Cia Mangat reviews I Did It Too, the debut poetry collection by spoken word artist and SLAMbassadors coach Deanna Rodger.
She repeats this at the launch, and the idea reappears countless times throughout the book’s subtext. Sometimes, the admissions in I Did It Too are strikingly obvious, such as in ‘Paternal Prayer’, which begins ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned’, or in ‘First’. Elsewhere, these admissions are harder to spot. In ‘How To Be A Feminist’, Rodger peppers the poem with antithetical pairs, highlighting the problems that third-wave feminism isn’t always ready to admit: ‘Be invisible. / Don’t be invisible’ and ‘Love women / who own their bodies […] Hate women / when they decide they don’t agree with me.’
It’s rather easy to see poetry as a genius, beautiful, ultimately unattainable thing that’s only ever created by genius, beautiful, ultimately unattainable people; the strengths of I Did It Too lie in the fact that it does feel genius and beautiful, both on paper and onstage, yet remains humble in its sometimes witty, and often indignant tone. In the preface, Rodger wonders whether the reader thinks about her and her poems, and admits her fear that the reader won’t ‘get’ her, or hear what she’s trying to say.
As a reader who often shares this fear of not understanding the poet’s intentions, Rodger’s confession comes as a pleasant surprise. Knowing that the collection is filled with the poet’s own dreams, fears, anger, and love makes it feel much more human – more alive – than other books. Like a person – like the poet, perhaps – the collection is incredibly graceful at times (especially in ‘This is London, Part 2’, which is essentially an ode to the capital, and ‘Silver Focus’), rather heavy at others, and frequently fraught with wit – and often Rodger achieves all this in the same poem. For example, in ‘Poetry as Protest’, Rodger begins with ‘Rent and avocados and coffee’ as a retort when Greenpeace ask which issues concern her; she moves on to ask big, philosophical questions such as ‘Don’t you want to save our world?’ and ‘What is a protest?’ a matter of lines later.
The collection’s innate humanity continues in the musicality of Rodger’s voice: the poet clearly knows her way around a good tongue twister (such as ‘so distressed that my best friend and love, / bond strong like a fist in the midst of a titanium glove’ in ‘Infidelity’). Other examples of Rodger’s linguistic prowess include ‘Kizzle’ and ‘Becker’ (in which Rodger rhymes ‘madness’ with ‘manners’). Because of the importance of musicality in this collection, several of its poems really come into their own once performed.
At the book launch in September, Deanna Rodger confessed that she had never read a poetry book before she began writing spoken word at the age of seventeen, and that she wanted I Did It Too to be the book that she would’ve picked up ten years ago. In the same vein, when asked who she had written this book for, Rodger replied, ‘Everyone.’ Whether you’re familiar with her work from having watched her perform online or in real life, or you’re a total beginner to spoken word, or even a complete beginner to poetry in general, I Did It Too is worth a read.
Deanna Rodger is an international writer, performer and facilitator. She co-curates two leading spoken word events: Chill Pill and Come Rhyme With Me and is on the board of Safe Ground. Her accolades include: ELLE UK’s ’30 inspirational women under 30′, The Female Lead’s ’20intheir20s’, Cosmopolitan’s ‘No.1 trailblazing woman’, youngest UK Poetry Slam Champion (Farrago 2007/8). Deanna teaches the Writing Poetry for Performance module with Benjamin Zephaniah at Brunel University and is a tutor at School of Communication Arts (‘The most successful ad school in the world’). Check out her creative experiment Matter – www.thisismatter.com
Cia Mangat is a student from London and a winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award in 2017 and 2016. She can’t read her own handwriting most of the time, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing things all too often. Yet.