Tales of Woe by Tay Reem review

Continuing on with my current poetry binge, this week I picked up Tales of Woe by Tay Reem when I was sent a copy from the publisher and author. As you can guess from the title, this collection is not exactly cheery; Reem tackles depression, domestic abuse, and trauma. The content is very upsetting so obviously reader discretion is advised.

Tales of Woe is broken down into three sections: Mum, Dad, and Me. The vast majority of the collection appears to be narrated by the daughter, and about her experiences growing up in an abusive household. Interestingly enough, the two poems I enjoyed the most didn’t really fall into the main ‘plot’. Both ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Father’s Day’ read as short stories rather than poems, and I found it fascinating how Reem combined both forms in a single piece. She does it very successfully; there’s still the rhythm and flow of poetry yet the narrative structure of a short story. Reading those two poems was certainly unique experience and, despite the dark subject, found them interesting and engaging.

The rest of the poems are structured in a more traditional way, but by no means are they any less interesting. With a few exceptions, the majority of the collection is written in free verse. Using this particular form was a great choice by Reem as it makes the poems a lot more personal. It feels like the daughter is speaking directly to the reader, unfurling her thoughts and feelings concerning her past. It makes Tales of Woe more intimate and, as a result, makes the reader engage with the themes presented.

Overall, Tales of Woe is a very interesting poetry collection. Reem’s playfulness with form and language means it is fascinating to pick apart the different poems, see how they are constructed. My only slight criticism is that it can feel a little repetitive at points; Reem is tackling very heavy, serious topics and there is no levity in the collection to balance it out. It can feel relentless. Despite this, I do think Tales of Woe is worth reading and Reem has a lot of potential.

Tales of Woe is published by Owens Publishing House and you can find more information here.

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