If you have a newly printed poetry publication you would like to have reviewed then send your book / booklet or CD to: Pulsar Editor, 34 Lineacre, Swindon, SN5 6DA, UK.  It may take a while for a review to appear on this page; patience is required. Note: the editor may elect to refuse to review, depending on content.  DP

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #13 (65) December 2012

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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Neil Brooks Gwilym Williams photo David Pike John Plevin Cristina Newton

Photographs above: Pulsar Book Review Panel.  Left to right; Neil Brooks, Gwilym Williams, David Pike, John Plevin, and Cristina Newton .  Andrew Barber, Eve Kimber, Ingrid Riley, J K Sharp  and Lynn Ciesielski are also Pulsar Reviewers - no photos.

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #13 (December 2012), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

 

Take This Journey With Me, poems from the laboratory of John Turner.

Best New Poets 2011, 50 Poems from Emerging Writers.  Edited by D. A. Powell.

The Girls of Peculiar, poems by Catherine Pierce.

Coleman Barks, Winter Sky, New and Selected Poems, 1968 – 2008.

Carpe Libertem in Poetry, Gothic Poetry by Michèle Ford.

 

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Take This Journey With Me, poems from the laboratory of John Turner.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with 129 pages and a full colour cover.  Published 4th September 2012 by Two Harbors Press, Minneapolis, USA.  www.takethisjourneywithme.com  ISBN: 978-1-937928-32-2 Price: $14.95

 

John Turner is from a small town in the American Midwest; and it is from this background during the summer of 2011 that he wrote most of the 100 poems in this book. He invites the reader to take a journey with him. A journey that explores both belief, love and the loss of a loved one. A journey that will “direct your attention to the One who has given us life.” In a way he seeks to build a bridge between his world and our own. But does this work? His world is one of mystery but also a world where there is “rhyme and reason.” He sees life as a “narrow road” where “a few more steps will lead to nature’s finest place.” A place with “no thistles and thorns.” We are invited to join him on the road he believes leads to Paradise.

 

In addition to thoughts on belief and his exploration of “the deepest depths of love,” we share his memories of childhood, of a world of “bikes, biscuits and bruises,” with the child watching fireflies and listening to the sounds of crickets. We take trips down memory lane to the first day of school and “feasting on black-eyed peas and cornbread.” We also learn that the world is not fair, children are left hungry and bare, and whilst someone is being born there is someone else somewhere who is dying.

 

The poems in “Take this Journey with me” come from the heart. One of the consequences of presenting strongly expressed personal views, particularly where religion is concerned, is that not everyone will agree with them. But in the end this doesn’t matter. When it comes to the crunch most of us prefer honesty.

 

Review by: John Plevin

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Best New Poets 2011, 50 Poems from Emerging Writers.  Edited by: D. A. Powell, Series Editors: Jazzy Danziger and Jeb Livingood.  A5 size perfect-bound paperback book with 145 pages and a full colour cover. Cover illustration by: Dan Zettwoch.  Published 2011 by Samovar Press LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA in cooperation with Meridian.  www.readmeridian.org  and www.bestnewpoets.org ISBN 13: 978-0-9766296-6-5  ISSN 1554-7019  Price: $11.95

 

Despite the 'now that's what I call poetry' type title, which tends to evoke 'not bad for a first attempt' expectations, the difficulty of defining poetry itself, let alone the 'best' poets, and the fact that submissions were only invited from America and Canada, a lot of this is very good. I genuinely enjoyed it. The book is a hefty one – 116 pages of poems, a couple of pages of editor's notes and another 30 giving details of contributors – but it doesn't feel it. It is a joy to read.

There is no coherent theme to the collection – it's not all about love or death or whatever, although these do appear. If there is a theme, it's discovery, which is entirely appropriate given the nature of the book. There are poems on the discovery of people and places, sexuality, heroes that are past their prime and the properties of phosphorus. Also bits of volcanic jargon that are good Scrabble words ('aa' is 'rough, cindery lava', apparently). Reading these poems gives the joy of discovery to the reader: I do not think I knew of any of these poets prior to reviewing this book, but I'm glad I know of them now.

There are some fantastic pieces here. One that stood out for me was Ghost At My Door by Ansel Elkins. This is the diary of sorts of a mother whose daughter went missing. It documents the initial hope she will be found ('like Snow White / shepherded by kindly dwarves'), the denial stage of grief ('all this time I haven't cried / the women in the supermarket cry for me'), the anger ('I tore the front door from its hinge / and threw it in the pasture. / What was the use of keeping anyone out or in?') and the hope that still remains, a year later ('I wonder why not even her ghost has returned / though I wait for her / at the door of the physical world'). This was genuinely moving and the story was told with a wonderful economy of imagery. Elkins made much of the timeless symbolism of the mundane to show how universal the fear of losing a child can be, and how universal are the responses.

All in, this is a very strong collection that covers a lot of bases. Poems are structured in many different ways and subject matter differs wildly (everything from how a printing process works, using short rhythmic lines that do suggest the mechanical, to suggested blurbs for poetry books). Two of them are consistent with my opinions of Best New Poets so I'm just going to repeat cantos II and III of Jeff Tigelhaar's Blurbs:

 

II

This book has nipples

in the unlikeliest of places

that nourished me

like flowing geysers

 

III

The poems in this collection are so crackling good

you can crinkle them up and sprinkle them on

your Cracklin' Oat Bran and the cereal will feel

as if it has been outfibered.

 

Couldn't have put it better myself. A good book.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

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The Girls of Peculiar, poems by Catherine Pierce.  A5 size perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 78 pages.  Cover Art: Matt Haber, Delicate Rescue; 2010.  Photograph credit: Megan Bean. Published 2012 by Saturnalia Books. www.saturnaliabooks.org Email: info@saturnaliabooks.com Distributed by: University Press of New England, Hanover and London.  ISBN: 978-0-9833686-2-5  Price ?

 

Catherine Pierce’s poems are flares, signalling the riskier aspects of life like those in “The Child Has Read Everything”. Two of these are storybooks where girls in dirndls are devoured and the future is crammed with graveyards and rivers and red-eyes. Another such flare is “The Drama Girls,” with bird cries: sudden and more obscene than necessary.

 

Her poems are birthday candles of hope, yearning to make true every wish she imagines.

 

In “Because I’ll Never Swim in Every Ocean”:

“Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling

all around me, and me unable to stomach

that I might catch five but never ten thousand”.

 

They long for the magic that breath offers. Above the tree line, steeped in pine and air thin as sun glints, a place (Pierce) would rather be when things are going poorly.

 

Some of her poems are embers of reminiscence like “High School: A Triptych” in which “all night she crawls through dreams”. InThe 70’s Aren’t Coming Back,” she talks about (riding) into longing.

 

Then too, there are unique individual flames. Pierce expresses these in a small series of loosely patterned poems including “The Delinquent Girls,” “The Quiet Girls,” “The Geek Girls,” and “The Drama Girls”. Each begins with the words, Were we never ______? As her poems show, no we never were. They may have been separate groups but it’s more likely that each was a different manifestation of the same self. Pierce is on fire. 

 

Review by: Lynn Ciesielski

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Coleman Barks, Winter Sky, New and Selected Poems, 1968 – 2008.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with 315 pages and a full colour cover.  Cover design: Erin Kirk New. Cover photograph: Jay Tincher, www.playproduction.com Author photograph: Benjamin Barks. Published 2008 by the University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 30602, USA.  www.ugapress.org  ISBN: 978-0-8203-4086-9  Price ?

 

Over more than 35 years Barks moves from short, taut lines to rather loose and lengthy, but he is always a glorious wordsmith, able to pinpoint a sensation, a perception, whether in the early

                                                       “Coccyx”

                                                “fear is a rattling

                                                  in the tailbone:

 

                                                  my saliva

                                                  thickens”

 

or in a prose poem, describing how a wine carries the taste of where it was made, “sitting down to drink the slant and tender face of Provence.” He is knowledgeable and generous in acknowledging his influences, Rumi, the thirteenth century Persian poet of whom he is a renowned interpreter, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, many friends, and his granddaughter’s childhood discoveries, so the reader is invited into a richly populated world. Barks has studied mysticism of several schools and muses on death and the existence of spirit, but he is always willing to listen to and respect the insights of a fellow customer in a shop or a child playing: open to experience, showing courage and a wide perspective, and willing to engage with human woundedness and wisdom.

