Aware when I received How Not to Multitask that it would refer to the author Jo Weston’s experiences with her cancer diagnosis, I was prepared to be moved. I approached her pamphlet wondering how best to interpret the title (one I enjoy very much, given that I’m not a multi-tasker by nature) and how that would reflect on the fourteen poems within, poems I am pleased to say I very much enjoyed reading.
The opening poem, ‘Neighbourhood Watch,’ is a great introductory piece as it paints vivid sensations in a few brief words and yet ends on an unsettling pair of closing lines, acting as a cliff-hanger for what is to follow: a range of poems that for the most part brings the familiar to life simply but carefully, realising sometimes huge swathes of emotion in clever little turns.
‘Chronic’ and ‘Results’ really captured the fear, acceptance, and stiflingly still yet charged moments of treatment. I felt they conveyed that sense of the inexplicable, the trying to find a way to explain the unexplainable. ‘Rain slid down the leaves / of the remaining trees’ is a simple and yet (in context) extremely moving metaphorical image.
‘Gran’ is a very straightforward poem, but still very enjoyable and one I think would resonate with many readers; for its proliferation of adjectives my least favourite would be ‘Moving meditation,’ although it does describe a keen wet dog beautifully.
How Not to Multitask is a pamphlet full of feeling; for me, the title suggests that sometimes the only task is to recover, and to appreciate tiny precious moments of existence (like listening to the strangers on the bus) undistracted. The optimism of the closing poem ‘Too young for this’ really brings the collection ‘home’ and neatly completes a brave and heartfelt selection.
Rosa Fernandez is a slam-winning poet and sometime proofreader. She also enjoys wearing silly hats.
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