Deadly, Delicate by Kate Garrett is a new semi-historical pirate-themed poetry chapbook with a decidedly feminine focus.
First things first, there are no lasers. This is a major limitation and the further lack of spaceships, Mormons, and Flash Gordon quotes do nothing but hurt the collection. However, the purpose of the reviewer is to assess what is presented and not to muse on missed opportunities. In this regards, this debut chapbook is an astounding success.
The opening poem Picaroon, a prose poetry piece with strong internal rhymes, sets the tone for the rest of the book . It prepares the reader for rollicking adventure and is followed by the equally wonderful Keep your cutlass clean, a short wry piece, and Shore Leave, where Garrett makes excellent use of a more poetic style.
Crack Jenny’s Teacup possesses perhaps the most interesting narrative of all the pieces, examining with empathy the relationship between a pirate and her prostitute girlfriend. Its really beautiful. This leads to Astrolabe, which sadly is probably the weakest of the pieces, lacking the narrative power or humour characteristic of the other poems and Back From the Dead Red , second prose poem in the collection, which compares unfavourably in terms of power and tightness to the introductory piece though serves as a reliable introduction to the historic and more introspective middle section.
Give no quarter represents the only mention of Blackbeard in the entire book. This is done to meet International Pirate Law that says Blackbeard must be mentioned in all Pirat- based media. This is also why a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film was made. The poems is great and brings a more swashbuckling focus to the poetry with lines full of action and energy. However, it does lack a three way fight between Blackbeard, Anne Bonny and a shark that just wants to learn how to love. We understand no piece is perfect. Anne Bonny walks out to sea, Calico Jack on the scaffold and Mary Read pleads the belly are all wonderfully introspective pieces from a pirates position, forming a strong backbone to the book. Their informal and honest construction gives them a powerful emotional resonance. These are followed by Shorn, another historic piece. Less introspective than the previous three it suffers from an impersonality and the last line in particular reads more movie trailer cliché than poetic closing line, making it a rare disappointment across a generally spectacular array of poems.
Gold in the lead shot is another introverted poem, swapping perspective to the victim of a pirate. Whilst not particularly stand-out, it serves well a purpose of building atmosphere and highlights that Garrett works best when adopting the voice of a character. Siren, however, is amazing. Perhaps closer in tone to horror than adventure, it’s clever use of dialogue makes it a genuinely chilling read. It’s followed by the equally amazing What God wants. Combining introspection, action, and poetic language, it is an ambitious piece and completely successful in its ambition. The final piece, Splice the mainbrac, is serves an excellent summary and closer alongside being a great poem in it’s own right, returning to address the reader and somehow, in a book about pirates no less, impart sage advice.
The book also includes three (three!) appendices. These are a biography of the pirates mentioned, an explanation of historical terms, and the authors notes on some of the poems. These are all informative and interesting, particularly the biographies, and serve the book well through giving context to poems that already sing beautifully on their own and allowing the reader to avoid an awkward Bing search midread. More chapbooks should contain such appendixes. We will judge all that don’t.
In conclusion, Deadly, Delicate is an ambitious and unique poetry collection. Whilst some pieces fail to shine the vast majority and have poetic gust in their sales. Taking the perhaps niche theme of female pirates, it is more daring and brave than many other collections and transcends its own restrictions. It doesn’t just represent fantastic pirate poetry; it represents fantastic poetry, period. We highly recomment it as worth a read for both poetry and history buffs as well as serving an excellent primer for those unfamiliar with either subject. Its also recommended for Pirates.
Deadly, Delicate is published by Picaroon Poetry You can find out more about the book and buy it here: https://picaroonpoetry.wordpress.com/books/deadly-delicate-by-kate-garrett/ . Alternatively, we’re organising a raiding party to steal some copies for ourselves and your welcome to join us. It’s a pirates life after all.