Reviews

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

Review: ‘FIELD’ by Harriet Tarlo

The central premise in these 60 pages of spare, open verse is that a single field is important – culturally, historically, environmentally, poetically – and what is exciting about this collection is how Tarlo brings the reader into relationship both with a field and with the concept of field. During a regular train journey, Tarlo…

Read More

Review: ‘All this is implied’ by Will Harris

Will Harris distrusts fixed perspectives. At the same time, his experiments on the boundaries of poetry and prose are underpinned by the sort of phrasing that converts lines into permanent memories. In this debut HappenStance pamphlet, he addresses the ambiguity of identity and inheritance. For Harris, who has an English father and a Chinese Indonesian…

Read More

Review: ‘All Fours’ by Nia Davies

Nia Davies first full collection is ‘salty-lipped,’ kinky and enigmatic. A fusion between the avant-garde and the more accessible lyric, it is a mix of contradictions: open and oblique, filthy and tender, skittish and measured, British and international, serious and, this is what surprised me most, silly. All Fours glitters with knowing and surreal humour…

Read More

Review: ‘Clowning’ by Roxy Dunn

In many of Roxy Dunn’s Clowning poems, we encounter an acutely self-conscious speaker who is struggling to occupy an uncertain space between the safety and familiarity of childhood, and the expectations associated with adulthood that are out of reach. In ‘5AM’ – an aptly liminal time between night and day – the speaker unexpectedly wakes:…

Read More

Review: ‘A Swansea Love Song’ by Stephen Knight

In A Swansea Love Song, Stephen Knight continues his project of seeking to capture on the page, through phonetic spelling, the realities of a spoken Swansea voice, which he began twenty years ago in The Sandfields Baudelaire. The central difference between that pamphlet and this is the step away from dramatic monologue towards a more…

Read More

Review: ‘All the Prayers in the House’ by Miriam Nash

All the Prayers in the House opens with a short and incantatory poem called ‘Vesper’ that shrouds the collection in mystery before it has even really begun. In its broadest sense, it means ‘evening’, but it could also apply to the candlelit evening prayers of the Presbyterian Church. This in itself conjures up the predominant faith…

Read More

Review: ‘Useful Verses’ by Richard Osmond

I’m delighted to be able to begin this book review with the following sentence: Absolutely central to the emotional, conceptual and aesthetic positions of Richard Osmond’s Useful Verses (Picador) is the figure of the mushroom. That might seem hard to believe, but it’s testament to Osmond’s strength as a writer that he’s capable, in the…

Read More

Review: ‘Louder than Hearts’ by Zeina Hashem Beck

In this emotionally charged, overtly political collection, the Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck writes her way through pain and passion, through history and politics, through bombings and journeys and injustice, through personal and political tales of family, parenthood, love, destruction, and loss. Hashem Beck writes with great dignity, verve and directness, never shying from difficult…

Read More

Review: ‘Dragonish’ by Emma Simon

Emma Simon’s debut pamphlet Dragonish (The Emma Press) introduces a poet who is adept at finding the extraordinary in the everyday and the everyday in the extraordinary. Dragonish really whets the appetite for the full debut collection that will no doubt be warmly greeted in a few years. These accessible, entertaining, often moving poems sometimes…

Read More

Review: ‘At Hajj’ by Amaan Hyder

Centred on the Greater Pilgrimage to Mecca – from which At Hajj (Penned in the Margins) derives its title – this collection abounds with interrupted narratives or side-lined stories from seldom heard-of, or listened-to, people. I’ve been busy thinking about the layout of a new collection as I read Amaan Hyder’s fascinating first collection that mingles…

Read More

Review: ‘Ticker-tape’ by Rishi Dastidar

Reading Rishi Dastidar’s Ticker-tape (Nine Arches Press) gives essential insight into what it is to be alive in Britain today. Dastidar’s debut full length collection marries project management and social media, politics with good old fashioned unrequited love, and clearly shows a fresh, original and important voice. Facing the contents page is a flowchart guiding…

Read More

Review: ‘Savage’ by Rebecca Tamás

It’s fitting that the first word in Savage (Clinic) is ‘please’, thus priming the reader for the pamphlet’s themes of vulnerability and need. Indeed, much of Rebecca Tamás’ technique hinges on a kind of self-psychoanalysis, an exploration of the individual’s sacred/profane duality as revealed by ‘love that’s virulent, ugly, nutshell tight, / love that throws out…

