Diverse Love by British-born, London-resident Sharon Downey is a volume of poems written in an earnest, innocent voice. As the title indicates, the poems bring the reader through different kinds of love–romantic, familial, spiritual, and of the natural world.
Several of her poems exhibit nostalgia for a past, as in “There Was a Time Long Ago,” a piece that reminisces about the era in which “there were no tall buildings, / There were no computers.” Other poems such as “A Walk in the Park” pair melancholy imagery predictably with human longing: “The sun was setting, giving the sky a pinkish tone. / The rain was now vapour and the mist came. / As she walked, she remembered her lover / Out at sea.”
For the most part, the poems use common turns of phrase, and the language is often rather stock, as in “The Unknown Adventure,” in which a cabin scene is described in basic terms: “The sound of rain / Falling against the window, / The sound of wood / Crackling on the fire.”
The most specific, and therefore most engaging, poems are about struggles and sorrows. Three standouts are a poem about surviving a coma; a poem in the voice of an adopted baby who died of cancer; and a eulogy for an uncle. The longest and most suspenseful poem, “Baby Christmas”, is a first-person narrative chronicling a family’s period of homelessness. Here Downey’s stark language effectively emphasizes the deprivation, “Mum sold three bags of clothes / To pay for food / Till we had one backpack each. / A little one for the coming baby” and the harrowing line: “No bed for the baby, soon it will be a box.”
Had Diverse Love consisted of more narrative poems about concrete settings, characters, and events, it would have been a far more lively read.
Also available as an ebook.