Yield, by Claire Dyer, pub. Two Rivers Press
Last week I received a pre-publication copy of Claire Dyer’s latest poetry collection, Yield. If I enjoy a book, I often post a cover photo on social media, along with a few lines about it. But there was so much I wanted to tell you, reader, about Yield, that I found those few lines had turned into this review.
Claire Dyer has a BA in English & History, an MA in Victorian Literature & Culture, and an MA in Creative Writing. She teaches creative writing, and has four published novels. This is her third published collection of poetry. You know you can sit back and dive into her book without fear of that awful, “I would have cut that last line” experience.
However, as a parent of a trans teenager, I opened Yield with trepidation. The cover describes the book as, “…a journey which sees a son become a daughter…”. Was it all going to be too much?
I reached Page 23, ‘Some Guidance on Leaving’ before I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t start for fear of never stopping.
“Come, sadness tells me, put on the yellow dress / and pack a bag with useful things: / a pair of angel’s wings, a cup of rain…”
On page 25 I read,
“I wrote your names / with a knife on my heart…”
and I found myself holding the book up to my face. Maybe I was breathing it in; maybe I was hiding behind it.
On page 36, in the poem ‘Storage’, children are “stars in jars”:
“I follow / them to school, watch them line up for prayers, the preciousness of knees, / elbows, chatter, light // folding itself blue into their eyes. I watch / them grow to girlhood, boyhood, woman, / man; they are not you, are you and // I remember the heave and push, / you birthing, my breasts spilling empty / for the full of you, and the fear is mighty // you will leave this final deed undone, / never know the pull of this exquisite love, / this love. This.”
I realised the book was carrying my emotions for me.
I was wowed by the exciting form of the ‘Body Clock’ prose poems, and as I continued reading, I find the heartbreak and enthralling language balanced to perfection. We have “waterfall”, “cloud”, “comet”, “glitterball”, “rabbit”, “bluebird”, along with “Clinic”, “Clinic”, “Clinic”, “Yield”, “Yield”, “Yield”. I am seared, I am hugged by this painful, beautiful book.
The weight of the ‘Clinic’ and ‘Yield’ poems and their ordering within the book create a perfect narrative arc that carries you through and keeps you gripped and rewarded by the story.
There were times I related to this book so completely, I almost felt as if it had been me writing it; a precious feeling a reader can experience when a book gets right down to the hidden depths of human experience and reaches out to you from it.
In a video on Seren’s website, Amy Wack says,
“I don’t think about tomorrow; I think a hundred years from now… will this be the representative voice of our time?”
My recent experience of the poetry world has been a push towards writing technically impressive poetry at the expense of having something valuable to say about human emotions; about our experience of living in the world. In a recent workshop, a poet’s draft which expressed an outpouring of love towards her daughter was branded “sentimental”. A line which had made some group members feel an upward swoop of delight was ordered to be cut. On reflection, I felt there could have been some element of toxic masculinity at play. So I believe at a time when the poetry world has an opportunity to be part of the discussion on trans issues, and at this time in poetry’s evolution, this interesting, clever, painful, beautiful book about a mother’s love and her daughter’s transition from male to female could not be more welcome.
Yield is available on pre order from Two Rivers Press here: