Weeds are often seen as, well just that; weeds. A garden nuisance that when one is cut another two take its place. Many people think them unsightly and portray an unkempt garden. Yet weeds to some are a thing of beauty. They provide nutrition for small animals such as rabbits and guinea-pigs. They make comfy homes for bugs and bring that much needed burst of yellow to brighten even the gloomiest of days.
Today dear readers I am reviewing House Of Weeds (Published 17th May 2020) By Amy Charlotte Kean and illustrated By Jack Wallington. Happy Publication Day! A big thank-you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for my copy to review, always appreciated.
About The Author
Amy Charlotte Kean is a weed, known for her persistence and unpredictability, much like the buttercup, or dandelion. She’s an award-winning advertising strategist, innovator and creative from Essex who’s worked with some of the world’s most wonderful brands like Nando’s, Sony and Jean Paul Gaultier to do unexpected cool shit that benefits society.
Her number 1 bestselling debut book, The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is a feminist fairy tale and ode to everyday bravery, hated by The Spectator and Trump supporters and loved by women and men who see the power in worrying less. Her poems, rants, reviews, flash fiction and opinion are littered across websites like The Guardian, Huffington Post, Glamour Magazine, Disclaimer, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Abridged and Burning House Press alongside her regular column on creativity for Shots magazine.
She’s a university lecturer, founder of DICE, an inclusion initiative in the events space and ambassador for Writing Through, a charity that builds confidence through conceptual thought.
About The Illustrator
Jack Wallington is a landscape garden designer specialising in nature led, beautiful spaces with a contemporary, light touch to hard landscaping, furniture and features. He views gardens and public green spaces as a mini-ecosystem and living, dynamic works of art that must also be practical, to be enjoyed and create lasting memories for people, too.
Throughout his life Jack has studied different forms of art, and has a current interest in line drawing for its ability to quickly capture energy and form. In all of his work, from pictures to gardens, colour is absolutely critical, used to set the tone and mood.
As a writer, his debut gardening book, Wild about Weeds: Garden Design with Rebel Plants was named The Times Gardening Book of the Year, exploring the virtues of plants we’ve long ripped out and cast aside. In House of Weeds, his quick ink sketches created on iPad are weaved around Amy’s poems that challenge our view of the world.
House Of Weeds
Step into a world of deliciously wild characters: a group of outcasts who have only their rebellion in common. Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society’s outsiders.
“One is tempted to say that the most human plants, after all, are the weeds.” (John Burroughs, 1881)
Between 1879 and 1941 two unlisted buildings in Peckham served as refuge to forty-seven individuals. It was a site of urban legend; asylum for the disgraced rebels and mentally unorthodox of the time. Those who did not fit an aesthetic template; who refused to respect society’s imposed sexual restrictions; the atypical men who had failed and been failed by the system; outspoken women who only a few centuries prior would have been burned as witches.
Little is known about what went on in those houses, as its lodgers were heard but rarely seen. Neighbours spoke of wild all night parties, raucous laughter, mirrors thrown from the bedroom windows with such force they dented the pavement below, and sounds of babies crying bloody murder within the damp foundations.
House of Weeds is the story of these rebel humans. An illustrated poetry collection from Amy Charlotte Kean and Jack Wallington that gives a megaphone to the weird, restless and unruly. The battles they faced and the love they crafted for themselves.
The book opens with a brief introduction about two buildings in Peckham that served as refuge to 47 people between 1879 and 1941. It was a place for outsiders, people who felt they didn’t fit into society’s system. French philosopher Lucien Perrot called the rebels weaklings and weeds because they refused to open the door to him and his pack of hungry journalists and photographers. I don’t honestly blame them as I wouldn’t open my door to that madness. I felt this theme continued to flow into Kean’s poems. How most of the plants she chose to name are seen as common weeds. People don’t like what they see as they can’t understand it so become desperate to rip them up and dispose of the remains.
On the 6th June 1941 the two buildings were bombed leaving no survivors. The area remains untouched apart from the wildflowers that have continued to grow and flourish amongst the rubble. The weeds continue to exist in harmony. It is an emotional, striking image that blooms throughout the poems and opens the reader’s mind to the possibility of living a life that is worth living. To be honest and true to yourself. We are all fragile creatures and can break easily but we can also be mended and put back together. It is often the thing that breaks us that makes us into the person we are meant to be. These poems demonstrate this and it is a wonder to behold as with each new bloom another chance of life is given.
Weeds are harmless. All they want to do is coexist in a world of acceptance and peace. I am proud and happy to say dear reader that I too am a weed. This empowering theme continues to grow stronger and more vibrant the further you wander. The reader quickly realises that they are amongst old friends, ones they have known since childhood and feel a sense of freedom and connection to the wildlife that surrounds us all.
I was captivated by acres of breathtaking beauty. Each poem is named after a plant and takes on the biography of their frail yet resilient life. No matter how hard we try, we can’t tame or control nature. It has a mind of its own and will continue to grow, expand despite any attempts at keeping it trimmed. These poems, wildflowers are the outsiders, the ones who choose to rebel and refuse to be cut down. All they desire is to be left to live in peace, the life they choose, not the one dictated to them.
My favourite poem from this collection would have to be Leucanthemum vulgare (Ox-eye Daisy). I remember days spent picking daisies and making chains while also doing the classic he loves me he loves me not game. It hadn’t occurred to me being innocent and young that in the process of my fun I was destroying something beautiful. Once a daisy has been plucked of all its petals it becomes a bold yellow head, pointless and ugly. This poem made me feel for the common flower. As a child I saw unrequited love as the safest kind. No one gets hurt and you can daydream away without breaking anyone’s heart. However as an adult, I now know that love is always worth getting burned for, to feel the pain with the passion and experience the full potential that life has to offer.
I adore the illustrations throughout this book. They each tell a story of their own and strongly relate to the poems. They bring a sense of calm throughout the chaos and portray an artistic view on the themes spoken. They are unlike anything I have encountered, they are a pleasure to gaze upon.
I give House Of Weeds By Amy Charlotte Kean a Four out of Five paw rating.
These are fascinating poems to indulge in, I highly recommend you sit in your garden (with a cup of tea and cheeky slice of carrot cake) on a warm sunny day and drink up the wonder that is nature. A much needed breath of fresh air, these poems will leave you inspired and entwined as you look out onto the house of weeds.
Hop hop wiggle wiggle