When I first began blogging in 2015, Josa Keyes, writing under the name of Josa Young, was one of the very first authors I posted about. Then I was reviewing Josa’s Sail Upon the Land in a post you can read here. (My apologies to Josa for the quality of that early post – thankfully the blog has evolved since then!)
Today I’m not only reviewing Josa’s new poetry collection My Love Life & Other Disasters, but Josa has kindly provided a poem not included in that book for you to enjoy.
My Love Life & Other Disasters will be published on June 1st and is available for pre-order here.
My Love Life & Other Disasters
Written before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the poems explore the strangeness of isolation, complex variations of grief, the idiosyncrasies of modern dating, and other snapshots of life, both funny and sad. Some poems have been published previously in the Telegraph, the Amorist magazine, and for poetry projects relating to the pandemic. Josa Keyes performs her poetry regularly.
My Review of My Love Life & Other Disasters
A volume of personal poetry.
There’s an almost brutal intensity to My Love Life & Other Disasters that impacts the reader like a blow as Josa Keyes lays bare her hopes, her grief and her frailties. At the risk of being sexist I think this is a collection those identifying as female will appreciate the most as the poet explores identity, the female shape and the loneliness of rejection.
So many themes swirl through My Love Life & Other Disasters that here is resonance and familiarity for any reader to appreciate. The desire to be loved, either by a partner or a parent, the fear and anger at cancer, the small moments of personal triumph, exploration of the prosaic from rancid house smells to the more esoteric like Wyatt’s poetry all add strata that mean this collection gives up more to the reader the more frequently it is read. I found, too, that reading the poems aloud gave them an even greater vibrancy and sense of emotion.
Very few poems in My Love Life & Other Disasters are written in conventional rhyme and I thought the free verse illustrated Josa Keyes’ feeling of being adrift and cut loose by illness, age and grief so effectively. I loved too her use of natural imagery and nods to literary and artistic history such as In the British Museum, as well as her allusions to modernity with references to Tinder perhaps, or the soda bread making craze of the recent pandemic. I found that this wide ranging approach provided a wry humour to counterbalance the more emotional writing that considers divorce, violence and loneliness. The Loneliest Fetishist is a masterclass, for example, in providing an entire narrative in two pages of verse that would translate into a brilliant short play for television.
My Love Life & Other Disasters certainly reads as a rather poignant biography of the poet’s own life, but at the same time it provokes memories and links in the reader’s own mind so that reading this collection is a very personal experience. I think My Love Life & Other Disasters will be entirely different for each individual and that is just wonderful. Read it for yourself to discover what I mean!
An Exclusive Poem from Josa Keyes
Clark kissed Beth beneath the mistletoe
It seemed the start of something wonderful
But all their joy was transformed into woe
Beth couldn’t do enough to spoil her beau
But over her adoring eyes Clark pulled the wool
At Christmas they’d kissed beneath the mistletoe
On Tinder Clark posed as single, met Trish and Joe
He wasn’t all that fussy about whom he pulled
He wasted Beth’s money on cocaine, booze and blow
Mistletoe is a parasite I’ll have you know
It takes hold of its host and drinks until it’s full
Why do we kiss beneath the leeching mistletoe?
It’s unfair to say we reap exactly what we sow
But all our dreams are glass so be careful
That they don’t smash and tumble into woe
Beware of parasites, they have a certain glow
Irresistible to born romantics on the pull
Take care that when you kiss beneath the mistletoe
Those lips are true and romance doesn’t curdle into woe.
About Josa Keyes
Josa Keyes (formerly Young) is a journalist, novelist, poet and content designer living in London. She has held senior editorial positions at Vogue and the Times, and other glossies and broadsheets. Her first novel, One Apple Tasted, was published by Elliot & Thompson in 2009. Her second, Sail Upon the Land, was long-listed for the Historical Novel Society Award in 2015.
My Love Life & Other Disasters is her first poetry collection.
With a BA from Cambridge, she took her Master’s in Creative Writing at Brunel in 2019, supervised by Bernardine Evaristo. She achieved distinction and won the Arts & Humanities Faculty dissertation prize. She has been performing her poetry regularly in London since 2016.