Poetry - Deadly, Delicate

Susan Omand opens her rum ration early and reads Deadly, Delicate by Kate Garrett...

Well shiver me timbers and splice the mainbrace, there’s a bit of a theme to Deadly, Delicate, the new chapbook by poet Kate Garrett. I love reading her work and have reviewed several of her poetry collections before (like Bewitched and Minor Things) so I was very interested to see what enticing twists she could come up with this time...


From the dedication at the front that announces the book is for “rogues and rapscallions everywhere” to the fantastic drawing of the Jolly Roger flag at the back, buccaneers abound. There are fifteen poems in the collection, each one different in style and feel. However, if you’re looking for poetry that rhymes and scans, you won’t find that here as these poems are all free verse. That doesn’t make them any less poetic and evocative though. Kate’s phrasing always works really well for me, like “They tell tales far taller than he stands” and “Tears in her voice skip stones across the waves” which paint pictures and stir the spirit. As with Kate’s other work, and another reason that I love her poetry so much, this collection doesn’t shy away from the brutality of life on the ocean’s wave. These are not all the romanticised pirates of frilled shirts and plumed hats. There’s sex and death, passion and destruction all wonderfully, and violently, played out in the words of each poem.

I think my favourite though is Shore Leave. The alliteration in the first line “There’s a dizzy drop in the saline swirl” just transports me to the rocky shoreline and pebbly beaches where smugglers caves nestle under the high cliffs.

I must also mention the layout of the pages as I adored the way each underlined title is accompanied by a tiny seafaring image of either an anchor or skull and crossbones too. It’s these tiny touches that Kate is so good at. Talking of touches, a really nice touch that lifts this collection above and beyond just being a (very good) poetry collection are the three appendices at the end. Kate has obviously done a lot of research and gives us some fascinating information about the real-life pirates, both male and female, that she has based her poetry on. And yes, it appears pirating was an equal opportunities employer even way back in the 1700s! I knew some of the more famous names, like Anne Bonny and ‘Calico Jack’ but it was enthralling to read some more about their backgrounds and to find out about other pirates that I hadn’t come across before and it would be a fantastic way to introduce the subject to people who wanted to find out about them in an easy, readable way. The second of the three appendices is a small glossary, explaining some of the terms Kate has used in her poetry, like what it means to Plead the Belly, and I now know that a Picaroon isn’t a smaller version of a gold doubloon coin like I thought it was – that makes a lot more sense now. It was the third appendix that I got the most out of though, as these are her Author’s Notes about each poem in the collection. It’s always interesting to find out the thoughts, concepts and inspiration behind any work of art from its creator to give you a stronger appreciation of the work itself.

At the end of her acknowledgements, Kate writes “thanks to the pirates, for everything.” Well, thank you to Kate for the pirates and poetry in Deadly Delicate. It’s certainly a collection worth your pieces of eight.

Image - Kate Garrett

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