“the world will feel too tight – the skin of a peach
about to burst.”[For Louise]
These lines from Feroze’s poem,‘For Louise’, from her debut collection The Colour of Hope beautifully and evocatively summarise the collective experience of people across the globe, this year. ‘For Louise’ spoke of a universal hope which the Foreword of this collection also captured – the hope to rekindle hope itself. And so, from the opening pages Feroze’s kind and compassionate desire to uplift her readers and revitalise our senses, our hunger for the simple, the wonderful and the endlessly hopeful, is established.
‘For Jennifer’ and ‘For Catherine’ immerse you at once in Feroze’s hallmark charm and style. Her work is flawlessly evocative as she masters colour, light and the five senses, to weave together poems which are deeply personal yet universal too. In the opening of The Colour of Hope, Feroze reframes the moments we all saw as global lockdowns began; she unveils the beauty of home, of being in love, and finds the simple everyday and recolours it in splendid multicolour. At times, the tone is even defiant in the face of what for many was a time of heartache and loss, striking a chord of survival as well as hope.
“With every step homeward,
I feel a slow, steadfast blossoming.”[For Donna]
As the collection progressed, I found myself quite literally finding myself in Feroze’s work. With each piece being dedicated to someone and inspired by three objects/moments/people who bring them joy, readers cannot help but recognise their own faces in those of strangers. This is what makes Feroze’s work so refreshing; even as she played with the sea, the sun, the sky, the sights and sounds common to us all, each piece felt new and individual. Still, in each piece Feroze strips back our love for these things (whether it be the palpable power of nature or the smell of freshly baked bread) to its very essence, her words made hope – an intangible creature – tangible. ‘For Charlene’ and ‘For Emma’ were particular favourites of mine as they transported me to places of calm and allowed me to locate and experience serenity amidst the chaos of a life lived.
I learned to wear stillness like a blanket.
Here my voice rose to meet the fledglings,
testing melody like new wings.”[For Emma]
Although I could attempt to compare Jen Feroze to poets we all know and love, I think Feroze stands beautifully alone. The Colour of Hope was a project and so even though it is a joy to read Feroze’s words, this collections feels as if it was created for readers rather than the writer. Thus, at no point did I find myself placing Feroze in a poetic context. Instead, I enjoyed and savoured each and every word, and I enjoyed the freedom of this. This is not to say Feroze does not deserve being compared to the greats. ‘For Emily’ is vivid and phenomenal, ‘For Becky’ has the gorgeously sublime line, “Make this garden a summer snowglobe” and ‘For Jo’ is an honest reframing of hope from Dickinson’s ‘thing with feathers’ to a greyhound and a sunset.
The Colour of Hope is a gift. It is a collection imbued and bursting with love and kindness. It is hope reincarnated in forty-five different ways. And despite the year which inspired it, it will stand the test of time as a treat for the sensorium and every heart wishing to feel at home again.