Tina Tamsho-Thomas has created an accessible collection of poems that deal with personal, emotional and political questions, touching on racism and feminism, with a sense of celebration and positivity. An early poem, “The Long(ing) Wait”, advises “One shouldn’t drink alone”
“The evening shot is no substitute
for the longed-for soul mate;
the long(ing) wait
a daughter’s condolence,
a father’s remembrance,
that even white wine
or grape so fine,
It both acknowledges that drink, or another drug, merely delays the inevitable and only brings temporary relief. Whatever it is that the drinker is trying to forget or sideline will still be there when the affects wear off. The underlying problem still needs to be tackled.
“Sons and Mothers” looks at raising a son when a father is absent,
“The burden is not of our making,
choices little or none,
but when our self-respect is near breaking,
we must make demands on our sons.
As mothers we’re often degraded,
as housewives our status nil,
in the media our bodies paraded
as mere objects for men to fulfil.
Is this how we see one another,
has our opinion of self sunk so low?
Then we must reclaim the word Mother,
let our sons reap the pride that we sow.”
At first glance it seems to put the burden of teaching sons to respect women on mothers and lets the absent father off the hook. But the references to images in the media and the little value society places on caring roles gives the poem a ‘let’s make the best of a situation we’ve been lumbered with’ feel. Mothers are being asked to take pride in the role and make their sons proud of them. The simple rhyme scheme acts as an aide memoir, however, the use of ‘self’ rather than ‘ourselves’, although rhythmically correct, feels unnatural.
Romantic relationships seem to get a rough ride, “Sand Picture”,
“When our love was mirrored
you gave me a sand picture
different worlds, shifting landscapes.
. Splintered against the wall
. framed illusions shatter
Another contrite phone call
‘I’ll repair the damage’.
. And the mirror?”
The picture can be mended, but can the damage to the relationship be fixed? The image of the sand picture gives an impression of unstable, short-term foundations.
There is a group of political poems, chiefly focused on South Africa, for example, “Part of my Soul – Tribute to Winnie Mandela” which ends,
“Your inhumane system
I’ve met with resistance,
fighting for freedom
from your bloodstained hands.
But part of my soul
and all of my spirit,
continues the struggle
for African land.”
Readers don’t doubt the passion. But there’s not much room to engage and is the struggle for land or for people who have been displaced, colonised and impoverished?
One recurring theme throughout is the strength of solidarity and friendship between women. One of these celebratory poems is “Tulips & Chinese New Year” where a Chinese friend is also celebrating a birthday,
The repetition of “our” underlines the sense of togetherness.
“Someone is Missing Me” is a friendly, accessible collection of poems that explore the personal, emotional and political in a celebratory tone. Tina Tamsho-Thomas aims to welcome and draw in readers while not shying away from bringing up uncomfortable topics such as racism, absent fathers, violence in personal relationships, in a way that shows solidarity through friendship and finding those moments that create lasting memories.
Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.