I have a secret recipe for you today dear readers. Make note and you will be cooking up a storm in your kitchen. Add a dash of infectious warmth, a tablespoon of laughter and sizzle until a golden brown. Sprinkle in some love and loss and cook for a further five minutes. Chop some identity and heritage into bitesized chucks and add to the pan. Stir until satisfied, maybe sampling a little here and voila! Serve with a bottle of dry humour and sit back, as you enjoy the delectable poetry of Louise McStravick.
Today on the blog I am reviewing How To Make Curry Goat (Published 17th July 2020) By Louise McStravick. Happy Publication day! A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated and a pleasure to work with.
How To Make Curry Goat
In this debut collection, slam-winning poet Louise McStravick goes back to her roots – her Brummy vowels, her ‘tan from Jamaica that never washed off’ and her windrush generation family, to discover where exactly she belongs.
About The Author
Louise McStravick is a writer, teacher, and proud Brummie. She is a slam winning poet and performer who has headlined at events in London, Birmingham, and Amsterdam including London Literature Festival with Heaux Noire, Beans Rhymes & Life, Streetfest and Words at the Warehouse. She was also part of the very first Apples and Snakes Platform Poets writer development programme, 2020. She was commissioned to write poems for the Words on Windrush anthology in 2019 with Empoword Slough. This project involved writing poetry based on oral history interviews. As a part of this she was asked read her poetry on BBC Berkshire. She uses writing to explore the nuances of her mixed-heritage, working-class identity.
McStravick’s poetry speaks of the brutal truth of wanting to feel accepted and the isolation that comes with a different heritage and identity. In the poem Spices there is strong imagery of how the chilli spices have nowhere left to go, that they no longer dance on tongues or speak of home. They are contained in a Tupperware box. It’s striking and shows the reader how often people feel the need to lock away parts of who they are. But they should embrace and lift the lid off what they can not change. Bring some flavour and colour to the world, giving it the much required kick it desperately needs. Life should be bursting with variety and tastes so much better when you add a bit of spice.
There are times were McStravick finds herself confused and lost as to which is her culture. In Fatherland, Motherland she reminds herself that she is British, English, a bit Irish and Jamaican, how it is all part of her culture but then wonders which is hers. This reminded me that we all don’t simply fit into a little square box, that we cannot be pigeonholed. To find our own true identities while also accepting our heritage is a difficult hurdle to face. It was beautiful to read the mixture of emotions and culture lovingly combined together. McStravick faces her choices in life with bravery and strength.
These poems show the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. In How to make curry goat we learn how they have taught their daughters and sons to make this recipe. How they will be told off for trying to sneak a piece as their stomach rumbles at the tempting smells. There is so much history tightly packed into this recipe, mentions of slavery and crossing seas, of how many hands have made this dish in the same manner. It’s fascinating to read and you can hear the echo of McStravick’s family throughout the poem.
Body image is heavily featured on the menu. We see how women primp and preen themselves in order to have that flawless look. To hide our natural beauty behind a face of make up and deceit. McStravick reminds us that we should be true to ourselves, flaws and all, that we were made the way we are and it should always be celebrated.
McStravick also tackles the breakdown of relationships, how the things you had planned, like watching the last episode of Buffy, never come to be. It’s emotional and personal to read. Certain foods and places remind us of that lost relationship, making it difficult to move on but we know that it will happen. When the time is right we will see it as a life experience, learning and discovering new things we might not have done if that relationship hadn’t existed. Take the good from the bad and focus on the positives as you look forward, not back.
My favourite poem from this collection is Mommy belly. As a mother myself I can strongly relate to how much change your body goes through from pregnancy to childbirth. As they grow up we continue to worry about them and always carry the marks of their existence with us. McStravick celebrates and admires her own mother’s body, showing how the stretch marks tell a story. A story of life. That having a Caesarean scar is an honour and mothers are donned a cape, they are superheroes. It’s extremely refreshing to read of women supporting, and encouraging other women to be proud of their bodies. So often there is a lot of judgment and negative views in how women should be portrayed. We should praise all body types, how they can create life and our overhang is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s positive and uplifting to read, I felt united and a little bit more proud of my scar.
I give How To Make Curry Goat By Louise McStravick a Five out of Five paw rating.
McStravick serves up a sensual banquet of poetry that leaves you drooling at the mouth and craving more. Seasoned with a no-nonsense, bold, witty approach to life, McStravick creates enriching imagery that is both striking and sensual. I was surrounded by tastes and smells that brought my senses alive. Every poem made me crave more of McStravick’s cosy warm home-cooking that left a pleasant tangy taste on the lips.
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