As I finished Ruby Dhal’s latest poetry collection (My Hope For Tomorrow), I was on the Gatwick Express from Brighton to London Victoria. It was late at night and I had just been to see a friend’s gig. Life was looking up and I had been reflecting quite regularly upon the changes that have occurred over the last year or so. To sit there, on the way back, with the cinema of London cityscapes passing into view, Ruby’s book was a delectably relevant accompaniment. I give you the context because it gives you an idea of the atmosphere the book inspires.
Ruby is a fiercely optimistic woman. She is empowered and driven, and has kindness sewn into her being. The book is every embodiment of those characteristics and is as much a series of reminders for herself as it is a series of letters to us. If you speak to her, or watch her perform, it’s likely you might hear her modestly announcing that she is “not a Spoken Word poet” as a precaution to her performance. And it’s true, but not in any negative way. Ruby’s performances are still wondrous and engaging, but even those performances are something different from the definition we know of a ‘Spoken Word Poet’. Ruby thrives in the intimate; the delivery of words made to feel as though they are individually crafted for you. That is why reading My Hope For Tomorrow is as healing as sitting in a coffee shop with the world going on outside, and having a friend there to tell you everything is going to be okay.
Again, I am trying to give you a little extra context on top of a review because I always believe writing is also exemplified once you have an understanding of the writer. However, now I have given you a summation of the context, let’s dig a little further into the book.
My Hope For Tomorrow is a perfect title for this book. It is about looking toward the future and seeing something worth fighting for. It is not about knowing exactly what will happen, but it is knowing that eventually, it will be something beautiful. Slightly different from Ruby’s last 2 books, MHFT contains longer, more descriptive pieces. They are continuations of the style you see on her ever-popular Instagram and with the sentimentality of her articles. Each poem seeks to aid you in your healing; it is one of those books you carry wherever you go so that when you’re down, you can reach in and find something to soothe you. There are words that ring true to universal feelings we can all connect to and reminders that are simple but often ignored. What do we do when someone leaves? How can we cope when our soulmate breaks our heart? Does fate exist? Am I destined for pain? All these questions are answered in an endearing and caring manner that puts you at ease even for a second.
There are ruminations on mental health that are powerfully vulnerable and that explore a feeling of numbness, and darkness that we still don’t fully give attention to in this world. This sincerity helps to balance out the joyful optimism and shows that even those that spread positivity, like Ruby does in MHFT, feel pain. In fact, it reminds us that many of us that have felt pain before are destined for greater happiness because we have learnt so much from our struggles. And above all else, that is the core of the book: to show you the “hope” that is waiting for you “tomorrow”.
Even those poor soul in this world who are anti-poetry could not criticize this book. It is accessible to a larger community than most. It is for the lovers of Plath, and Angelou as much as it is for those who enjoy the contemporary works and anyone, in fact, who is searching for a lesson in love and life. It is more than worth getting yourself a copy and making an investment into your happiness.
p.s. I want to further mention that in the interest of honesty, Ruby is a friend of mine and I even purposefully searched for faults as an act of non-bias and still found few. There are scattered kinks that escaped the grasp of the edit, but it does not take away from what a delight the book is.
Thus I shall end on one of my favourite quotes from the book:
“And in the end, it is the person who loves you for who you are and does not try to change you in any way – that is whom your heart belongs to”