Identity. It’s a tricky one isn’t it. They say you have to find your identity don’t they? Find out who you are, discover oneself and be proud to be you. But is it really that easy when we live in a society that judges individuality and glares at difference which in turn causes us to question our beliefs? What is normal anyway and why is it considered ‘normal’? Why can’t we just be left to express ourselves the way we want, live the life we choose? Be our beautiful marvellous selves and not afraid to be you.
Today on the blog I am reviewing another delightful Olson poetry book. The Girl In The Garden (Published 14th March 2020) By Sapphira Olson published by Blam! Productions. A big thank you to the author for my copy to review, always appreciated. Right, let’s begin shall we dear reader? I adored Stanley Park and am intrigued to read more of Olson’s poetry.
About The Author
Sapphira Olson is the pen name of author, illustrator and poet Sapphira Olson French. Born in Cornwall she now lives in Luton. Faithfully LGBT, she is a trans woman with six published novels, including An Android Awakes, Fictional Alignment and The Dandelion Trilogy.
Nominated for the Galaxy British Book Awards and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, she has been a senior editor of The View From Here literary magazine and has interviewed authors such as Julian Barnes, Iain Banks and Markus Zusak.
She also has a short story collection published by Elsewhen Press called Parables which was born out of her experiences and deconstruction and ‘escape’ from a strict evangelical church.
When not writing she loves spending time in the countryside and enjoys watching Audrey Hepburn movies and listening to Dido and Caravan Palace.
The Girl In The Garden
The Girl In The Garden is a collection of 30 poems from Stanley Park author Sapphira Olson themed around being transgender.Semi-autobiographical and infused with Celtic myths and legends including the birds of Rhiannon, the god Lug and Niamh, the golden-headed daughter of the King of the Land of Youth, the poems give a profound and personal insight into the world of a trans woman.
When Sapphira happens upon the girl in the garden it is a start of her world been radically transformed as she finds a paradise with a great oak at its centre, where the girl lives. Dealing with themes of emotional, spiritual and physical transition, abuse, coming out to family and misgendering the poems leave a lasting and profound impression. Providing inspiration and hope to those that are transgender and an insight for those who are interested in knowing more about what it is like to be transgender, the collection is a glimpse into this world that is unique and life changing.
Illustrated throughout by the author herself, in beautiful black inks, The Girl In The Garden (Year One) is book one in the Origins series, with Year Two planned for 2021.
This book hit me hard, right in the heart. I was an emotional wreck as I read all 30 poems themed around being transgender. These are semi-autobiographical poems with Celtic myths and legends woven in-between the insight to the world of transgender. We come across a girl in the garden and immediately our world is transformed to a place of paradise. This is book one in the Origins series and is only the beginning.
The poems tell of coming out to family and the emotional damage that relentlessly tries to drown Olson. Her poetry reveals her fears and how vulnerable she is in a world of denial. But it also celebrates who she is, the acceptance of “yes this is me and I am proud”. It’s inspiring and gives hope to others, letting them know that they are not alone. The world is such a dark, cruel place that constantly tries to trample out our individual fires, turning them to ash. Olson only continues to burn brighter, hotter, extending up towards to the sky signalling to others to do the same.
We get a small glimpse into her unique and dazzling world that I have nothing but the utmost respect for. I am all for do what you do, be who you are and never be ashamed. If you were born a female yet identify as male, that’s great, let’s grab a takeaway and watch some Netflix. I see the person, the wonderful amazing person that has more courage than I could ever wish to have. If you are male and want to marry a man, awesome where’s my invite? My point is I celebrate people and wish that more people would be the same. To just let people be themselves and live the life they choose. It’s natural and should be so much more accepted, especially in today’s world. Olson’s poems send a strong true message to all, being true to yourself is the best thing you can ever do.
In the darkness I walk this Earth,
consumed by doubt.
The destruction of the citadel by
Balor – the Celtic demon king.
In narrow streets I run for my life
from a legion of five thousand men
calling me to turn from my ‘wicked ways’.
Extract from The Garden
When I read The Cornflake Girl my heart broke. The poem tells of Olson reading a news story while she eats breakfast. The story is about a sentence given to a male prisoner for identifying as female. For their ‘crimes’ of crossdressing they are sent to an all male prison. Rather than face that disrespectful fate, she grabs a gun from one of the guards and shoots herself. This gives Olson the courage to try on a dress at her favourite shop yet is met with the same unfortunate fears. When she asks to try an item on she is told to go to the men’s section. I wanted to scream at the sales assistant for being so narrow minded. It takes courage to get to this point, fighting back the fears that people will see you for you and not the selected gender slot we happened to be born in. I can’t begin to imagine the struggle one must fight in order to be accepted for who you are. This poem shows bravery and how far we still have to go in order to live in a world where such things are not questioned and are simply met with a “Certainly madam, please let me know should you require any assistance” To be treated as humans and with respect is all we can hope for.
The fitting rooms.
“Can I try this on please?”
“You need,” said the man, or in this case the
gatekeeper, “to go upstairs to the
And in my mind I imagine
taking a gun and shooting myself in the head.
Extract from The Cornflake Girl
To read these poems was to go on an emotional and spiritual journey with Olson. To see her fall down only to pull herself back up and stand even taller. There are times she doubts herself and people ask her how far she will go but what they fail to realise is that the real change is within. The exterior is just something pretty and shiny to admire and an added bonus but to accept yourself deep down, that’s where it counts.
So I do not fear accepting who I am,
for my life is beautiful and given by the gods to me.
I will dance to the music on the hills,
I will stay true to the girl in the garden
My beautiful hair,
my graceful form,
is truly who I am
in my narrative form.
Extract from A Mythical Narrative
I give The Girl In The Garden By Sapphira Olson a Five out of Five paw rating.
Olson has done it again, she has left me speechless. Just WOW She is such a talented poet that writes with heart, fire and courage that I admire and respect. I can’t recommend her books enough. Seriously go check them out! I raise a glass to you Miss Olson, may you long continue to write such breathtaking poetry. Cheers.
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