Reviews

Ledbury Emerging Critics: Mary Jean Chan reviews ‘Shrines of Upper Austria’ by Phoebe Power

As one of the four Poetry Book Society Spring 2018 Recommendations, Phoebe Power’s debut collection Shrines of Upper Austria (Carcanet Press, 2018) sings with a variety of different notes, ranging from the gruesome details of an Austrian murder case to a moving sequence written in the voice of Power’s Austrian grandmother, Christl, who left for…

Read More

Ledbury Emerging Critics: Jade Cuttle Reviews ‘Asylum’ by Sean Borodale

A landscape of stone has never been so alive as in Sean Borodale’s Asylum (Penguin): freckled with bones that refute their own burial, and feed off ‘the flesh of the shade’ as though trying to grow back their bodies, these poems are brimming with life in unexpected places. The inspiration for this book was mined…

Read More

Ledbury Emerging Critics: Maryam Hessavi Reviews ‘Spoils’ by James Brookes

Get Google ready – you’ll need it… James Brookes has published his second collection of poetry, Spoils (Offord Road Books): a geographical and linguistic excavation of historical and present-day England. These are poems which find their land most fervently on a linguistic plane, in a passionate engagement with the language through which the material reality of…

Read More

Review: ‘Rope’ by Khairani Barokka

Khairani Barokka’s first book of poetry, Rope, is published at a time in which the lyric poem is being reexamined and reoriented, the form newly charged with political meaning in the hard light of its hitherto unacknowledged ideologies. 2017 was, and 2018 will be, an intense reworking of our poetics in response to previous failures…

Read More

Ledbury Emerging Critics: Sarala Estruch Reviews ‘Malak’ by Jenny Sadre-Orafai

You don’t have to be a believer in palmistry or divination to enjoy Jenny Sadre-Orafai’s second collection, but openness to alternative ways of seeing and knowing is an advantage. The book is titled after the poet’s late grandmother who was a chirologist and diviner, well respected in her community. In ‘Company’ we are told: ‘Families…

Read More

Ledbury Emerging Critics: Nasser Hussain reviews ‘Calling a Wolf a Wolf’ by Kaveh Akbar

John Ebersole’s late 2017 Tourniquet review of Calling a Wolf a Wolf  is harsh. Even when he’s trying to compliment Akbar’s work, it’s backhanded – as in the opening of his review where we read:   Dumbfoundedly imaginative and self-absorbed, [Akbar’s] poetry engulfs the reader with so much turbulent rhetoric you’re surprised he’s capable of writing…

Read More

Review: ‘Giant’ by Richard Georges

In September 2017, Richard Georges’ Make Us All Islands was shortlisted for the Forward Prize first collection. Georges was due to fly from his home in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to the prize readings in London. Georges never made it. Georges was unable to attend the Forward Prize readings due to the storms that…

Read More

Review: ‘My Dark Horses’ by Jodie Hollander

For some, childhood innocence erodes slowly with each new experience. The lucky ones get to occupy this safe, uncomplicated realm – at least for a time. The longevity of this illusion often depends on the adults around us. For Jodie Hollander’s protagonist, the illusion is broken at a young age, a recurring sensation that is…

Read More

Review: ‘Landfill’ by John Wedgwood Clarke

We think that once we throw something away it vanishes, and John Wedgwood Clarke’s poems play with that notion and show us how mistaken we are. Reading Landfill, Wedgwood Clarke’s latest collection and the product of a year spent as poet-in-residence at two refuse centres near York and Scarborough, I was struck by something inspiring…

Read More

Review: ‘Brood’ by Rhian Edwards

Rhian Edwards’ eagerly anticipated pamphlet, Brood, is as compact as a bird’s nest, haunting as a folk song, and as brooding as the title suggests. Brood explores the fragilities of the nuclear family and each line bristles with the channelled focus of a magpie. It is short, even for a pamphlet, with only fourteen poems….