 

Some of his more shapeless poems did remind me of Kenneth Williams’ spoof boho poet “Rambling Sid Rumpo” in “Round the Horne” (which most of you will be too young and dignified to remember), but Barks analyses himself brilliantly in “Lard Gourd”: one moment the mystic, “Then I get drunk, talk trash to a sweet saint

                                                        woman, fall out my top bunk, scare the children”....

 

Barks’ collected works encapsulate the life of a true poet.

 

Review by: Eve Kimber

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Carpe Libertem in Poetry, Gothic Poetry by Michèle Ford.  A5 size, Perfect-bound paperback book with 47 pages and a full colour cover.  Published 2011.   ISBN: 97814611635565 www.amazon.co.uk/carpe-libertum-poetry-Mich-Ford/dp/1461163560   Price ?

 

I am sat in a global coffee house reading through Carpe Libertem in Poetry and scanning my eyes over Michèle Ford's verses and confess I haven't read much Gothic poetry, and wonder what defines Gothic poetry? The word for me conjures up gargoyles and perpendicular over decorative architecture, and of course the eighties look of jet black moody hair and eyeliner.  I have read the odd Edgar Allan Poe poem and there seems to be an revival at the moment with a Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on the radio which was very good. Michèle's poems are concise and imaginative, colourful even; it took me a while of reading them out-loud in my usual manner to get a feel for this Gothic verse which contains both flickers of light and beckoning love and mystery, passion. I did like the fact that each poem reads like a monochromatic snapshot and the poems where not too heavy on the page containing the different tones of light and dark. Michèle has many haunting muses from spring faeries to the majestic views of the natural world of the Baltic sea and those eyes of Icebergs.

 

Ocean Arms

 

As I stroll along the shoreline

The sea calls to me,

I want to curl up

Inside her waves,

And move in italics,

 

Sunset Reverie

 

It just doesn’t happen

Like that.

The time is always passed.

Those two marbles in your head

Only stare ahead,

Writhe behind the smooth surface

Of this fairy tale

 

Review by: Neil Brooks

 

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #12 (September 2012), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

 

Boris Pasternak, My Sister Life and the Zhivago Poems, translated from the Russian by - James E. Falen

See You In The Dark, poems - Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Returning Channels, collected poems by - Tim Brenan

Devils' Wine, new and selected poems by - Campbell Kay

Passing through the Woods, poems by - David Gwilym Anthony

 

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Boris Pasternak, My Sister Life and the Zhivago Poems; translated from the Russian by James E. Falen.  Slightly smaller than A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 164 pages.  Cover design: Marianne Janowski.  Cover image, copyright: andreiuc88. ISBN: 978-0-8101-2797-5. Published 2012 by Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, USA: (Northwestern Word Classics).  www.nupress.northwestern.edu  US price $17.95. 

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

Tap anyone on the shoulder in the West and mention Boris Pasternak and they will most likely speak of Dr Zhivago the novel.  Do the same in Russia and you will find that Pasternak is better known and remembered for his poetry.  My Sister Life is an early work written when Pasternak was in his late twenties.  Written at a time of youthful passion for love and life but also during a period of political revolution and unrest with its accompanying uncertainties.  The Zhivago Poems were written later in life reflecting experience and the approaching awareness of death. 

 

The young Pasternak saw life as a ‘sister’, a companion somewhat ‘bruised’ in ‘a flood of spring rain’.  And as a young man he was also passionately in love finding in his poem ‘Don’t Touch’ his memory ‘stained with legs and lips and eyes and hair’.  He also seems to have written many of these early poems on the train going from Moscow to southern Russia only to be told by the local village girls that ‘this stop isn’t mine’.  The Zhivago Poems are more sober with a ‘Christian frame of reference’ where the pine trees stand ‘like worshippers at prayer’ and the poet is ready ‘to make all people kneel in praise’.  But in these later poems there are also elements of regret and sadness where ‘eternal loneliness fills all of nature and my heart’.

 

There is much to enjoy and reflect on in Pasternak’s poetry.  The poems enable the reader to see something of 20th Century Russia and the lives and loves of the Russian people. The poems in both parts favour rhyme and meter rather than free verse making the task of the translator, James E. Falen of the University of Tennessee, that much more difficult.  A task he seems to have managed with some skill as the poems resonate with Pasternak’s preoccupation with life and beauty.

Review by John Plevin

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See You In The Dark, poems by Lynne Sharon Schwartz.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 91 pages.  Cover design: Rebecca Lown. Cover photo: Rachel Schwartz. ISBN: 978-0-8101-2799-9. Published 2012 by Curbstone Books, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, USA. www.nupress.northwestern.edu  US price $16.95.

This is very accomplished mature work; one of the finest poems in it is “Ars Poetica, or Soup,” in which Schwartz describes the inward process and demands of writing a poem, comparing it to the process of making a good soup, with humour and complete respect for the high art of cooking. The account she gives of her own working method illuminates one’s reading of the book: Schwartz uses forms ranging from neat, rhymed quatrains to prose poems, while the content ranges from translations of Catullus or Verlaine to observation of nature (“Pink Tree”) to harrowing reflections on death and the dubious permanence of the self (“Not Quite Gone,” “The Afterlife.”) But she always matches form to content in a way that illuminates both: in “Cement Backyard,” the tight formality of the form, the short, endstopped lines, express the father’s strict control of his life and environment, while the slippage of rhyme on the very last words express a doubt, an intimation of failure:

 

                                  “The grass interred, he felt well satisfied:

                                   His first house, and he took an owner’s pride,

                                   Surveying the uniform, cemented yard.

                                   Just so, he laboured to cement his heart.”

 

The prose poems are more expansive, but lyrical, reflective, sometimes teasing the reader by dancing around a central point but never quite giving it away (what is the abnormality discovered in the child in “Coda”?) This is a thought-provoking, and often moving, exploration of a lifetime’s work and discoveries in poetry.

 

Review by: Eve Kimber

 

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Returning Channels, Collected Poems by Tim Brenan.  Slightly larger than A5 size prefect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 46 pages.  Published on 26th March 2012 by: Authorhouse ™ UK Ltd, 500 Avebury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2BE.  ISBN: 978-1-4678-9062-5. www.authorhouse.co.uk  UK price £8.99.

Tim Brenan’s poems are very dip-in-able and there is nice concise feel; I liked the juxtaposition of imagery and thoughts of the everyday world. The more I read these poems the more I got to understand Tim’s philosophical emperors in the landscapes glimpsed. The poems have just the right amount of humour and observational metaphors to keep the pages flowing, linking the places and events from Tim’s memory.  You get the feeling he actually knows the places he writes about and the mix of words and monochrome work well on the page. Tim’s muses are many, returning to the channels that drift through history. I did my usual, sat under a sky of slanting rain, and read the poems aloud.  The jubilant sun poked its head out for a while as I read this collection ensconced between summer and winter, where the seasons can change in day, and realized Tim is not your average poet - he has an individual voice which is nice to read.

Heat

Touching hands and eyes cannot explain;

science oxidises carbon,

thermodynamics produces heat.

We are used to it now.

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Advertising Slogans Appropriate for the Gift of Pickled Eggs

 

"Say it with pickled eggs;

"I saw these and thought of you;”

"All because a lady loves;”

"Made for sharing:”

"Hernia in jar;”

none of the above.

 

Review by: Neil Brooks

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Devils’ Wine, new and selected poems by Campbell Kay.  A5 size perfect-bound paperback book with a two-colour cover and 94 pages.  Cover illustration: anonymous 17th century woodcut.  Published 2012 by: The Phoenix Press, Nottingham Arts Theatre Ltd, George Street, Nottingham, NG1 3BE.  ISBN: 978-0-9566308-2-7 UK price £7.99.  www.artstheatre.org.uk Email: info@artstheatre.org.uk

 

I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to be reviewing with this. There are a series of new poems, then what seem to be greatest hits from previous books, one of which gave this book its name. To coin a musical metaphor, it would be like the Beatles bringing out Sergeant Pepper, then filling it up with already released favourites from Revolver and Rubber Soul and naming the resulting album Yellow Submarine.

But enough of the format. How was the poetry? Mr Kay has an accomplished lyric style. Most poems rhyme and follow relatively formal meter. It is often tetrameter although the ballad style (tetrameter followed by trimeter, rinse and repeat) is used as well. Rhythm seems to have been prioritised: there is a pleasing tick-tock feel to many of the pieces here.

