Settle by Theresa Munoz
This book, Theresa Munoz’ first full collection, is published by Vagabond Voices, and has been attracting a fair bit of attention in the wider media, because of its timely dealing with the theme of migration. Theresa Munoz was born in Canada, but became a British citizen in 2014, and the first section of the book focuses on the process of migration and commitment to a new country. There are poems about the process of becoming a British citizen – the interviews, the vetting procedures, the infamous citizenship test (after 62 years living here, I’m not convinced I would pass it, and honestly, does every good Brit know who discovered the DNA molecule?). But the ones that speak to me are more personal – the bond with her sister renewed on a visit to the zoo, or her changed relationship to her childhood home. The Way talks of the family values that provide a continuity you desperately need as you push into unknown territory,
my Dad and I were never late,
never slept in —-
it was our way
back then, to measure our worth.
Her parents share memories of similar experiences – Twenty Two draws comparisons with her mother’s experience of leaving the Philippines at the same age Theresa Munoz came to Scotland, in Alma Mater she discovers that her father had attended the same college when he moved to Canada. And there are new connections to be made, discovering nuances in the Scottish use of language in For Me, or taking a gamble on a new home in On Arthur’s Seat,
what would happen
if I strode along stamped grass
peered over the edge
trusting myself to the town’s tiny lights.
The second half is concerned with the way our lives are changed by the internet, emails, facebook, selfies, google. Our network of friendships may be preserved or extended by facebook or emails, but our loneliness is reinforced – No emails from you when I check. (Wait). We have access to so much information, but also to a vast array of lies and fantasy. Our identities can be made more malleable, but perhaps less authentic. Or perhaps our laptops contain the ghosts of our real selves. These may seem bleak poems, but they have a quite humour, as in Junk, or How.
Some of these poems first appeared in the Happenstance pamphlet Close which I reviewed here. Some of them have been revised, (there are fewer very short lines) and they have gained a quiet serenity which brings their acute perception into focus. This is a mature first collection, and bodes well for Theres Munoz’ future.