Reviews

Review: ‘Significant Other’ by Isabel Galleymore

Isabel Galleymore’s debut collection, Significant Other (Carcanet) is a vividly detailed poetic chronicle of some of the world’s most fascinating species. The first poet-in-residence at Tambopata Research Centre in the Amazon Rainforest, Galleymore forages with wide-eyed fascination in search of new poetic ground. Underpinned by the desire to discover new ways of describing the natural…

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Review: ‘Deaf Republic’ by Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic — framed as a two-act play — takes the reader into a country whose characters move constantly from one stage to another: from the public stage of an occupied town in a time of political unrest, via a local puppet theatre, to that of one’s own home. The first poem of…

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Inter-review: Maria Apichella speaks to Keiran Goddard about ‘Votive’

The poems in Keiran Goddard’s new collection Votive (Offord Road Books) ‘look painful things in the face and tell the truth about how much they hurt’. This anguished and beautiful book charts the rise and fall of a turbulent romantic relationship, ultimately exploring how to let go of someone you love. While eschewing an obvious narrative, there…

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Review: ‘The Fall at Home: New and Collected Aphorisms’ by Don Paterson

Aphorisms are not poems. But the way in which they may or may not resemble poems might tell us something about poetry. The hope is they will tell us other things too. As a poet and critic many of Don Paterson’s aphorisms in The Fall at Home tell us about poems and poets. For instance:…

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Review: ‘Wain: LGBT Reimaginings of Scottish Folklore’ by Rachel Plummer

Scottish literature of the 20th century particularly is well-known for its humanism and pluralism. You just need to think of the likes of folklorist and poet Hamish Henderson, himself a bisexual man, arguing that poetry and song could help heal divided communities and societies. His most famous song ‘The Freedom Come All Ye’ is an…

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Review: ‘Girl’ by Rebecca Goss

Rebecca Goss’s Girl (Carcanet) is concerned with the magic of girlhood and womanhood. The poems consider womanhood’s slow, hushed power, especially how it is inherited, bestowed, understood, and refigured throughout life. In ‘Lightning’, this power is manifested as a natural force that ‘split[s] a tree’, and then trips ‘across a barbed wire fence’ to the…

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Review: ‘In Search of Equilibrium’ by Theresa Lola

In Search of Equilibrium (Nine Arches Press) is a deeply felt response to grief and a closely observed portrait of family, heartbreak, survival, and the evolution of personhood. Trauma is a peculiar thing. Once the immediate shock of a traumatic event or episode subsides, the world becomes a different place. For those who survive, death…

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Review: ‘Small Inheritances’ by Belinda Zhawi

Belinda Zhawi’s debut pamphlet, Small Inheritances (Ignition), maps out the spaces where the speaker has lived, tracing a way back through the ‘dregs of south east london’ to a childhood in Zimbabwe. The first section, set in Thamesmead and Peckham and titled ‘small inconveniences’, re-maps the streets and estates to reveal the struggles and longings of…

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Review: ‘Rabbit’ by Sophie Robinson

Rabbit (Boiler House) deals with the struggle to connect in a globalised, social-media age, where our language is overwhelmed by the clichés of celebrities and advertisements, and our conception of friendship, success and love is as a shallow performance. The fierce, plaintive, stylish poems in Rabbit are about the experience of unbelonging and being distanced…

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Review: ‘The Built Moment’ by Lavinia Greenlaw

Lavinia Greenlaw’s The Built Moment (Faber) grapples with the slipperiness of time, memory, loss and the downwards slope of her father’s dementia. In two neat sequences, these poems gather together the loose, unruly strands of the aging self, along with the grieving observer, and spin them into something beautiful. The first sequence of poems, ‘The…

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Review: ‘The Gaelic Garden of the Dead’ by MacGillivray

Each new MacGillivray collection should be welcomed for its far-out linguistic verve, spiky music and intellectual dynamism. There are few poets writing today as utterly sui generis in their style – like poets of the British Poetry Revival (and I’m thinking particularly of Barry MacSweeney and his Book of Demons) all we can do as…

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Review – ‘The Quick’ by Jessica Traynor

At the heart of Jessica Traynor’s second collection, The Quick (Dedalus Press), is a nine-poem sequence commissioned, so the notes tell us, by the Salvage Press, for the 350th anniversary of Swift’s birth and ‘written in response to the provocation, “What might Swift write about now?”’ Traynor’s ‘A Modest Proposal’, like the Swiftian satire it is…

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Review: ‘Kingdomland’ by Rachael Allen

About two-thirds of the way through Kingdomland, Rachael Allen’s debut collection, the text neatly encapsulates some of its key motifs – oppressive heat, procreation, bodily angst – in a single stroke: The day is an oven. I float outwards in a concentric circle. I will know the pattern of your knee. I sit by the river…