Mr Kay is also a romantic. Many of his poems refer to love in one way or another. But when writing largely about the same subject as every poet since the dawn of language, it is perhaps inevitable that cliché would creep in. Alas, this expectation was not disappointed.

And because most of the poems established the expectation that they would rhyme, and indeed did beautifully up to a point, attempts to rhyme 'did' and 'word', or 'care' with 'here' do jar somewhat.

There are some good poems, though. Like perhaps most creatives, Mr Kay seems at his most effective when he is writing from a position of vulnerability. For example, this stanza from The Death of Love, written after the narrator's lover breaks up with him:

            I wish that I could make you love

            With such intensity and pain;

            Then tell you – it was not enough

            And giving all was all in vain.

I like this a lot. There is a wounded, vindictive honesty to it, an economy and a cleverness to the wordplay. Making love has never seemed so sinister, so manipulative (although to be fair, I have yet to read 'Fifty Shades of Grey'). I honestly don't think I've seen it in this context before. Basically he's saying 'I want to make you love me as much as I love you so when I end it with you, you will know how I felt when you ended it with me'. This is a sentiment so wonderfully complex, it could have been an early 70s Fleetwood Mac song, and it was beautifully expressed.

But while the other poems didn't, to my mind, reach this height of quality, there is some consistent work on offer for those who like traditionally structured poems on traditional themes.

Review by: Andrew Barber

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Passing through the Woods, poems by David Gwilym Anthony.  A5 size perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 74 pages.  Foreword by Catherine Chandler. Cover illustration:  Merfyn C. Davies.  Published 1st June 2012 by Matador, 9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, LE8 0RX.  ISBN: 9781780882741 (pb) or 9781780888378 (eBook).  Price: £8.99 (pb) / £4.99 (eBook).  www.davidgwilymanthony.co.uk

David Gwilym Anthony is skilled at forms including sonnets, villanelles, and triolets. Although not particularly fond of form, I give Anthony credit. He uses mostly natural language. However, there are instances when his wording tends to be archaic.

I love “Summer’s End,” one of the few non-rhyming poems. It paints a picture of changing seasons. “Father of the Man” is a self-evaluation from the view of a man in his younger days with hopes and expectations. “Mother’s Day” is a poignant remembrance of a mother who has passed. However, the same section contains, “To Die For,” meant as humorous (but in my view), is very distasteful.

Several pieces in the section Seasons appear very dated including “Wede Away” and “Hawthorn.” However, I do like “Older the Wiser” which has layers of meaning. In Search of Inspiration addresses poetics. “Triolet” is a clever little piece but “To My Muse” left me confused as it sexualizes the concept of muse. It is not what I think of when I conjure a muse.

“Water Bearer” is a surprising narrative of a potter who causes flowers to bloom by inconspicuously watering them. People and Places has great variety. “Situation Vacant” is a humorous account of the speaker’s overly religious relatives. In contrast, “Four Views” has a decidedly Japanese feel with the beautiful ending, “Plum blossom drifts on snow”. Though Anthony’s work is not generally my cup of tea, it does have merit. Passing Through the Woods is a well-written though,  old-fashioned book of poetry.

Review by Lynn Ciesielski

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #11 (63) June 2012

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #11 (June 2012), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

 

Poetry in America - Julia Spicher Kasdorf

On Misty Plains, poems - Alessio Zanelli

Conditions of Grace, poems - Mark Sanders

The Return of the Magnificent Ninny and Other Poems - Raj Dronamraju

Sing – Poetry from the Indigenous Americas; edited by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Who Travels down this Narrow Road, poems by Henry Pluckrose

 

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Poetry in America; poems by Julia Spicher Kasdorf.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 80 pages.  Published during year 2011 by:  University of Pittsburgh Press, USA, (Pitt Poetry Series).  www.upress.pitt.edu  Cover art: Jerry Kearns.  Cover design: Ann Walston. ISBN 13:  978-0-8229-6156-7   ISBN 10:  0-8229-6156-3   $15.95 

As a professor of English and woman’s studies at Pennsylvania State University, Kasdorf draws her inspiration from her involvement with students which is apparent in poems such as ‘Bat Boy, Break A Leg,’ with its gentle and ambiguous parallels between the young student and the bat that visited during the night.

 

‘English 213: Introduction to Poetry Writing’ points away from the more rarefied aspects of teaching, ‘reminding us that in towns like that mechanics take only cash.’

 

Kasdorf’s sharp eyes observe the pitfalls of a woman’s life in ‘All Things Work Together For God For Them That Love The Lord,’ with its bleak catalogue of terrible events, stoically borne, and in ‘Mrs Baily Turns Up For A Poetry Reading At Hemmingway’s Café in Pittsburgh,’ where a chance meeting with her third grade teacher shows her how teachers can be influenced by their pupils..

 

In ‘The Diary,’ the author describes the duties and hardships of sister Mary who had to raise the five children of her sister Rachel.  The vivid depiction of the stranger side of life is typified in ‘Feast Of The Epiphany,’ where the bonfires transform the town where she lives, and people she knows well become something elemental, from another age.

 

There are many more delightful and moving poems in this collection such as ‘Winter Riff,’ ‘snow scrims and clings to everything ‘. . . ‘in a season of hearts, of love, of longing.’

 

In ‘Nights Like This,’ the poet feels herself part of the complicated and vibrant life around her.

 

Kasdorf’s brilliant collection ‘shows us how our poetry has opened its doors over the past few decades to admit the visions and voices of all kinds of Americans.’ (Kate Daniels).

 

Review by: Ingrid Riley

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Over Misty Plains; poems by Alessio Zanelli.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 102 pages.  Published during year 2012 by: Indigo Dreams Publishing, 132 Hinckley Road, Stoney Stanton, Leicestershire, LE9 4LN. Cover design and picture by Alessio Zanelli, adapted by Ronnie Goodyer at Indigo Dreams Publishing.  www.indigodreams.co.uk ISBN  978-1-907401-60-2  £8.99

 

If there's a word that defines this collection, it is 'substantial'. It is full of substance. Like a thick, meaty stew with flavours to savour, like a Rembrandt portrait that can be picked up by the nose, such is the quantity of paint applied, this book does not shirk from filling its pages with body. Sometimes it's hard to move for descriptive adjectives. It can be fun looking for the noun without the attendant word to describe it.

 

This is not a criticism, although it will not be to everyone's tastes. To take the food / painting analogy a little further, anyone who likes the literary equivalent of cucumbers, sushi or watercolours will find this a little rich.

 

However, I do not like cucumbers or watercolours (sushi has its moments) and I loved it. I like the meat of it. There is always something to chew on, generous bones giving up their marrow to those with the patience to explore. There are some marvellous lines. I particularly enjoyed the description of a woman's body: “its intact blossom, slender, nearly withered for never having been picked”.

 

While I enjoy the descriptions, some are not as inspired as others. 'Fiery embers', 'vintage champagne', 'weeping willows': we've all heard these a thousand times before. And seeing some of the more unlikely ideas, Mr Zanelli is capable of more. 'Unguilty negligence', 'the parental nature of summer', even words like 'edentulous' (having no teeth) get a mention.

 

As a musician and a poet, I also loved 'beauty is truth – there is no other key' from the poem about listening to Bach. Bach and Keats are two of my favourite artists from history (I am using 'artist' in the true sense, not the mere painters of pictures) and seeing them together like this made me happy indeed.

 

This is an interesting and entertaining collection, an achievement all the more impressive given that Mr Zanelli is writing in his second language. It makes you wonder why Abba made it look so difficult.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

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Conditions of Grace; new and selected poems by Mark Sanders.  Slightly larger than A5 size hardback book with a full colour cover and 226 pages.  Published during year 2011 by: Stephen F. Austin State University Press / Nacogdoches, Texas, USA. sfapress@sfasu.edu   ISBN  978-1-936205-16-5 (cloth).  $24.95

 

Mark Sanders was born and raised in Nebraska.  He writes about America’s ‘empty places.’  Places for the plain people who live and work there.   For those of us unfamiliar with this part of the world his poetry gives us a sense of place and the importance of plain speech.  We get to meet the old men ‘who passed us bottles of home-brew’ and the farmer who danced ‘a polka with a pump handle.’  But his poetry also shows us that there are different ways of looking at things:

 

‘Rain falling onto your face from a black sky.

Or, the head turned toward the ground,

the face blurred in the puddle where rain drops.’

