In Natalie Williams’s own words “Daydreams in Mermaid Grass” is “a collection of tales, legends, stories, dreams and nightmares in poetry.” The entire tone of the collection is one of epic fantasy, and dark dream imagery. Many of the poems in the collection reminded me of the tone of Lord Tennyson’s lyric epics, though Natalie William’s voice is much looser with more touches of the modern world to keep the reader grounded from a more familiar viewpoint. This voice that is both ancient and modern is very well balanced I feel.
The poetry in this collection is very modern in form, making use of both internal and external rhyming schemes. These rhyming schemes sometimes flow freely, but at other times they seem slightly forced or awkward. For example, in her poem “Ravens Can’t Sing” Natalie Williams begins with the lines:
When I woke up this morning it was winterThe first four lines flow through the reader’s mind very smoothly, and the thoughts follow a wonderful natural progression. Even the last two lines, though slightly less enjoyable are still well formed, even if the rhymes seem slightly forced. Farther on, however, the poem seems to deteriorate in quality, mirroring the gradual images of degeneration that fill this poem.
And before it was spring
Robins are now ravens
Ravens can’t sing
Dandelions painted daylight with gold
Now with ice and snow coloured cold
When I woke up this morning in a long dream wakingThe following lines seem much more awkward, as if the content was sacrificed so that the poem could stick to the artificial rhyming scheme. In my opinion the use of three or four rhyming lines in a row makes it much harder to create a poem that is still emotionally relevant. In the end, my overall reaction to “Ravens Can’t Sing” was that it could have been a fantastic poem, but instead it was just an average one.
As the dawn was breaking
I seemed to be taking
Too long or too shy
To be taking a leak
Now riddled and weak
As winter, relief seemed bleak
This experience was repeated many times as I read “Daydreams in Mermaid Grass.” Some of the poems are really good, but they have small flaws or rough portions. Instead of being wonderful they left me feeling mildly disappointed.
The one thing that motivated me to continue reading the collection was the extraordinary subject matter and focus of “Daydreams in Mermaid Grass.” The poem themes are well designed and each is attention grabbing in its own way. One of my favorites was “The Mockingbird and the Jewelfinder,” a poem full off beautiful imagery about precious jewels and song.
All considered I would say “Daydreams in Mermaid Grass” is a good poetry collection that could have been great. I would definitely look for future poetry from Natalie Williams.