Title: The Ropes (poems you can hold onto)
By: Various poets (edited by Sophie Hannah, John Hegley and Ellen Phethean)
Publisher: Diamond Twig
In an age of trending internet fads, momentary chart hits and constantly updating mobile phones, on top of the age old hormonal attack of puberty; adolescents really do need something to hold onto. ‘The Ropes’ tries to provide the support that teenagers need, to get through a difficult period of their lives. The poems are themselves proof that adults have gone through a similar thing, and survived to tell the tale. ‘The Ropes’ also provides space for teenagers to respond to the poems, and even perhaps write their own.
Through poetry, the book looks at a massive range of themes. Often the voice of the poems helps adolescents to take a second look at familiar and relevant topics. Love, teachers, inadequacy, sexual stirrings, insecurity, living in a children’s home, racism and identity issues are all covered, alongside reminiscence by the poets on their own adolescence. Some are more inspiring than others, but they all have a sense of hope. Each poem is also accompanied by a short autobiography of the author, and these also actively promote a creative life.
In order to appeal to both boys and girls equally, the book is split into two parts, both with a separate front cover. This technique is especially effective in introducing teenage boys to poetry in a positive way. The boys half of the book features masculine subjects, and approaches difficult themes with appealing humour and silliness. The poets don’t shy away from the occasional moment of rudeness either. “A Puppy Called Puberty” is a very funny poem, about a teenage boy’s struggle with his developing sexuality. However both sides of the book examine complicated issues, especially relevant to teenagers, with intelligent exploration as well as humour.
It is a wonderful concept for a book: aiming to give back the power of words, to a generation sadly abandoned by books. With a selection of poems from respected and award-winning poets, it is also excellently produced. For girls or for boys it is definitely an encouraging introduction to poetry. The book could also be relevant to adults of both genders.