Pessimism is for Lightweights: 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance by Salena Godden
Anything you can do I can do bleeding / I can do anything flooding with blood
Salena Godden’s currently promoting her book Mrs Death Misses Death (which has been optioned to become a TV series in the near future) but I first discovered their work as a poet. She’s written several collections plus the literary memoir Springfield Road, and has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. The titular poem was performed at the Woman’s March in 2018 to a crowd of 10,000 plus people.
All of these poems are individual works of art in their own right: The Letter was performed with the London Symphony Orchestra in March 2018, Red was made into a film that was displayed at the Nasty Women art show in London, during 2017. Each approaches their subject matters with blunt, brilliant power.
Lessons from the Text
The last few days have seen some very personal admissions surrounding why poetry matters to me. Salena ‘s work did, I believe, exactly what it was supposed to do: it made me stop just listening and reading and instead made me think, long and hard, about subjects I had never really considered before. The yellow book is a seductive, inescapable thing, especially when it became apparent to me, I could no longer sit and watch the World burn.
Every poem here has altered my mindset. I know it sounds like hyperbole when you say it in isolation, but I defy anyone to just read Sushi, for instance, and feel nothing. Even the simplicity of a piece like Christine opens your brain and heart to something else, that pulls you beyond the words to recall your own experiences and feelings. The best poetry is not afraid to hold you between the lines and make you look, daring you to challenge the truths that emerge.
Although Pessimism is for Lightweights is the banging anthem and the beating heart of this collection, it’s not actually my favourite. Sorry to Trouble You is the piece of this book that has affected me the most, because of who I am and how I’m built, and that this reminds me whenever I doubt myself there is a huger picture to consider. The work will be done, and I will endure because, deep down, other people have endured and fought and survived to remind me of why it matters. Every poem in this book has a voice that is so utterly unique. It’s a work of true genius.
Will you read it again? I never stop reading it. You should do the same
Would you recommend it for me to read? Yes, but getting a physical copy may cause some issues. Rough Trade have sold out, so instead go get the ebook 😀