Monday, January 17, 2011

Jane Shaw Holiday's Schrodinger’s Book of Cats and Cabbages (Book Review) by J.S. Watts

I have recently come across Schrodinger’s Book of Cats and Cabbages by Jane Shaw Holiday, whose individual poems have appeared in publications such as Spare Rib, Awen, Decanto, Carillon, Pen Pusher and The Journal and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. I wouldn’t classify it as a heavyweight literary work or even a “serious” literary collection along the lines that many publishers promote these days, but it is an amusing, entertaining and sometimes even thought provoking read and what more can you ask of a book?

Within its fifty three pages and thirty nine poems there are surreal tales of cat and cabbage interaction (as you might expect), a “Bipolar Bear” and the protest song of an overworked typewriter “on strike/ for a better deal for machines”, left field reworkings of well known tales such as “Snow White”, “Icarus” and Theseus and the Minotaur and a poem, “All Aboard”, describing the inherent perils of making love on a double decker bus (crushed Mintoes and a damaged toe, apparently).

The poems are primarily light in tone: sometimes amusing, sometimes clever and often whimsical. For my personal taste, the whimsy occasionally comes a bit too close to annoyingly saccharine, but then there are poems such as “Chance Find” where a letter from a past lover is stumbled across, “All our hopes spelled out” and just as you are lulled into the lavender scented

“Happily ever after –

Of course life intervened.
My husband died suddenly
Hers killed her.”

In three brief, bald lines the slightly sugary taste of the collection develops a bitter and memorable aftertaste. The same subject is tackled from a slightly different angle in “Maryse”, but packs an equally strong emotional punch.

I am not sure you can say that there is a underlying theme behind this collection other than, perhaps, life can be amusing, mundane and quirky yet hide a tragic core, but as the poems work well individually I am not convinced that a consistent message is important. More importantly, the poems are accessible, entertaining and an enjoyable read. These are poems which can be appreciated by those who don’t necessarily read literary poetry and (please note, those of you who regard that first statement as pointedly negative) by those who do. It’s a good book. Enjoy!

Schrodinger’s Book of Cats and Cabbages by Jane Shaw Holiday is available in PDF and hard copy from Lapwing Publications

Author bio:

J.S.Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia in the UK. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a variety of publications in Britain, Canada and the States including Acumen, Ascent Aspirations, Brittle Star, Envoi, The Journal, Orbis and Polluto and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. Her debut poetry collection, “Cats and Other Myths” is due out from Lapwing Publications in 2011 You can find her at J.S. Watts.

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