Read More

Review: ‘The Mains’ by Patrick Davidson Roberts

The Mains (Vanguard Editions) is a long, dark night of the soul and is not the place for studied scenes of domestic strife or costive little elegies. The reader coming to these poems for the first time might well be thrown by them; their aesthetic is jagged, frantic, and elliptical. One thing to bear in mind is that…

Read More

Review: ‘Hello. Your Promise Has Been Extracted’ by Ahren Warner

Though you might not recognise it, history is here again. They say the European project is coming apart, and I suppose time will tell. In the meantime, the least an artist can do is to try to bear witness. A wave is crashing over this century as it crashed over the last, and while there…

Read More

Review: ‘Bear’ by Chrissy Williams

An enormous bear with piercing yellow eyes fills the cover of Chrissy Williams’ first full-length collection; stare for long enough and its neutral expression seems to shift from challenging to friendly to curious to sad, and back. The bear appears again in the opening poem – ‘Bear of the Artist’ – cementing its symbolic significance…

Read More

Review: ‘This Is Not a Rescue’ by Emily Blewitt

If Jane Austen was a modern Welsh poet, her name would be Emily Blewitt. This Is Not a Rescue (Seren) is an easy mix of dark and light, scooping its inspiration from the years between girlhood to marriage in Wales. These are old-fashioned yet ageless themes and Blewitt draws us in with her keen eye for…

Read More

Review: ‘Joy’ by Sasha Dugdale

Sometimes you read a work that is so clearly deserving of the accolades it’s received that it restores your faith in things. Sasha Dugdale’s ‘Joy’ – the title-piece of this, her fourth collection from Carcanet – is such a work, having won the 2016 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and rightly so. A playwright…

Read More

Re: Review: ‘The Emma Press Anthology of the Sea’

Avast! In scale, power and sheer unpredictability, there is nothing like the sea to inspire in both a physical and creative sense. Never homogenous, it is often astonishingly beautiful and offers up a beguiling mix of complexity and change on a micro and macro level – from the dance of exquisite plankton to the erosion…

Read More

Review: ‘The Hill’ by Angela France

Angela France’s The Hill is a book-length sequence of poems celebrating Leckhampton Hill near Cheltenham. In its commitment to explore every aspect of the area, from its history to its landscape to the people who meet there, the collection is an all-encompassing celebration of place, as well as a showcase for the versatility and range…

Read More

Review: ‘Terms and Conditions’ by Tania Hershman

In Stephen Pinker’s book, The Blank State, he took aim at the notion of nurture being all powerful; that we are born in compliance with the environment we inhabit. Pinker argued that the new cognitive sciences showed we are determined by what we inherit. In Tania Hershman’s debut collection: Terms and Conditions (Nine Arches), the…

Read More

Review: ‘Swims’ by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s compelling ‘long poem taking many forms’ begins by defining the action ‘To Swim’:   To give up. To disappear. To appear in Vanity Fair before breakfast. To afterwards destroy economy of Greece.   A footnote tells us that the final sentence refers to Christine Lagard, Director of the IMF, describing her morning swim…

Read More

‘The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx’ by Tara Bergin

It’s perhaps a sad indictment of the way in which history is recorded that many potential readers of this, Bergin’s second collection, might not have heard of the lamentable story of Karl Marx’s youngest daughter Eleanor (1855-1898). The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx seems to step into the breach and breathe new, memorable ways into…

Read More

‘The Book of Tides’ by Angela Readman

The Book of Tides is a triumph of femininity, transformation and transience. Daring and unsettling, Readman’s poems subvert the status quo, blurring the boundaries between myth and reality with a visceral feel that draws you in from the very beginning. These are poems that beg to be read out loud, crammed with short, sharp words…

Read More

Review: ‘Fourth Person Singular’ by Nuar Alsadir

To fragment a text is to make it more object-like – gnomic, you could say, in the sense of knowing something that’s beyond both writer and reader, and so capable of being read back (more richly and ambiguously) into the world. For Nuar Alsadir, whose Fourth Person Singular is composed of fragments, sketches, and micro-essays,…

Read More

Review: ‘Proprietary’ by Randall Mann

‘If scent were white // noise,’ suggests the title-piece of Randall Mann’s Proprietary, ‘doughnuts would be that scent.’ One barely has a chance to get one’s lips around the powdery dough of these white-noise doughnuts, this cultural soma, before the speaker informs us that ‘The factory won’t sell at any price. / The building next…

Read More

Review: ‘Seasonal Disturbances’ by Karen McCarthy Woolf

Karen McCarthy Woolf’s 2013 debut collection An Aviary of Small Birds is a book that has stayed with me for a long, long time. The poems revolve around stillbirth of her son, and manage to capture the furthest corners of grief, anger and heartbreak with an exact but also almost unsentimental pitch that continues to…

Read More

Review: ‘Kingdom of Gravity’ by Nick Makoha

Kingdom of Gravity is a powerful debut and deserves a wide readership. Nick Makoha’s reflections on Idi Amin’s brutal rule in Uganda and the equally atrocious civil war that ousted him, which indirectly answer reoccurring atrocities in Syria and the Middle East, are the work of a hugely talented poet, capable of great formal finesse…

Read More