 

However it’s the people we meet in his poems that intrigue me.  We see Grandma ‘Butchering Chickens’ scowling ‘as her hands worked over a carcass,’ while the boy holding the knife watches ‘blood spurt its warm stream onto black dirt.’  We learn that life on the farm can be hard:  the smiling father ‘in the middle of his wheat field, arms spread like wings,’ only to see a hail storm destroy the crop.

 

Mark Sanders illustrates powerfully that poetry can give an insight to places in the world that you’ve never visited.  At times words can have more to say than pictures.  Conditions of Grace is such a time.

 

Review by: John Plevin

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The Return of the Magnificent Ninny and Other Poems, by Raj Dronamraju.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and 113 pages.  Published during year 2010 by: Post Egoism Media.  www.postegoism.net  + www.rajbooks.com  ISBN  978-0-578-06029-3  Price £ ?

 

Mr. Dronamraju is a poet’s poet and his poems are thoughtful, insightful and look upon modern existence and the human condition with a philosophical slant, using accessible words and selected narrative or voice, inspiring the reader, with imagery that intrigues, with real human thought and emotion - and life experience; this is spiritual collection of sorts.  Asking the great questions such as, what is poetry? and the celebration of nothing. Mr. Dronamraju has an uncanny instinct to tap into the emotional connections around him.  Dronamraju has very down to earth observations on relationships, marriage, art and architecture and the caste system; he also touches on many other cultural topics unravelling the complexities of human behaviour in the process, showing the reader a landscape that has love, empathy, regret, and human forgiveness, in a modern world of such moral confusion. His way with words conjures up feelings of being rescued from the global melancholy of a fast changing world, by letting us in to share his vivid observations, then gently giving us something to muse upon, to settle our minds into, giving the reader a generous, "flicker of his wisdom," a page at a time, without trying too hard - giving us space to ponder and find the humour, and enjoy these poems. I enjoyed this collection and read at a leisurely pace in between working and writing, having many favourites.

 

The Return of the Magnificent Ninny

 

I am still where I was

All of history and literature flowing through me

Space and time and a kick in the ass

still, I’ve got no money

No respect and no visible means of support

One step away from the soup kitchen line

The scales tip in neither direction

Noble but capitalism makes weasels of us all.

 

Review by: Neil Brooks

*

 

Sing – Poetry from the Indigenous Americas; edited by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 324 pages. Published during year 2011 by: The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona, 85721, USA.  Cover art: New Territories, oil on canvas 2011, by Steven Yazzie.  Cover design by Leigh McDonald.  www.uapress.arizona.edu  ISBN  978-0-8165-2891-2  Price $ ?

 

This is the most inspiring and thought-provoking anthology I have read in recent years. It encompasses work by 80 different poets, ranging from Cherokee heritage to Inuit (Eskimo), from Navajo to Mayan from Mexico, and a number of poems in Indigenous languages – with translations. Among the different voices, there are wise and reflective poems like those of Roberta J. Hill, drawing out universal insights from the experience of women receiving home the devastated shells of their men sent to fight the Vietnam War. There are love-songs – Al Hunter’s amazing sustained images of love as the flight of birds

 

    “In migrations that followed separate stars and constellations

    Only to migrate here again

    Softly singing memory songs of return and longing.”

 

Santee Frazier contributes tough inner-city voices. It seems impossible to do justice to the range of subjects, but some themes return, most notably instances of nature poetry on a different plane – powerful, transcending the limitations of a human observer to speak from the inwardness of nature, as if a part of it. Some of these shade towards the metaphysical: Fredy Romeiro Campo Chicangana writes poems of Indigenous American mysticism, not necessarily more transparent to the uninitiated reader than any other sort of mysticism. There are political voices – Rosa Chavez on the Disappeared, Natalie Diaz on her childhood experience of hunger and deprivation. This is a collection to enjoy and ponder. It acknowledges painful realities and there is much ecological concern, alongside a wealth of beautiful, resilient and innovative poetry.

 

Review by: Eve Kimber

* 

 

Who Travels down this Narrow Road, poems by Henry Pluckrose.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 85 pages.  Published 1st March 2012 by:  Matador, 9 Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicester, LE8 0RX.  Foreword by Hilary Devonshire.  Copyright 2012: Hilary Devonshire.  www.troubador.co.uk/matador  ISBN  9781780880761  £7.99

 

In her foreword the editor Hilary Devonshire describes this collection as Henry Pluckrose's legacy to us, and so it is.

 

It is, in essence, an insightful collection of the poet's personal reflections, observations and investigations into the nature of reality. It is neatly divided into several sections with appropriate subtitles: Time, Places, Eternity, and so on.

 

The poet's voice has a cadence he refers to as relaxed verse. In this anti-war poem the story is presented effectively in this relaxed verse manner. This relaxed verse treatment of Simply Poppies serves the cause well.

 

These, the drums on shire horse flanks

Beat the call to battle.

The soldiers followed, trance like their step,

Its rhythm told them not to fear,

 

. . .

 

Robe-rich priests prayed with them

Before they went to fight

 

. . .

 

I particularly enjoyed the section titled Nature's Touch. The book's title is taken from there. The poem Harmony begins:

 

Who travels down this narrow road?

No one has passed whilst I have rested here

Beside this wall.

 

And then there's the beautifully written Nature's Ways:

 

Choose your path -

 

Cross yellow-brackened moor,

through green-grey dappled woodland,

by edge of sea at turn of tide,

or lonely tarn on rock strewn hill

 

Follow it and be refreshed.

 

Henry Pluckrose who came to poetry late in life once said that words were his paintbrush. He wrote outdoors with fountain pen in ink stained fingers.

 

This immediacy brings the collection to life and with quotable lines on every page it's a fine legacy.

 

Review by: Gwilym Williams

 

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #10 (March 2012), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

 

Solidarity with the Flesh and Other Poems - Raj Dronamraju

Collected Words, The Poetry Album, CD - Frank Burton

Off My Chest, poetry for people who don't 'do' poetry - Mike Fredman

Stupid Poems 8 - Ivan Vannoey

Iota 63, 2002/3 - poems from various contributors

 

*

 

Solidarity with the Flesh Eating Mosaic & Other Poems by Raj Dronamraju.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 80 pages.  Published 2011 by Post Egoism Media, www.postegoism.net  or www.rajbooks.com  ISBN 978-0-578-08502-9  Price ?

I had so much fun reading this book. Life got more complicated, I was late for a deadline and part of me resented having to write this, frankly. But I still did, and I'm glad I did, because I couldn't put it down. It's now 6:49AM, I've been reading this for hours and it's about time I wrote something.

This book takes the reader on some interesting journeys, with surprising and vivid insights into a beguiling range of topics. Some of the titles are just wonderful and in another universe could be Smiths songs: 'The Psychedelia of Children,’ 'Humpty Dumpty Betrayal,’ 'Child Molester Santas' (a nicely apt metaphor for exploitative commercialism), 'Planet Sexy.’

There are poems of heart-rending loss like 'A Cruel Reminder', presented as dialogue between a couple whose baby was still born. 'I know he still lives every time I see that you are quiet and sad' is so simple but so poignant, so evocative of mute, inexpressible grief. There are poems of unremitting cynicism like 'Children's Book Author,’ a great example of expectation management for the young. 'This is no fairy tale / Better get used to it / There are no happy endings / Better get used to it.’ I'm sure Mr Dronamraju would be most offended by the comparison, but this reminded me of the Sex Pistols' 'Pretty Vacant' with its 'no future, no future, no future for you' refrain. But if you're going to be cynical, being compared to someone who was cynical for a living is not necessarily a criticism.

The ten lines of 'For ST' had some lovely moments demonstrating the potential pain of love. It starts 'today I learned to love arrows / because all you gave me were arrows' and ends with 'tomorrow I will shake the hive / hoping to feel your sting'. This is a great insight into love. Even when we know it will hurt us, we seek out the pain, because the pain of loneliness is worse.

Throughout the book, there are some wonderfully knowing lines. At no point was I left with the impression that anything was accidental or unintended. Perhaps my favourite stanza was from the last poem, 'The People Who Know Death', about a visit to an unspecified but clearly serious medical professional: 'The knowledge of death / is gained from seeing it on someone's face / while they are still alive.’

The knowledge of a poet can come from reading their work whether they are alive or not. But I hope Mr Dronamraju is. I'd like to read more of him.

Review by: Andrew Barber

*

 

Collected Words, The Poetry Album, CD of poems by Frank Burton, produced 2007, available via www.lulu.com  Price ?

