious copy errors and grammatical mistakes that are jarring at best. However, the collection is a truly frank, explorative catalogue of the female psyche through the most formative of years. Consequently, if nothing else, it's wildly interesting.

Every word penned throughout this anthology is poetic - from the synopsis to the epilogue - a charming move for a publishing novice. There is even an entire page spare for any "doodles" or notes you feel inspired to make after reading the collection and the front cover details a drawing made by the hand of a child; furthering the innocence of the work.

"A Collection of Hormones" is noted by Morely herself as a collection where '[t]he poems are placed from earliest to latest' (pg. 7). Unfortunately, through another small error of printing, this is untrue. A few - although not many - poems have been misplaced; a 2009 appearing before a 2007, for example. A tiny and very occasional mistake which serves to throw the reader out of the text.

Morely's anthology also relies heavily on colloquialisms - "me" instead of "my" for instance - and abbreviations such as "'cause" instead of "because" which feel unnatural and somewhat forced. I'm aware that Morley began writing the anthology at the age of 13 and at that age, in modern society, abbreviations are a vital part of language but, when it comes to poetry, I like mine to use full words and easily recognisable phrases. Perhaps I'm just a literary snob with a soul much older than my years (I always felt I should've been born in the 1930s) but when I read anything, particularly poetry, I like to feel as though the author has written purely to me in some intimate exchange of raw emotion. I don't speak like that, I also don't write like that, so for me this element of the text felt completely unrelatable.

The poems are an odd mix, but in a refreshing way. Some are funny, some deeply emotional, some ripe with nothing but teenage angst... I quite like that. I like the fact that when you feel as though you can no longer handle anymore anger, bitterness, sadness, your poetic prayers are answered by the relief of a silly, lighthearted poem to follow. I also like the author's admission in the beginning that 'some are not by far my favourite', there's an admirable integrity to this I can't help but warm to. Morley knows her work is not of outstanding quality, but she's not doing it for the title of 'genius'.

Some poems I enjoyed, some I really didn't. 'Pet Tomato (1)' & 'Pet Tomato 2' were a personal highlight for me. The rhythm flowed beautifully, the rhymes were carefully considered and perfectly placed, the subject matter slightly odd but somewhat magical - all coming together to create 2 particularly playful, youthful, imaginative poems that I would recommend to anyone and everyone I know. Honestly, though, when Morley gets it wrong she really gets it wrong; 'Selwyn School' I found particularly clumsy and awkwardly paced. More than one of the poems confuses tense in a rather frustrating and unknowing way which shows her inexperience.

On the whole, Joanna F. Morley's anthology "A Collection of Hormones" is funny, honest and charming. It's an intriguing, incredibly strong piece of literature from a debut poet with, what I hope will be, a bright future ahead of her. Morley, herself, is personable, witty and humble - something I feel deserves special credit - and I wish her all the success available. In Morley words, this anthology does not 'regress or regret' (pg. 8).

(c) Sophie Porter 2013

A Collection of Hormones published by Grange House publishers is available via Amazon

Joanna F. Morley is on twitter @purplefreefall

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