Digging Holes to Another Continent By Isabelle Kenyon Clare Songbirds Publishing House, UK 2018
Isabelle Kenyon is the author of the poetry anthology This is Not a Spectacle and micro-chapbook Three Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press). The UK based writer is also the editor of the MIND Poetry Anthology Please Hear What I’m Not Saying (Fly on the Wall Poetry Press), which was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award. Her newest collection, a chapbook entitled Digging Holes to Another takes you on a journey of loss, healing, and transformation. The 20 poems reflect on both the natural world and human nature while bringing the reader along on the author’s trip to New Zealand following the death of her grandmother. Each poem adds to Kenyon’s story, weaving strand after strand of the journey.
Digging Holes to Another Continent begins with the poem “The Journey,” which sets up the chapbook, telling the reader there were two deaths—her grandmother and a seemingly beloved pet—and that Kenyon and her family have travelled to the other side of the continent for a wedding, hoping for the opportunity to connect with one another and begin to heal from the loss they were grieving. Many of the poems in the collection take place on the beach, near or in the water. The first one in this setting is “Wave Meditation.” Kenyon writes, “My mind drains / succumbs / to the rhythmic crashes / and it is as if in the waves my salvation lies. // I feel like a washed up plastic bottle / Bobbing and saluting the sun. // I ascend, Lifted / further from shore / by waves of fury / their ferocity sudden, / awakening animal instinct / to find the way back to shore.”
Water has a restorative quality to it, allowing for life and rebirth. In my opinion, the beach is the perfect backdrop for a collection about healing and transformation. The water imagery in “Wave Meditation,” as well as many others in the chapbook, along with the whimsical language, adds to the rhythm of the poems, making it seem as though you, the reader, are floating through the collection and along with Kenyon, seeing, hearing, and feeling what she is. The reader quickly becomes invested in her salvation and transformation.
Wit and sarcasm peak through here and there in Kenyon’s writing, creating a tonal shift that breaks up the chapbook nicely. An example of one of these moments is in the poem “The Story in a Nutshell”: “8 people / of differing temperament / and of varying patience / set off in a tin car / to see what the world has to offer / Spoiler / No one dies in this one / (Much to the surprise of the author).” The frankness and cheekiness of this poem is refreshing.
Digging for Holes in Another Continent is over as quickly as a wave crashes, but it will stay with you for much longer. My favorite poems are “To Drive to the North” and “I Drift, I Swim.” I recommend reading this chapbook by the beach or pool this summer, or perhaps in a quiet place where you can reflect on your own loss and healing. I lost my grandmother in the last year and every time I read the poems these poems I find something new about Kenyon and about myself as well.