Rachael Clyne’s You’ll Never Be Anyone Else presents a direct and assured voice, demanding that we think carefully about what it takes to reconcile being different. She advises the reader to ‘Stop drinking the poison / labelled “Hate me.” / It’s that simple. I didn’t say easy.’ Clyne also has an alter-ego “Girl Golem” reminiscent of a superhero, but based on the mythical man made from clay and spells to protect Jewish people from persecution. Through this empowering persona, Clyne opens up an exploration of Jewish and lesbian identity. Surveying attitudes in the present day and in the past, these poems explore migrant heritage, sexual identity, domestic violence and ageing.
The stories of this collection are often poignant, like the retired tailor in ‘Mr Shopping Trolley’, who takes to shearing newspapers, so that his scissor fingers remain busy. Or in ‘Leaving Odesa’, the speaker revisits the prison where – under Tsarist law – her grandmother (even as an infant) had to serve out the remainder of her father’s sentence after he died.
Clyne’s imagery is razor sharp in its precision, as she deftly weaves different poetic forms and wildly versatile subject matter, even interspersing Yiddish phrases, as part of her own unique poetic idiolect. Take the hilarious poem, ‘Jew-a-lingo (Code-switching for Jews 1970 edition)’ which emphasises Jewish humour as a staple survival strategy.
You’ll Never Be Anyone Else offers a unique story of survival and empowerment told in spite of experiences of violence and prejudice – this from a poet who has spent a lifetime learning self-acceptance and as a psychotherapist helping others to do similar. Treating even dark subjects with playful wit and colourful imagery, Clyne is a distinctive new voice with a powerful message about self-acceptance.