Review: Paradise Island by Scarlett Smyth

A poetic collaboration between a granddaughter and her late grandfather that conveys the comforting warmth of reminiscent memories, along with their lasting impact and calming nature.

Review: Paradise Island by Scarlett Smyth

In this 11-minute poetic audio piece, Scarlett Smyth delves into what she deems to be her version of paradise. It comes in the form of the memories she has of being around her late grandfather, depicted by an immersive and emotional journey told through the eyes of a child weaving a vivid picture of her past relationship, using soundscape elements and poignant poetry that flits between both her and her grandfather.

Smyth first attempts to convey what individual paradise can mean to someone, whether it is a feeling, a concept, a mindset, or a symbolic place. She describes paradise as an “island of the mind”, somewhere that is full of warmth, a place of positivity and possibility, a place with a distinct aura. She depicts what paradise is commonly thought as, a Caribbean island, with steel pans, the sun glowing, and waves crashing into pebbles. But in somewhat stark contrast, Smyth questions the authenticity of that image, as her place is with her grandfather, in his house, watching television.

The piece shows that each person’s paradise is never as obvious as what is commonly imagined, and that an individual’s sense of peace and happiness can be as simple as reminiscing on those that have made a large impact on their life, people they love dearly and cherish lasting memories of. 

The description of the scene is utterly beautiful, with the poetry flowing effortlessly from one object to another, with clever use of rhyming schemes – and also lack thereof. The poem’s fixation on small objects like bookie pens from Coral scattered around the old man’s car, or his loose change “performing to all” in his pocket convey that it is mostly the small snippets of a memory that someone will hold on to, that these things will always remind Smyth of her time with her grandfather. It is a comforting reminder that the most memorable parts about individuals are often things as simple as the aura that surrounds them. She equates that car to a boat that is cradling her to her own version of paradise, the old man’s home.

Each time an object or scenario is explained, there is always an element of audio to accompany it – whether that be the sounds of waves crashing, a car starting, locks turning, or footsteps crunching through grass. Each sound helps to immerse the listener into the story that is being told, and can generate very real and accessible feelings of soothing warmth to anyone listening, evoking memories and allowing a personal connection to the art within the listeners themselves. It’s an amalgamation of the little sounds that most tend to look over, but put to the forefront in a way that aids the visualisation of the piece expertly through sound design. 

Smyths grandfather also recites poetry during the piece, which is at first barely intelligible, allowing for the description of his aura to be at the forefront. Three minutes into the audio, after a fascinating description of the man’s peacock feather laden abode, he recites in a more forthright tone: “Even the artificial flowers are starting to wilt, due to a lack of love and care”. Each description of his surroundings can be seen as some kind of metaphor for his own inner feelings, maybe of being forgotten, unbeknownst to young Smyth. Instead, she focuses on the smaller aspects, such as the television burping when turning on, or massaging the “woolen, silver strands” of her grandfather to get to sleep.

As the poem progresses, Smyth further describes her grandfather and his innate gravity. He will always ask whether someone wants tea – a signifier that he himself is in need of a PG Tips, for example. She also describes his garden, one full of “giggling flowers” and “snakes and ladders over meanders”. It is “the house that Jack built, sitting proudly with a tilt”. The imperfection of the place is what is making it stand out the most, that and it’s inhabitants, but these elements are what Smyth is drawn to the most, seeing perfection – and indeed, paradise – in the imperfect home.

She remembers his trance-like gazing at the horse racing, and the occasional “call from the nan species”, coming in the form of asking whether anyone needs a ham sarnie. Smyth rounds out the memory with the statement: “The wonders of life, I find, are in the memories of my mind”. This is before a more melancholic but nevertheless powerful conclusion, in which she tells of her grandfather's death. She questions the reality of her situation, is it all that remains? All that is physical? The more intangible elements remain, like feelings, smells and sounds.

“Cold tears roll down my scarf,” she says, but not out of sadness. She remembers all the smiles, what he had last said to her. The piece ends with the powerful statement – that he is now sat with her, on the “island inside my head”. It ends on a poignant note, making the impression that even after death, anyone has the capacity to live on through others, and will consistently affect them throughout their life.

Header Image Credit: "Lonely Seashell On The Beach" by VinothChandar is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Ash Edmonds

Ash Edmonds Kickstart

A graduate of Music Journalism from BIMM Brighton – where he now lives – Ash has been writing about everything creative for the past few years. An avid audiophile, he spends a lot of his time searching streaming platforms, record stores and live shows trying to find his next musical obsession.

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