Oh, the smugness that I was experiencing last week. What an idiot I was. I was so cocky when I finished two books in one week. So, cocky that I almost didn’t get this one finished in time. I expected to get through this poetry collection in no time but, whenever I had the chance to read it, I just didn’t want to. Maybe it was because I had just finished two really easy to read books? Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t engaging with this one enough? I guess it was about time that I had a bit of a struggle. 2019 has, for the most part, been a really good reading year. I’ve not experienced much of a reading slump so far so it was high time that I had a small one. It also doesn’t help that I’m super tired this week. I feel like I’ve barely slept the last few nights. So, I’m going to be a boring old lady and get to bed early tonight. Wrapped up, herbal tea, and a pair of fuzzy socks. Sounds blissful.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this collection of poems. I’ve not read anything by Nikita Gill and, if I’m honest, I’m slightly suspicious of contemporary poetry. I read Rupi Kaur and Amanda Lovelace and was just left cold. It was shallow and hollow. And they are poets that are so often praised and celebrated for their life-changing works. Call me cynical but it feels like some people just get an automatic pass when they put a feminist label on something. Which is what worried me about Gill. Was she actually as good as everyone said she was or was it just a consequence of her changing the narrative? Note, I’m not criticising feminist poetry but I don’t think it should overshadow quality. A shit poem is still a shit poem whether it’s embracing women’s rights or not.
But I was intrigued by this collection because I love mythology. The poems in Great Goddesses are based on the stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses. The main focus is on women and their displays of strength. So often, the women in Greek myths are overlooked and underestimated. Nikita Gill has given them a voice and is retelling their stories. I enjoyed the feminist twist of these poems and loved the way that Gill connected the stories to the modern world. There are references to #MeToo, environmental issues, and politics within here which gives a refreshing modern twist to these tales. The book promises to life lessons based on these stories and there are quite a few crossovers.
However, I have to be honest, I wasn’t completely in love with the poems themselves. Of course, there were several poems that were absolutely breathtaking and beautiful. But the rest of the poems were just a bit pedestrian. As a collection of poetry, it felt quite disjointed and I struggled to engage. The first few poems were great as informative pieces about Greek mythology but they just didn’t spark a lot of inspiration for me. The best poems were evocative and original. The rest just felt like things I’d read before. And there were times when her word choices seemed really odd. I know its poetry and it isn’t for me to criticise but I just kept being taken out of the moment. I stopped quite a few times because of a specific word or phrase that felt out-of-place It made it difficult to engage.
What was more impressive, were the illustrations scattered throughout the collection. These black and white sketches are absolutely beautiful and provoked a much more emotive response than many of the poems did. Had this been a non-poetic retelling of the stories alongside these illustrations then I would have no issues with Great Goddesses. As it stands, it’s mediocre poetry that is hiding behind its important message. I loved the idea behind the collection but I wished it hadn’t been presented as poetry. Nikita Gill is clearly knowledgable and passionate about the subject and I would have loved to see what she did using a different format.