I put the CD into the tray of my fictional Ford Cortina and cranked up the volume and sat and listened on furry leopard print seats, and was amused to hear the poets voice firstly, a cross between John Hegley and slightly reminiscent of Cooper Clark - but not as punky.  I felt the poet needed to give it a bit more welly, like one does at an open mike event after a few sodas. Mr Burton has a good voice for narration, slow, but needs some added oomph for the content of the poems to come through, or some sound effects/music to make it more like a live or raw performance. I enjoyed the poems and did chuckle and chortle at them. The titles of the poems where hair-lirous like Hair Pieces/Kev’s got a satellite/office prick/ (I can’t get no), customer satisfaction/Bognor headlock: this one made me giggle after listening for a while, to get into the collected words. The poems came across like short comic, almost surreal stories, with a slow narrative pace.

You can tell Frank Burton is a fiction writer and this CD sounds like more of an audio collection of stories to me, not knowing what the author intended to achieve with this first album. His poems are interesting tales but seem to slightly under-do some of the humour. It would have been nice to have had a booklet, to read the poems.

Frank Burton does have that surreal observational humour in his writing and a straight delivery which keeps it very surreal all the way through these collected words.

Review by: Neil Brooks

Off My Chest, poetry for people who don’t ‘do’ poetry, poems by Mike Fredman.  Cover design by Amanda Campbell-Gold.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 64 pages.  Published October 2011 by Matador, 9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicester, LE8 0RX.  www.troubador.co.uk/matador  E-mail: books@troubador.co.uk ISBN 978 1848767 799  £6.50

Off My Chest by Mike Fredman is ‘Poetry for people who don’t ‘do’ poetry.’  At least that is what the cover says.  The cover also tells us that in addition to his poetry he also writes thrillers – the ‘English Sam Spade,’ according to the Tampa Tribune and Times.  I’ve written myself a note to look out for him at my next visit to the local library.

Leaving the cover to one side the poetry certainly has an edge.  We see this in the calculating eye of ‘The Woman Next Door’  who, worried that her neighbour’s wife is having an affair, finds herself looking with concealed interest at the neighbour’s husband who is ‘charming and handsome with it.’  In ‘Gangs of Suburbia’ we learn of the death of a fifteen year old boy killed in a gang fight and try to understand through the uncomprehending eyes of his parents the question ‘how did we fail you?’ knowing that they face ‘a long time to find the answer.’  The book is dedicated to his ‘lovely girl’ and in the moving poem ‘Cry For Me’ she is asked to ‘cry for me when I have gone’ but then ‘move on, my lovely girl, move on.’

Most of Mike Fredman’s poems tell a story covering situations we are all familiar with:  the supermarket checkout; saying goodbye; going on holiday; the loss of a loved one; catering for guests at Christmas.  It is his eye to the familiar that makes the poetry both interesting and relevant.  Indeed there is a freshness in his poetry that could well captivate those ‘people who don’t do poetry.’

Review by: John Plevin

 

*

 

Stupid Poems 8, by Ivan Vannoey.  Slightly larger than A5 sized book with a full colour cover and 46 pages.  Published 2012 by Matador, 9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicester, LE8 0RX.  www.troubador.co.uk/matador  E-mail: books@troubador.co.uk  ISBN 978 1780880 341  £5.99

This is a fun book, witty, light-hearted and bearing testament to a well-stocked mind and wide-ranging curiosity. It features parodies such as “The Rime of the Ancient Paparazzi,”; reflections on words and language such as “The past tense of ‘glide,’”; and playful poems on many subjects, in rhyming couplets. The prevalence of rhyming couplets, I felt, does go beyond a joke. They are well suited to making a play on words or delivering a punchline, but en masse they produce a monotonous background which detracts somewhat from the great variety of subjects Vannoey ranges across – whimsical history (“The Plaint of the Alexandrian Lighthouse Keeper”) and contemporary (“Being stuck in hospital when the man in the next bed doesn’t stop talking to you.”) It is refreshing to see modern dilemmas captured in verse - even washing up, the common cold, and the private life of spoons have their moment in the spotlight. A prose poem, “Listening to the radio and constantly switching between Gardener’s Question Time and a talk on Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony,” stands out for its delicately judged word rhythms and humour, an understated observation of the absurdity of our everyday behaviour and its serendipitous effects . The poems are observation rather than critique, avoiding the controversial. “Ancient Paparazzo” makes Vannoey’s views clear, but very much with the flow of public opinion. Vannoey is a music lover; many poems are about operas; his intelligence is clear; a poet to laugh with, to enjoy, out to startle but not to shock. 

Review by: Eve Kimber

*

 

Iota 63, 2003/3, poems from various contributors.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 60 pages.  Editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch, Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  Produced quarterly.  Sub £10/year or £2.50 per issue.  ISSN 0266-2922 www.iotapoetry.co.uk  E-mail: iotapoetry@aol.com

It's not every day that you get to review a 9-year old quarterly poetry journal.

When Bob Mee and Janet Murch ran the 60-page quarterly magazine from their farm in Warwickshire I collected nos. 65 to 82. I looked forward with anticipation to Janet Murch's unsettling cover photographs. They came in black and white and had a kind of Alfred Hitchcock quality. Like many of the poems chosen by editor Bob Mee, a man who made his name with a best-selling book on bare fisted boxing, they had the peculiarity of being unsettling. Another plus in those days was that the journal was conveniently pocket sized. I often read my iota on the bus or tram. So what can I say looking back as I do now?

I can say that I no longer subscribe to iota and the reason is that the new format is too heavy and cumbersome. I want, as you have gathered, a poetry magazine I can stuff in my raincoat pocket. I don't see the target readership in these days of prohibitive postage. Maybe I'm wrong.

It impressed me that Bob Mee attracted many fine poets from the USA. I think I remember one issue when nearly half the poets were Americans. Here's a taste of Don Winter (Michigan). His poem is 'Old Men at Wanda's Grill':

They are forever hurting themselves,
spilling hot coffee into
their laps, falling
loosely as trees

. . .

with muffled explosions of bone.
They are wheeled
somewhere, out of sight
for years at a time.

. . .

Then, certain mornings,
the front door empties
first one then another
of them, hobbling to the counter
on crutches and canes,
as if afloat on the morning
light . . .

UK contributors included Michael Newman, Tony Turner, Tony Petch, Carol Coiffait and Martin Cox. 

Review by: Gwilym Williams

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #9 (61) December 2011

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Return to Home Page

 

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #9 (December 2011), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

A Heron in Buenos Aires - Luis Benitez

Poems (audio CD) - David Francis

Scarecrow Crimes - John Hindley

War Chronicle - Eamer O'Keeffe

And A Bird Sang - Alan P. Barrett

 

*

A Heron in Buenos Aires; selected poem by Luis Benitez.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 50 pages, (includes notes by Carmen Vasco).  Cover image by Cooper Renner.  Translation and editing by Beatriz Olga Allocati, Veronica Miranda and Cooper Renner.  Published during year 2011 by Ravenna Press.  www.ravennapress.com  ISBN: 978-0-9835982-3-7  LCCN: 2011928707  Price ?

 

Luis Benitez is Argentinian.   His book of poetry ‘A Heron in Buenas Aires’ is the latest of some 24 publications which include essays and novels as well as poetry.  If I had to pick one theme that describes his poetry it would be the place of man in a world full of other beings and environments.  His poetry aims at building a bridge to this world.  This is portrayed in the poem ‘The Pearl Fisherman’.  Here the fisherman seeks pearls ‘to show to men afraid even to come to the shore’.  But when he finds a pearl he sees that there is no shore and realises ‘Those who are afraid … do not know they are walking on the sea’.

 

This is complicated stuff but we are helped by a well written evaluation of his work included in the publication by Carmen Vasco.  In her ‘Luis Benitez; A Consideration’ comparisons are made with ‘The Thought-Fox’ by Ted Hughes and DH Lawrence’s ‘The Snake’.  She points out that Luis Benitez acknowledges Dylan Thomas and Ezra Pound as significant influences sharing his attraction to those things that ‘human beings cannot explain’. 

 

In the poem ‘Let Ezra Pound Speak’ he suggests ‘If you don’t have anything to say be quiet’.  But if you do then let your words ‘… shine, authentic fish in an infinite river’.  In the poem ‘Conversations’  he seeks to understand ‘The story of the constellations engraved in the shine of a leaf’.  A reminder that the atoms that make up our world were created billions of years ago at the birth of the Universe.  The title poem ‘A Heron in Buenos Aires’ portrays the heron as ‘a swift letter S’ that a casual observer does not see.  But the heron ‘saw everything and everyone, swift and motionless above the miracle of the water’.