Read More

Re: Review: ‘White Hills’ by Chloe Stopa-Hunt

What is it that makes poetry special, different, or unique? What makes a poet important? The answer must lie somewhere beyond form or subject – beyond, that is to say, anything I am able to mention here. The poems in White Hills (Clinic) have been described as ‘weirdly beautiful’, possessed of a ‘strange grandeur’. These…

Read More

Review: ‘Fossil’ by Maya Chowdhry

In Fossil (Peepal Tree Press) Maya Chowdhry brings beauty to eco-politics, taking us on a journey across the globe and beyond, experimenting with scale, time and voice to inquire into and imagine the condition of the non-human world. I found that the emotional power of this collection of thirty free verse poems accumulated as I…

Read More

Review: ‘Alarum’ by Wayne Holloway-Smith

Whilst reviewing Wayne Holloway-Smith’s debut Alarum (Bloodaxe Books), I found myself reading sections aloud to friends in the pub, partly because Alarum is enviably good, but also because I couldn’t quite get my head around it. Hilarious and witty, it’s also terrifically sad, but wears its tragedy so lightly at first it’s hard to notice. ‘Doo-wop’,…

Read More

Review: ‘Home Front’ by Isabel Palmer, Bryony Doran, Jehanne Dubrow & Elyse Fenton

Home Front (Bloodaxe) is a quadrilogy of book-length sequences by four female writers – English mothers and American military wives – whose sons or lovers are enlisted. Each book is a mix of gravitas and (sometimes black) humour often found in true stories, showing the psychological interplay of managing the day to day whilst picturing loved…

Read More

Review: ‘Long Pass’ by Joey Connolly

W.H. Auden said he would always ask two questions of new writing: firstly, “how does it work?” and secondly – “what kind of a guy [or woman or non-cis person] inhabits this poem?” These are questions which cut to the heart of what Joey Connolly does (and does so well) in his first collection, being…

Read More

Review: ‘Complicity’ by Tom Sastry

This promising pamphlet showcases a fresh and original voice exploring the self as proud outsider challenged by family, relationships and the world but refusing to compromise. The poet’s biography tells us ‘he thinks that not belonging is more interesting than belonging’ and this is certainly borne out in the poems. It’s a daring feat indeed…

Read More

Review: ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’ by Roy McFarlane

There’s a quality about Roy McFarlane’s Beginning With Your Last Breath (Nine Arches Press) that makes me want to step away from academic language when describing it, and instead focus on the thoughts and feelings that come to mind. That is not to say that there is little here to talk about – McFarlane’s command…

Read More

Review: ‘Santiago’ by Cheryl Follon

Prose poems have been in season for a while now, but Cheryl Follon’s Santiago (Bloodaxe) has the potential to sweep away fatigue. The collection, Follon’s third, is entirely made up of brief prose pieces; the results are engaging and, frequently, very funny. Prose poetry is not without its pitfalls. For the writer, the risk of falling…

Read More

Review: ‘Incarnation’ by Clare Pollard

In this, her fifth collection, Clare Pollard engages with how we navigate our ethical way through the modern world, with its treacherous wonders. The poems in Incarnation (Bloodaxe) explore contemporary crises and question whether it is possible to transmit understanding and compassion effectively to others, particularly the young. Incarnations – of self-hood, motherhood, and ‘other’…

Read More

Review – ‘Landlocked: New and Selected Poems from Zimbabwe’ by John Eppel

Many of the poems in Landlocked  (smith|doorstop) act like an individual’s ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission applied to Zimbabwean people, politics and a natural landscape playing the reluctant stage to violence and bloodshed. The poet’s job in Landlocked is the bring up the bodies to the surface. Landlocked is my first encounter with the poems of the…

Read More

Review: ‘Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament’ by Geraldine Clarkson

Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament (smith|doorstop) is a vigorous yes, confidently-voiced – at times puzzling, at times transporting – appealingly original. To read it is to enter a world made strange and lush with linguistic variety, audacity and delight. The cover image – of underwater seaweed which I begin to suspect is looking at me…

Read More

Review: ‘Serious Justice’ by Jen Calleja

Jen Calleja’s Serious Justice (Test Centre) is a haunting book, documenting the anxiety and isolation of everyday life through elegant, disarmingly intimate poems. Many of the poems in Serious Justice masquerade as casual observation about a wide variety of ordinary characters living their ordinary lives. At close up, these experiences are often revealed to be…

Read More