The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow by Jackie Morris
Published by Graffeg, 2016
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Morris is one of my favourite artists, and in this collection of illustrated short stories, she proves herself an equally skilled writer.
The project has unique origins. Originally commissioned as an ongoing series of music-themed Christmas cards for the charity Help Musicians UK, the images were created across a span of 17 years. With recurring characters and motifs throughout, and Morris’s signature style tying them all together within the same dreamlike world, she collated the pieces and used them as a jumping off point for a series of interconnected stories.
Reading like fairy tales, Morris proves her prose is just as capable of establishing an ethereal, immersive atmosphere, and beautifully setting a scene as her artwork:
In the still, cold air of early morning there would be only silence but for the quiet music of gently falling snow. No leaves cling to the trees. Beneath stone-hard ground snakes sleep, coiling in cold dreams.
Most of the stories are brief, offering up an enchanting snapshot while remaining vague enough for the reader to embellish. As Morris explained in the introduction:
“My hope is that the threads of stories will wrap around the dreams of others and spin fine gold threads to catch the imagination.”
A Map of Rain Days by Jennifer Hosein
Published by Guernica Editions, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In this collection of poems, Hosein tackles numerous big topics, including abusive relationships, the painful loss of her mother, the emotional strain of trauma, and the racism she faces as a POC living in Canada. All are approached with honesty and verve, employing simple yet effective imagery to hit home her themes:
“I took you in / and you took me over / the way a spark / consumes a forest”
“You have no vision / of the carcass of youth / that lies ahead / the swill and gore of it”
The strongest section for me is the one that opens the collection, exploring the gradual, heartrending loss of her mother. Hosein captures the uniquely painful time in life in which your parents come to rely on you for care, just as your children reach independence, reflecting the mother-daughter relationship from both perspectives. The section that explores her experiences as the daughter of immigrant parents is also very strong, exploring the internalised shame she felt as a child, the flames of which were fanned by the 2016 election result.
“I was always dark / concrete / a blood-spot / on a crisp / white shirt / They tried to / scrub me / wipe me / cut me out / Every day / it took an army / of pains / to prepare a face / to confront the world”
These sections open the book so strongly that the rest fails to reach the same heights by comparison. Some smaller pieces fail to add much to the overall impact, meaning the collection ultimately feels overlong. A more streamlined selection would have allowed the real gems to shine, but I’m still glad to have discovered Hosein’s work.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.