 

The poems require thought and time.  But this is what poetry should do - open a window to the cosmos.  After all this is where we all live.  Review by: John Plevin

 

*

 

Poems by David Francis, audio CD.  Words and music by David Francis, 2007. David Francis plays – piano, organ, guitar, harmonica, recorder, autoharp, vocals:  Other musicians - Patience Higgins, Will Holshouser, Ron Horton, Kalin Ivanov, Lalo, Jeff Philips and Deborah Thurlow. Graphic design: Claudia Scmauder.  www.edbaby.com/all/davidfrancis  Price ?

 

I'm not sure how to start with this CD (yes, a CD, not a book). Is it a brave attempt to make poetry contemporary and multi-media? Is it a music CD with whole sections that are silent save for the human voice? It is difficult to categorise. As a musician and a poet, I was intrigued and excited by the concept. As a reviewer, it would have been nice to see the words printed somewhere, just so I didn't have to keep going back and hearing the same section over and over if I wanted to check something. As a consumer of poetry, I like to be able to savour the words, feel them running over my synapses, dripping with meaning. But that is not an option when someone else decides how quickly you can experience them.

 

There is something added to hear the poet's voice, the cadences, the emphases. That's why I go to poetry readings. It gives life to the writing. And this does too. And to be fair, this is poetry that sometimes needs a little help, a little CPR. It's not bad, as such. It just doesn't really go anywhere. Rhymes can seem forced, all the more evident because the recorded voice hammers home that they were intended to rhyme. On the page, the thought would not occur. Descriptions can be too detailed, too specific. There is little space for interpretation.

 

The music makes up a decent chunk of the CD's playing time so I should mention it. Francis plays most of the instruments himself, but to be honest, most of the interludes sound like finger stretching exercises on the piano, basic riffs repeated way too often or the sections of a children's book where Tinkerbell wants you to turn the page. If the intention was to improve a half-good series of poems by adding half-good music, it was not entirely successful.

 

All in all, I would have a hard time recommending this. If you want poetry, you may well find the lack of printed words an issue. If you want music, you will not find your needs met here either. And if Mr Francis wants my advice, he would develop the music, which he is arguably better at, write some lyrics and find a singer. If I wanted to buy a pair of trousers, being given one leg and the sleeve from a shirt would not really do it for me.  Review by: Andrew Barber

 

Scarecrow Crimes, poems by John Lindley, including the Elmer McMurdy poems.  A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 40 pages.  Published on 12th April, 2002 by New Hope International, 20 Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 5NL.  E-mail: nhi@clara.net ISBN 0-903610-30-2  www.nhi.clara.net/nhibooks.htm  £4.50 UK.

 

A really enjoyable read, richly worded poems lifted by a broad streak of fantasy, but grounded in the landscapes and waterscapes of northern Britain, Yorkshire and the Lakes. The precision of the imagery evokes the physical presence, the feel and weight of objects, even when Lindley is talking about a ghost: Sylvia Plath in a journal “all paper and cord and blistering glue,” Ophelia “a trickle of heat from a nipple to his fingertip,” – a wonderfully sensual poem, that. The moods vary from humour, wry wonder at the oddity of life, to memory and reflection and acute observation of the present moment. Lindley is excellent when he gives an unglamorous subject an unexpected twist, as in “The day work broke out,”  when the poet’s family home is invaded, Second World War style, by offers of work and the family put up a heroic but doomed defence, precisely visualised. But perhaps quirkiest is the set of Elmer McCurdy poems, celebrating the death and eventful post-death career of one of America’s most unsuccessful criminals. Lindley has fixed on the ultimate anti-hero, and he revels in the fairground glitter and ironies as the mummified corpse reaps the glory the living man never managed: “He turns legend for the day

 

                                                                                     on a rich litany of lies.    

                                                                                     People gawp in belief.”

 

Lindley wastes no words on pity, his elegant, flowing verse has too much energy, and his acute observation draws out meanings which he leaves the reader to discover.  Review by: Eve Kimber                          

 

War Chronicle, a found poem composed of headlines and news stories from March 1938 to September 1939, by Eamer O’Keeffe. A5 size, stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 40 pages.  Published December 1999 by CICATRIX, BM/Cicatrix, London, WC1N 3XX.   ISBN 0-9522404-4-0  £3.75 + postage and packaging.

 

War Chronicle is the most extraordinary historical narrative poem in its concept and execution that I have ever come across. It covers the period leading up to the Second World War (March 1938 – September 1939), but not just in a straightforward way listing the events that between them led to the outbreak of war. O’Keeffe pillages the newspapers of those months for striking headlines and those bizarre stories such as papers love; again and again she comes back to Don Bradman and the test matches; she scours the rest of the world for weird happenings, that have nothing to do with the rise of Nazism. This may strike you as odd in a “war chronicle”, but the author explains as follows: “The light and frivolous events make a balance with the darker things, which made this poem possible for me to create, and perhaps easier to read”.

 

To exemplify the structure of the poem as well as the author’s explanation above, here is a verse from February 1939:

 

    “Electric shocks to protect crops. Man ties wife to railway line.

    Boy is drowned in hot beer. Child drinks battery acid.

    Northern Lights may trigger storms. Heads impaled in Shanghai.

    Japanese leader now a priest. Jewish windows shattered in Prague.”

 

Each verse consists of 4 lines, each line of 2 (head) lines, each sentence of 3 or 4 stressed syllables, the whole chronicle running to 180 verses. It is a “found” poem in that none of the constituent parts are original, but the way they have been chosen and assembled certainly is!  Review by: David Gill  

                                                                                         

*

 

And A Bird Sang, 20 poems by Alan P. Barrett.  A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 24 pages. Published 2002 by Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY.  ISBN 1-903031-17-6  £1.50.

 

These poems drift through time and give a sense of place; they stop to focus on specific moments in time. The poems have been penned with a mature hand using traditional stanzas, observing and conjuring images - the twenty poems travel on a journey. The title of this collection comes from the poem Tace: Let the bird sing (p.23): That drunk in The Globe said it all, damn him: “Let the bird sing!” (‘tace’ is the Latin for candle). I read each poem out-loud at least twice; this is my way of getting the feel for the poet’s voice and is good way to find the rhythm of the poems, to bring them off the page.


There is a lot of tender reflection and subtle humour which is very moving and enchanting. The journey starts with the poem ‘The Humber from The Minerva’ (p.1) which has some interesting lines:

 

“Between the flatnesses of land on either bank,

An eighth of England drains its histories through here

To pass Salt End, Sunk Island, Spurn, so out to sea.

Raise the glass to Then: no tears, in this recension.

 

The poems then move on to explore Liberal Education, 1964; Mid-August, 1940; The Harrowing of the North; The Priory Church and It Was A leaf, she tried to tell herself. The sonnet Eighteen Lines, for Emma, and the humorous poem Girl in the ‘Flirt’ Shirt, have great humour, and all the poems have their own charm and language which draw you into Alan’s poetic observations of life and landscape.

 

Reconciling Distance With Stars:

 

“And so, one night when you are forty-five,

Take a sip and listen for an echo from the moon,

Faint, reconciling distances with stars.

 

I enjoyed reading and reviewing this twenty poem collection which was first published in 2002. There is that enjoyment of discovering something new, even though it’s seen as old, and good poems with great lines are timeless, which is why some many of us still read Keats and Gerard Manley Hopkins. I really liked that Alan had not wasted page space and put some of his fave quotes which always have resonance with Poets and Authors alike.

 

To some more than others;

For those I will always love

 

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.

 

Henry Van Dyke 

 

One of my favourite poems from this collection:

 

This Has Been Written (p.22)

 

Once, this was written

In the wanton inks and alchemy of your Elixir,

Once, this was written

As fingertips described your face,

Made homage to the echoes of your eyes,

Once, this was written

In the cursives of each moment’s movements

And the gracile alphabets of all your ways.

