The Adoption Papers
Tarsat, Bloodaxe, 2013, 64p
I don't think I have enjoyed a collection of poetry as much as this in some time. It has such depth and details, and is of an incredibly consistent high standard.
Jackie Kay's collection of poem explores families, romantic love and issues of society. The collection begins with the autobiographical story of Kay's adoption through the eyes of her biological mother, her adopted mother and herself. It discusses her feelings of abandonment and her confusion about her identity, though, as life often works out, comes to no solid conclusions. She also describes the issue of race as a black child raised by white parents in Scotland in the 1960s and 70s. The story is told through poems, pinpointing significant moments along the journey. It is incredible how she engages with the inner thoughts of both her mothers.
Following this engaging story are a series of other poems that look at a whole range of themes and subjects. One that stood out to me was 'I try my absolute best', a poem about the difficulty of doing right by your child. She talks about feeding her baby healthy food and avoiding things full of chemicals, just to find out that everything you thought was okay is in fact ridden with potential hazards.
Her ability to articulate political issues and social discontent is profoundly powerful. 'Severe Gale 8' looks at elements of society (the NHS, the economy, etc.) in a series of chapter-like poems, using repetition to reinforce the stagnation of social change.
I love Jackie Kay's style: she is approachable and accessible, even if you have not lived the life she has. Her subjects become universal through the way she writes as she makes it alright for you to have experienced self-doubt or to have questioned who you are. The Adoption Papers is a poignant, modern and engaging.