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Review: ‘Milk Tooth’ by Martha Sprackland

The title of Martha Sprackland’s new pamphlet, Milk Tooth (Rough Trade), might denote a wish or an ache, something missing, a talisman wrought from the body, a souvenir of pain. A reminder that we are all animals of a sort, struggling for one or more kinds of survival. Milk Tooth opens with an epigraph from…

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Review: ‘Spikenard’ by Yvonne Reddick

Red in tooth and claw though the setting for many of her poems are, Yvonne Reddick evades any easy categorisation in Spikenard (Smith | Doorstop). Just as she did in its two predecessors, Deerhart and Translating Mountains, Reddick writes a poetry that bucks, rears and darts, but is also defined by the steady and deep-sinking effect…

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Review: ‘Counter Reform’ by Charlotte Newman

Charlotte Newman’s Counter Reform is ostensibly a pamphlet about living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As Newman asserts: ‘It is not about liking things clean. It is about making a mess of human mechanisms, of trying to control metaphysics.’ For Newman, the pamphlet is a ‘not-book’. The pamphlet is split into three sections: ‘Obsession’, ‘Compulsion’, ‘Resistance’….

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Review: ‘Us’ by Zaffar Kunial

The most impressive thing about Zaffar Kunial’s debut collection, Us, might be its willingness not to impress; to leave as slight an impression as possible. The book’s first epigraph (of two) comes from Khalil Gibran: ‘Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it / so that the other half may reach you’…

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Review: ‘Fondue’ by A. K. Blakemore

‘Fondue’ must be one of the more descriptive words in the language. It summons up consistency, texture, a sense of movement, taste and smell. Even the sound of the word is evocative: the onomatopoeic glooping of ue – and borrowed from French, too. It’s certainly more suggestive than ‘melt’. It’s an appropriate title for this…

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Review: ‘Their Lunar Language’ by Charlotte Eichler

Charlotte Eichler’s debut pamphlet Their Lunar Language opens on a wryly prophetic note: ‘We knew everything, playing oracle on the carpet. / Saturdays crawled with our ladybird circus – ’ – lines which capture something of humanity’s uneasy assumptions of power over the natural world. Vahni Capildeo has described Eichler’s poems as ‘modern pastoral’ and…

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Review: ‘Insistence’ by Ailbhe Darcy

The most incisive critical response I’ve encountered to Ailbhe Darcy’s recent work was when I posted a link to the first poem from Insistence on Twitter and Dominic Leonard replied saying ‘wow holy fuck’. That seems about right. It’s not that that poem, ‘Ansel Adams’ Aspens’ (which refers to Ansel Adams’ photos of, yes, aspens,…

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Review: ‘Working Class Voodoo’ by Bobby Parker

While Working Class Voodoo knowingly writes into and through traditions passed down from Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell and other ‘confessional’ writers, Bobby Parker is, emphatically, a poet of his own, disrupting what we expect from the lyric ‘I’. Working Class Voodoo provides the uncomfortable yet absolutely indispensable vantage of being a moth in the carpet…

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Review: ‘Waitress in Fall’ by Kristín Ómarsdóttir, trans. Vala Thorodds

Waitress in Fall is a career-spanning collection of Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s work, comprising 30 years’ worth of poems, selected and translated by Vala Thorodds and published by Carcanet & Partus. These poems by Kristín†, taken from her seven collections and presented chronologically, follow the likes of Selima Hill and Eileen Myles in conveying the quieted desires,…

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Review: ‘I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE WENDING’ by Wayne Holloway-Smith

I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE WENDING (Test Centre) is a startingly imaginative non-linear collection of poems by Wayne Holloway-Smith. Published on unbound, unpaginated sheets in a box instead of a book, the page becomes a playground redrafting the boundaries of expectation. The curious title is taken from a misspelt line written by Holloway-Smith’s daughter, setting the…

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Review: ‘Passport’ by Richie McCaffery

In his second collection,  Passport,  Richie McCaffery explores the realities faced by many international couples who live with the uncertainty of Brexit. The poems are taut with frustrated energy as the speaker, who it is clear from the poems is McCaffery himself, seeks a place to call home. McCaffery is British and his wife is from…

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Review: ‘The Girl Who Forgets How To Walk’ by Kate Davis

A personal quest to re-learn how to walk through cherished, northern landscapes introduces a gifted new voice. Gathering fragments from memory, myth, archaeology and geology, Kate Davis’s debut is a nimble exploration of what it means not only to exist, but to persist. The Girl Who Forgets How to Walk feels to me incredibly timely….

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