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The Red Petticoat
Joan Slowey, author
This collection of poetry tells the story of a life from childhood, The Red Petticoat and The Small Dark Man to parenthood, In a Yellow Dress and My Girl, to thoughts of death, Bones and Mortality, and, of course, everything in between. The sea is a feature in many of the poems reflecting the life and experience of the poet. There are sets of three haikus here and there to give a change of pace.

Official Review: The Red Petticoat by Joan Slowey

Post Number:#1 by CataclysmicKnight » Yesterday, 15:41

[Following is the official review of "The Red Petticoat" by Joan Slowey.]

 Joan Slowey's The Red Petticoat is my favorite type of poetry collection - it's pretty short at just under 50 poems, but the collection almost entirely focuses on a single theme. For The Red Petticoat, Joan has chosen to focus on the ebb and flow of time, youth, growing up, death, and regret at things not said, with a few silly or lighter ones thrown in for good measure. It's celebratory and sad, sweet and dark, constrained and free, but it's very often emotional and well-written. 

While I sometimes had issues deciphering what a poem was about, many of them fall into the sweet spot of being poetic while taking the reader on a quick, emotional journey. While I'd consider at least 10 of the poems as particularly great, a few of my absolute favorites included:

  • Seascapes, which celebrates the chaos, playfulness and magic of the beach. My favorite lines being "An other world itself that sent me home a changeling/Waiting forty weeks a year, patient, to resume myself".
  • Hallowe'en, which goes from reluctantly wearing a mask to becoming free in the anonymity granted, then missing the freedom and having to become her restrained self again.
  • The back-to-back set of In a Yellow Dress, which really captures letting a child grow up and move on, and is immediately followed by My Girl, a poem that uses the metaphor of her daughter dancing and spinning playfully on her own, changing forever in that moment when her mother lets go of her hands to allow her to spin on her own.

As the collection goes on, there are several instances through the book where a set of three haikus gives the reader a brief respite from the poetry. Most of these are pretty straightforward, but that doesn't mean they aren't effective as well. Particularly as a computer nerd, one of my favorites was about a new laptop. These keep the flow of the collection going well without the inevitable crash from interpreting and digging into poems nonstop.

I really enjoyed my brief time with the collection, enjoying it even more the second time I read though it when I felt I understood the general tone of the poet better. There were only a couple things that kept the collection from being perfect - Joan is Irish, and while the occasional change in language is poetic and celebrates her heritage, it made a couple poems impossible for me to follow (one of which was a haiku without a word of English). I don't wish it was cut out at all, I just wish there was an asterisk on those lines that translated it or gave insight into references. Also, while it's something I've always experienced with poetry collections (and even musical albums, collections of any sort really), there were poems that felt flat and I couldn't figure out what they were about. Because of the very nature of poetry, I have no doubt even those poems will really speak to other readers, however. The collection was wonderful overall, and I stand by giving it a very solid 3 out of 4 stars. Anyone who enjoys poetry, especially adults who can relate to growing up and having children grow up, will find a lot of great work here, but poetry readers of all sorts should give it a try.