This review of The News originally appeared on the Poetry London website in advance of my reading there in November 2017. I'm archiving it here. Great thanks to Katarina Meneses for her thoughtful read.
You can find links to other reviews of The News on my website.
Delivering Big News Through Poetry: Rob Taylor’s The News
By Katarina Meneses
Rob Taylor’s The News
is a collection of poems divided into the number of weeks of his wife’s pregnancy. On the surface, the collection of narrative poetry concerns itself with a soon-to-be father adjusting his life to prepare for his new child. However, it is a much deeper story that unexpectedly makes a connection to the reader with its down to earth plot. As each week passes, the narrator discusses topical events of that week, from having guests over for Christmas and discussing the famous cranberry sauce, to the devastating news of countless shootings due to persistent racism in North America:
in the summer of your birth
“See You Again” topped the charts
and I lost track of the shootings.
By police. Of police…
When people discover that they will become new parents, many resort to a variety of parenting books to successfully raise their new child. Taylor, on the other hand, decided to write his own instead. The book is enjoyable as it makes connections to the real world with the news events that were happening, such as a policeman being shot, or more racism. The narrator discusses everything from accompanying his wife for her ultrasounds to experiencing anxiety over his child possibly having a disorder. The poems make each situation feel incredibly real through Taylor’s narrative voice, as it feels conversational. These are ordinary things that new parents go through and may be able to relate to:
First thing in the door we pinned up
the scans, pass them from kitchen
to bathroom to bed. You could be
anyone, but we pause and insist –
you’re this one, this one.
The book not only tracks the progress of the unborn child; it also tracks the growth that both the husband and wife go through to prepare themselves for the life-changing moment when their child comes into the world. His wife’s name is finally revealed, a first for any of Taylor’s works, showing their relationship changing as they grow together.
It is interesting to note that Taylor has decided to take passages from other writers (such as Grace Paley, Rebecca Solnit, Albert Camus) and incorporates them into his work. At first it may seem odd because he is archiving his own experience with his first child, but delving deeper, readers can see how well it fits with his own work: ultimately, he is expressing how deep his experience is by making connections with others throughout history.
“Sixteen Weeks” contains a passage that illuminates the fear parents go through, wondering if their child will be healthy or will suffer complications. Taylor expresses his worries in each week, but week sixteen is the one that stands out the most as they go to the doctor’s office to get a checkup; even though they are given good news, Taylor always thinks there is that small chance that something could go wrong, as it always seems to be proven in the daily headlines.
The bloodwork is in –
a 1 in 20,000 chance
this will all go to hell
so we go to the phones
and you’re out…
voice when she told us
our odds couldn’t be better –
all other numbers she delivers
Overall, the collection is incredibly enjoyable as the poems seem realistic and relatable. Although the book may be most appealing to parents, the book is great for all, as it opens the minds of readers to realize the anxieties of welcoming a new life into the world, which is incredibly difficult as portrayed by Rob Taylor in The News