 

Review by: Neil Brooks

 

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #8 (60) September 2011

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Return to Home Page

    *

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #8 (September 2011), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

Walt Whitman' Songs of Male Intimacy and Love - University of Iowa Press

Slip Stream - Paula Green

Terminal Diagrams - Garrick Davis

Hoarding Conkers at Hailes Abbey - Neil Leadbeater

Finnish-American Poetry - Johanna Rauhala, Bill Vartnaw and Don Hagelberg

The Station Master - David Gill

 

*

Walt Whitman’s Songs of Male Intimacy and Love. The Iowa Whitman Series. Edited by Betsy Erkkila. Design by Richard Hendel. Cover art: photos of Live Oak and Whitman, used courtesy of the Library of Congress.  Calamus photograph by Linda and Robert Scarth, reproduced with permission. A lightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound paperback book, with a full colour cover and 167 pages.  Published in year 2011 by the University of Iowa Press, Iowa City 52242, USA.  www.uiowapress.org   ISBN-13: 978-1-58729-958-2  and  ISBN-10: 1-58729-958-5  $24.00

 

When I think of Walt Whitman my thoughts naturally turn to the American Civil War and the image of Whitman hurrying through the wards of the Washington army hospitals seeking news of his injured brother, and then staying as a Wound-Dresser comforting and caring for the wounded soldiers.  As a result Whitman’s Songs of Male Intimacy and Love came as something of a shock.  But in the end these are love poems and one can only ask oneself does it matter who is loving who. 

 

Betsy Erkkila’s book is a scholarly work with as much space devoted to the explanatory text as to the poetry.   In her book she seeks to set Whitman’s poems of male love into the context of his own time – the second half the 19th Century.  A time of hidden love where Whitman is dreaming of a future in a distant ‘city of friends’ where ‘nothing was greater than manly love’.  In his lifetime Whitman compared himself  to a ‘live-oak’ standing alone ‘unbending, lusty’ but without friends,  but knowing in his heart that he could not live without a lover.

 

If you like Whitman’s poetry and want to find out more about his life then you will learn a lot from this book.  But be aware that Whitman in one of his later poems addresses the reader centuries hence with the hope that through his words he can ‘become your lover’.  Review by: John Plevin

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Slip Stream, poems by Paula Green.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 80 pages.  Editor: Anna Hodge. Painting, (hand blown with a straw) by Antonio Murado.  Cover design: Athena Sommerfeld. Published during year 2010 by Auckland University Press, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. www.auckland.ac.nz/aup ISBN: 978-1-86940-462-8 Price ?

 

Paula Green, a New Zealander, in her 80 page book, is an original in several ways. Is it a collection of poems? Only up to a point. Is it a long poem on a central theme i.e. the history of her illness, her hospital experiences, her operation? Again up to a point. It’s not a long poem, rather a sequence of individual poems, some as short as two lines (but not couplets). Rhymes play no part in this poetry, any more than do traditional verse forms and metres. So free verse. However, the poet is well aware of her critics e.g. p.65 :

 

That seems fine, they always say. / She pictures the same story all mixed up.

 

To give you an idea of her colloquial style and bizarre flow of ideas, her introductory poem runs as follows:

 

                             Sometimes she worries that she is not worried.

                             She is very calm. Like the white page before she begins writing

                             or the water in the cat’s bowl.

                             She wonders if she should yell at passing cars.

                             Or get wild and pull out all the weeds along the grass verge.

                             She wants to get on with things.

 

And so she does. She’s addicted to making lists (“She makes a list of things to do because/all about her life goes on, merrily, sweetly…”) She loves cryptic crosswords. She adores food. Here’s her appalled reaction to a hospital dinner:

 

                             Two breasts covered in watery glaze,

                             one limp potato mound with

                             one stringy pumpkin mound

                             one fish fillet weathered like the dunes

                             and one ladle of bleached sauce.

                             There is also one bowl of sugary custard

                             beneath five syrupy peaches.

 

In brief, Slip Stream is a bounding outpouring that sweeps you along, maybe protesting it isn’t really poetry at all, but irresistible whatever it is.   Review by: David Gill

*

                                                                                                                                            

Terminal Diagrams, poems by Garrick Davis. Cover photograph by James D Steele, cover design by Beth Pratt.  www.ohioswallow.com   Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 61 pages.  Published during year 2010 by Swallow Press / Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio 45701, USA.  ISBN-13: 978-0-8040-1131-0  Price ?

 

What I first noticed about this book was its striking cover. Some books have basic artwork on not so shiny covers.  The cover of Garrick Davis’s book depicts his lady getting out of a gleaming Maserati - I was instantly intrigued by the book’s silvered exterior which caught the sunlight while I sat and read it, and was nicely surprised by the content of this collection. They say “never judge a book by its cover,” but we all do somehow.

 

Garrick Davis finely crafted poems describe a very contemporary world with an almost urban apocalyptic eye, inspired by maps and airport lounges, where the reader is launched into this landscape of the metal of technology of our age, where the poet investigates the mechanical furniture of a futuristic land and the impact this has on human experience, to revolving almost Eliot-esq poems. These enigmatic stanzas made me think of T.S Eliot’s the Waste Land. Whether his subject is a car smash on the freeways of Los Angeles or the Book of Revelation transmitted by cable television, Davis’s stanzas conjure a kind of futuristic noir. In poem after poem, he examines the artistic possibilities of the machine, and its alterations of human experience, with a modern spirit that - as Charles Baudelaire defined it - has embraced “the sublimity and monstrousness of something new.”

 

When some look on the modern world, they look upon it with a certain degree of shock or future phobia. "Terminal Diagrams" is a collection of poetry from Garrick Davis as he presents his own set of eyes on the material world, and how the entire process has been mechanized and polished to a shiny surface. With such design and thought, "Terminal Diagrams" is sure to entertain as it provokes and travels. "Passing over the Suburbs of San Diego": From an airplane, the canyons veined with blue --/and the decadence of each drained swimming pool of the suburbs of the.

 

The poems have great titles and there is a music in these poems that resonate of the now of our “Ultramodern counter culture that sing out a grid-like mirror of star clusters,” which is a line from the poets verse; I liked the rhythmic surge in "Metal Machine Music," with its title borrowed from a Lou Reed track, gives us "the pre-millennial tension" of "blips and beeps/instead of notes" of modern phones and introduces us to the important symbol of "muzak," here "a muzak-of-the-spheres." Muzak, that lift background music symphonist, runs throughout Terminal Diagrams, reminding us of the future’s environment, restricting and changing our human behaviour. I enjoyed this collection of poems for its Modernist shiny vision and great use of language.

 

ULTRAMODERN

 

Everywhere, telephones are ringing

And answered by people paid

To sit and wait for someone to speak

 

But when the clock says they can leave,

They listen

It is evening.

 

Dusk light, strained through smog,

Through radioactive dust

In the atmospheres,

 

METAL MACHINE MUSIC

 

These blips and beeps,

Instead of notes,

one hears

Are a machine’s conceits.

 

Review by: Neil Brooks

*

Hoarding Conkers at Hailes Abbey, poems by Neil Leadbeater A5 size, perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 53 pages.  Published on 1st May, 2010 by The Littoral Press, 18 Bendlowes Road, Great Bardfield, Braintree, Essex, CM7 4RR.  Cover photograph by Clare Harvey.  ISBN 978-0955-8937-2-8

 

Neil Leadbeater focuses with sharp observation on the natural world and the delight and amazement even its smallest and most obscure arrangements inspire in him. He draws on his childhood, Middle Eastern travels, and he must surely be a fisherman – one set of  poems homes in on British river fish. He writes with knowledge and sympathy, knowing how to value stillness and the microscopically small, conveying the fish’s view of the world. He uses natural forms and events as images of wider ideas, concepts on a human scale, but does it quietly, with an element of surprise but without fanfare or fuss:

 

                  “Now as we peer into its hollow rim

                  how closely we have come to see vapour moths and beetles

                  whose quiet industry has worked its way

                  into the dead centre

                  of everything.”

 

Stylistically these poems have the feeling of miniatures echoing the honed natural selection of their subjects, form and function matched. Leadbeater shows his erudition with occasional Latin names, an echo of the Psalms or Moliere, and he has a fondness for breaking into rhyme in the final lines of poems. At moments there can be an odd balance between passion and humour, poking fun even, as when Rachel holds her newborn son in her arms and knows she will remember “his hue and his cry” for ever – seeming a wilfully odd expression for the colour and wail of a newborn.

 

This is a striking collection, full of character and a living sense of the natural world.  Review by: Eve Kimber

*

 

 

Finnish-American Poetry by Johanna Rauhala, Bill Vartnaw and Don Hagelberg. A5 Size, untrimmed stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 58 pages.  500 printed. Published during year 2010.  Available thro’ Don Hagelberg, F.A.H.A Palms, Unit 107, 193 W. Verano Ave, Sonoma, CA95476 – 5343, USA.  $6.95 + $3.98 Shipping.  E-mail: dahagelberg@hotmail.com

 

I'll be honest about this. I had no idea what to expect. My knowledge of Finland and its culture is pretty much limited to knowing that Nokia come from there and Abba don't. But, as I discovered, some good poets have some Finnish blood.

