Sep 1 2022
Poetry review – EXTREMELY AGGRESSIVE UNEDUCATED & ROUGH: Carla Scarano examines a collection by Hannah Maria Stanislaus which is highly personal and rather out of the ordinary
Extremely Aggressive Uneducated & Rough Hannah Maria Stanislaus South London Books ISBN 9781911232377 £12.00
A different voice from out of the crowd and apparently at the margins speaks out loud in Hannah Maria Stanislaus’s poetry. Stanislaus is non-binary and prefers ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns. They tell us about hardships and the joys of living which were renewed every time they started again from zero, waking up from their failures, addictions and poverty. They face their themes with directness and honesty, speaking their truth in powerful lines that evoke their experience as a single mum who became homeless after fleeing from an abusive partner and father of their daughter. When they recovered they took a new turn, reuniting with their daughter, starting to write poetry and being elected as a local councillor, a role that lasted only five months. They are inspired by the writings of Maya Angelou, and they are reflected in their fight for social justice and in their talent as a performance poet. The charming cover picture is a portrait of Stanislaus made by their little daughter which shows her bond of love and tenderness.
In the poems, Stanislaus acknowledges sorrow for what they did but also an awareness that their daring experiences taught them a lot about being themselves and about humankind. Life has been a difficult search for identity that has left deep scars but also a profound sense of justice and wisdom. Therefore, they learned to accept themselves and others for who they are without erecting any barrier of race, class or gender. Such wise thoughts develop in straightforward lines that often rhyme, conveying a pressing rhythm that emphasises the urgency of their message:
How will our Government ensure ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ When in my UK, the poorer get poorer, the fat cats get fatter? (‘My UK’)
Alliteration evokes a hard-earned harmony that evolves into harsh sounds and sometimes the shouting of the ideals they would like to see implemented in our unequal society. In an ideal vision of a radical change in the world, attaining fairness and love should be the central effort for everybody, starting with our rulers. Stanislaus also voices a wish to be themselves, to express their freedom and not to be constrained by forced roles, as was the case in their unfortunate past that led to desperation. Their rebellious spirit is both their strength and their weakness as it exposed them to loneliness and poverty but also liberated them. Thus, they have navigated a hostile world, surviving against all the odds, and maybe now they can teach others to win in their lives and not succumb to oppression:
There is no hope without fear, There is no joy without pain, There is no smile without tear, There is no loss without gain. (‘Yearn’)
From this perspective, the pain they experienced in the past is often remembered and sometimes its memory prevails; but it is soon followed by a sense of renewal, a call for a transformation that can only be attained through care and love:
When I hear the pouring rain Or feel unbearable pain Or see the bright shining sun Or a gentle touch from someone Or taste snowflakes on my tongue I know I am loved. (‘Loved’) All we have now is today: Painful to hold on, Painful to let go, Painful to truly know. (‘Painful’)
In their journey of recovery and self-awareness, Stanislaus experiences a change in attitude from one of feeling angry and rough to being ‘smooth, educated’ and cool. They have the ‘last laugh’ eventually, being defiant towards the wrongs and injustices of our society but also expressing joy at finally being whole and free and feeling cared for and loved too – a sentiment that they reciprocate in their relationships with their family and friends and with other people they encounter.