Ten Poems of Kindness is another treasure from Candlestick Press. Jackie Kay presents a collection that takes the innocence of kindness and places it into the flawed world of experience, giving us much to reflect on.

Fleur Adcock reminds us of this interplay in her poem ‘For a Five Year Old‘. Here the consciously hypocritical adult teaches kindness to the innocent child.  But in the reality of adult life is it easy to be kind to something that cannot hurt you, less so to people that might? She is teaching something which perhaps can’t be practiced consistently.

And Sylvia Plath seems to find kindness sickly sweet. In her poem ‘Kindness‘ she is suspicious of kindness – is it designed to entrap and control? An irritant that annoys? Here the quality of kindness is limited by her response to it. We see that its value is dependant as much on how it is received as how it is meant.

The first poem, by Jackie Kay, exhorts us to towards kindness by showing what it can look like. Others show the link between kindness and love, whether in the context of friendship, marriage or remembering a mother’s care. This kindness is removed from any sense of being deserved – real kindness seeks no reward. We are left thinking; if it is easier to be kind to the ones we love, then perhaps the more we love the easier it will be to be kind.

Kate Tempest’s poem ‘Thirteen‘, in linking the lack of kindness with shame, perhaps gives us a clue to understanding something more about the events surrounding the untimely death of Felix Alexander. It is Felix’s story of desperate hopelessness and eventual suicide in the face of constant cyber-bullying, that provides the backdrop to this collection.  Kate’s poem by revealing something that overrides kindness, reflects a thought from the booklet’s Afterword, that the resultant tragedy of not being kind resides in everyone involved in one way or another.

This small collection shows us that in a world of brokenness and multi faceted motivations we can break through by teaching ourselves real kindness – accepting the choice of simple unconditional kindness, even where it does not come naturally.

Peter O’Grady

June 2017

Peter O’Grady is a member of Town Hall Poets, the Poetry Society Stanza in Trowbridge. He reads his poetry regularly at open-mic events in and around Wiltshire.