Despite being written during the dark days of the pandemic, The Colour of Hope is full of beauty and splendour – based upon a simple idea: what makes people happy?
Former Young Poet of the Year, Jen Feroze, started the collection by writing a poem for a friend based upon three things which brought her joy. This evolved into forty-five heartfelt poems for forty-five women in the poet’s life, each unique yet echoing similar sentiments and images.
This book is a treasure chest stuffed with jewels. The poet’s ability to capture a moment and give it lasting definition is masterful, and though each poem is personal, the moments and objects are universally meaningful.
In poetry, repeated expressions and familiar symbols are sometimes ringed with a red pen, but here they take on the freshness of their original meaning. Bring on your rainbows, flowers, dawn skies, your sun-bathed afternoons, laughter and bubbles – for these are the things which have made our everyday beautiful during this time.
There are so many golden lines I wanted to pull off the page and hold close to my heart, as in ‘For Andri’:
‘This is a howl for summer unfettered. / For ageless hot nights, rich beats, / for salted hair and perfumed sky / and the ballroom of the stars’‘FOR ANDRI’
The poet’s writings are evocative and full of wonder:
‘The warm winding of cats / like smoke around my ankles […] / In the hazy blue distance / the mountains rise. Cold and certain. / Full of their own stories.’‘for sarah’
Born out of friendship, more than once in this collection we drink tea, sit a while, are drawn to small observations which imply shared time.
‘We’ll sip lemon-scented tea, / while the bees play drowsy symphonies / among the young flowers, / and the sun slips away to other gardens, / other distant shorelines.’‘for gayle’
Food and drink must have featured on many lists, as a large number of these poems appeal to the sense of taste:
‘salt-bite of squid, lemon tanged; / bread that drips with golden oil, / sun-warmed green olives, / bigger than a thumb.’‘For charlene’
My mouth is watering. Then there’s the (much missed) communal eating in ‘For Kate’:
‘happy chatter / on full stomachs. Pass the bread, / mop the sauce – every last glossy drop.’‘For kate’
The rousing of senses closely linked to memory is highly effective at sharing an experience with the reader.
My favourite poem of the collection is ‘For Sophie’, which captures the blurry haze of having young children, and cherishes the loveliness of an idle Sunday morning breakfast:
‘Instinctively wrapping you in our arms / and our duvet when it’s too early / for adult brains to be awake.’
‘Then pancakes, the hot drop / and sizzle of batter and bacon / in the pink heart of the kitchen. / Pools of syrup on the table. / No rush to be anywhere but here.’‘for sophie’
The sounds of ‘hot drop’, ‘batter and bacon’, the simple imagery, and the sense of time slowing down is pure and joyous. The lull of each line invites the reader to step into the picture and savour each moment alongside its subjects.
What a wonderful example Jen Feroze is setting here. In today’s world, we are surrounded by politics, opinion, scandal and unreachable expectations, so it’s hardly a surprise we’re leaving a pandemic and stepping into a mental health crisis. The Colour of Hope is an important reminder – that gratitude, friendship, and seeking refuge in what’s around us is paramount in being well.
This is beautiful writing, full of gorgeous moments, a wonderful book to give as a gift for any lovely lady in your life (including you). To echo the poet’s closing line of the foreword: ‘Here’s to resilience. Here’s to joy. Here’ to hope.’