Isabelle Kenyon’s pamphlet, Growing Pains (published by Indigo Dreams in 2020), is an exploration of childhood, womanhood and personal value. What’s great about Kenyon’s poems is how they are full of contradictions, for instance in her poem When the worms came, she flits between the innocence and feral nature of children in one short poem. There are the ‘jackals, brandishing sticks’ alongside those who ‘offered their squatting form / a shield’. She also has the delightful ability to give us a dark turn, for instance in the same poem, which ends with ‘and enacted Lord of the Flies / with their worms as Piggy.’
While Kenyon also discusses what it means to be a woman and how society often views them in This is a man’s, man’s, man’s world: ‘measured for worth… from hip to hip to birth a child / hymen intact?’ While in Value, she talks about women’s worth being judged by ‘the number of boys in bed… the lack of ring on my finger… the space between my thighs’. She encapsulates so many of the feelings women experience on a daily basis, while also throwing in some humour. For instance, in The Periodic Table, she acknowledges how a woman’s body can invoke fear in men, especially in relation to periods. In this simple poem, Kenyon jokes about telling her brother about bleeding from the uterus and how ‘(he’ll thank me one day)’.
Moreover, Kenyon also confronts some of the modern issues we have in the world. From being defined and tracked by our search history and background (‘Value: ‘Soon I am / my search history’), loneliness in an adult world (Spaces: ‘crying in a cubicle quietly’), the pressure to earn money (Sometimes I feel so alive with you I can’t breathe: ‘£ is a weary art’), and consent (Cryptic Consent: ‘No is a / sliding scale you negotiated’).
Kenyon’s pamphlet is teeming with images, small moments described in detail, but also big concepts and issues, leaving the readers wanting more. She expresses herself with honesty and a mixture of delicacy and sharpness, which is not an easy task!
I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
To read more and buy a copy of Growing Pains , visit: Fly on the Wall Press (for a signed copy!)
Follow Isabelle on Twitter: @kenyon_isabelle