At Least This I Know is a collection of poetry that explores belonging in a range of forms: nation, race, sexuality, family, future, and more. The book is split into sections – ‘Where I begin’, ‘How I have grown’, ‘What I have lost’, ‘What I have given’, ‘He that I love’ and ‘Where I will burn’ – and I really liked how this took you on a journey through the poems, enacting journeys of the poet and also giving a sense of going deeper into issues of belonging and self.
I knew I was going to like the collection from the first poem ‘November 16th, 2014’, which is a perfect opening for it: a moment at border control, encapsulating fear and desire for a place to belong, and a poem that almost makes you laugh and cry at once. From there, the collection moves on to images of family, like being passed photos around and told stories, and then onto growing up and queerness, loss, and place.
I really liked the use of repetition in many of the poems, used to various effects, for example in ‘By the seashore’, one of my favourites in the collection, in a way that really gets across how certain details can become entwined with grief and traumatic moments. Also, the repetition (and variation) in ‘These pyramids are houses for the dead’ stood out to me, especially with the font size changes, and the poem has such a powerful sense of place and what people can lay claim to.
I also like the understated love poetry in the collection, especially ‘We are young and still have time’ and ‘It had been so long’, which both have a beautiful sense not only of tiny moments of love, but also time, the seeming unreality of it and maybe how queerness impacts that, changing the effects of looking back or thinking of a future.
In short, I loved this collection, which captured me from the start, with its wit, phrasing and powerful simplicity combined with explorations of all sorts of things that make up a person and make them feel like they belong somewhere. Occasionally I had to pause reading at the end of a poem to think ‘damn, that’s good’.
(Note: Thanks for 404 Ink for the proof copy – the book is out now via their website)