 

This book is a collection by three of them. The slim volume is only 58 pages long including notes but there is a wide range of poems on offer. There are pantoums, shape poems, traditional poems written in cantos and more modern pieces that are heavy on enjambment but weak on punctuation or capital letters. There are poems on the demons that plague Vietnam veterans (my favourite one here), poets on strike (who would notice?), the attractiveness of nature as compared to technology, the feeding of angels by the roadside and some amusing wordplay. I enjoyed 'when the grain crows sigh high / when the grain grows scythe high'.

 

The limited budget of the production does cause some issues. One poem, 'There Are Still Tigers', for example, has several parenthesised numbers included within the text. My first impression was that it was an experiment with the 'modern' in a way that didn't really work. Were they random? Were they intended to signify a score of some sort? A progression? When I read the book to the end, I discovered that they were actually footnotes. I'm glad I didn't read the poem aloud at some open mic. I wouldn't have known how to pronounce the brackets anyway.

 

All in all, though, this was a good collection of poems that let me see a world I never knew existed – the Finnish poetry circles of America. While there were a few poems that were specifically about Finland, the majority were just about life.    

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

*

 

The Station Master, a sequence of imagined encounters linking Joseph Conrad, Josef Löwy, (Kafka’s uncle), and Franz Kafka; by David Gill. A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 16 pages.  Published during year 2006. No ISBN.  Price ?  Enquires via Pulsar editor.

 

In August 1914, Franz Kafka wrote a fragment of a short story in his diary under the title ‘Erinnerungen an Die Kaldabahn,’ (recollections of the Kalda Railway).  David Gill takes this brief fragment and makes it the basis of his account of Kafka’s uncle who operated a trading station in, apparently, the Belgian Congo, although there is no evidence of this.

 

On the basis of the fact that Kafka’s uncle, Josef Löwy, left from Ostend in January 1891 and that Joseph Conrad was passing through the port, also on his way to the Congo in the same month, Gill spins his fantasy of meetings between the two men, first in Ostend and then in the Congo.

 

All this is set out in a sort of narrative poem, although the narrative, like Kafka’s fragment, peters out in both cases.  The problem here is that, apart from a nod in the direction of ‘Heart of Darkness’ the letters tell us very little about Joseph Conrad.  His sense of disillusion concerning the ‘White Man’s Burden’ is referred to in passing, but little else of value is revealed. Similarly, Gill has nothing of note to say about Kafka himself.  As he points out himself the writer was only seven years old when the entirely fictional letters were written.  The loosely constructed narrative verse form of the letters and Gill’s undoubted ability to establish a mood, a sense of underlying threat in his writing is ultimately not enough to compensate for this fundamental flaw.  Review by: Ingrid Riley

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #7 (June 2011), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

AUP New Poets 4 - Harry Jones, Erin Scudder & Chris Tse

Window on the World - Ingrid Riley

A Miscellany of Muses - Derek Malpass

The Sons of Camus, Writers International Journal - various contributors

Pennine Ink 29 - various contributors

The Hawk's Mewl and other poems - Nigel Humphreys

Vespula Vanishes and other poems - A C Evans

The Invention of Butterfly - Christopher James

Dole Anthems - Paul Tanner

Carpe Naturae in Poetry - Michèle Ford

Steal Away Boy - David Mitchell

 

*

AUP New Poets 4, (Auckland University Press), published March 2011. Poems by Harry Jones, Erin Scudder and Chris Tse.  Slightly larger than A5, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 89 pages.  Published by Auckland University Press, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. Cover design and illustration by: Christine Hansen. ISBN 978-1-86940-474-1  £12.50 

Handsome in eye-catching orange. Full marks to cover designer Christine Hansen. So that said, what's in it?

The three poets, all resident in New Zealand, are very different when it comes to form, subject and biographical background and yet they sit well in here together, and they are all in confessional mood.

 

A few lines from the poem Dog by Canadian ex-pat Erin Scudder. She sums up the 'feel' I get from much of the poetry in this volume.

 

A dog travels, down the road, and up the stairs,

bringing with it what it is:

glistening coat, plain health,

silent legs, an easy and silent pace,

 

Harry Jones sums up the 'sense' I get from almost all the poetry in here. In fact he touches on an important aspect that every new poet needs to be aware of. Transparency. Clear glass to see through. The poem Curtains hangs neatly together over 110 or so lines.

 

Because we have no curtains,

We see the dark when it comes                                                                                                                                                             

Although even this excellent poet, a kind of Ted Hughes crossed with Bukowski, admits that even he is not completely beyond the pale. He might be persuaded to follow the decorum and fashion one day...but that's in the far future one feels.

We've made no decision

Never to have curtains again.

 

With Sing Joe the third poet, Chris Tse, explores an incomer's place in the world through the medium of his Chinese ancestry. He takes his chopsticks and sifts through the noodles.

 

Just another son missing

in a long line of dislocations

from the motherland

from a mother tongue

 

Three new poets with something to say, and each saying it with maturity and confidence.

 

Review by: Gwilym Williams

Window on the World, poems by Ingrid Riley.  Slightly smaller than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 79 pages.  Edited by Dr Graham Riley.  Cover design by Clare Brayshaw. Published by the author during year 2011, 18 Uplands, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7BL.  ISBN 978-0-9525304-4-9  £6.99

Window on the World is Ingrid Riley’s fifth book of poetry.  The collection numbers some 60 poems arranged in thematic sections: Spying Eyes; Contrasting Images; and Untamed Forces.

There is a lyrical quality to her poetry.  We see this in the ghost in ‘Is Anybody There?’ with its ‘quivering body … disappearing through a concealed exit.’ and in ‘Threads of Fear’ where ‘People live in misty solitude’.  But perhaps more importantly there is a sharp edge to her work, a judgemental eye cast on a ‘valueless world’ with its swaggering youths their eyes ‘hard and cruel, full of malice’ and the ‘Politicians’ cast as ‘cheap prophets … plunging the world into financial chaos’.  War also raises its ugly head in ‘Shattered Lives’ with a landscape where ‘blood red lilies appear among the dead’.  A cruelty matched by the natural disaster in ‘Earthquakes’ where ‘The irritated Earth takes her revenge’. 

Going through the book I realised that the more I read the more I appreciated the sentiments and the depth of her poetry finding my head nodding in agreement.  There is little evidence here of a ‘life on the back burner’ hinted at in the poem ‘A Change of Direction’.  I for one am looking forward to publication no. 6.  Review by: John Plevin

A Miscellany of Muses, poems by Derek Malpass.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 65 pages.  Published during year 2011 by Matador,   5 Weir Road, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicester, LE8 0LQ.  ISBN 978-1848765-696  Price ? books@troubador.co.uk  www.troubador.co.uk/matador

An enjoyable follow-up collection of humour and light verse to the authors first Conversations with a Muse.

A Miscellany of Muses is a entertaining look at these nine muses that make up the poets inspiration for this collection of verse and they all make an guest appearance on the pages in this second collection . If the reader has not come across these nine muses in the first collection they will soon get to know them through this miscellany. Here are some of the muses in question: Melpomene the moaner, Polyhymnia the professional, unhappy Clio, dancing Terpsichore, astral Urania, Thalia the comic and Euterpe the flautist. These witty poems are to be read as one continuous narrative if you can stop laughing that is, between the birdsong of May if your an outside reader that is, which is great at the moment although many of the poems have there own charm and distinctive rhyme scheme to suit each persona of the muses musings. I always tend to read the poems out-loud to audience of feathered listeners and sometimes to a neighbour pegging out washing in the splendour of the sunshine. I most confess I had to look up some of the classical myths and Latin not being educated in classical mythology but enjoyed and I even know where the retail outlet Argo’s got their name now.

I enjoyed the musical descriptions in the poem

Part of a symphony;

Then gradually, almost imperceptibly,
Various motifs begin to cohere,
Complementing each other.
Hesitant at first, then growing with confidence,
The music evolves like a melodic jigsaw,
A soundscape gradually emerging,
As if mists are clearing,
Each thematic element finding its place.

And if you have ever ponder or reflected on how a certain flat pack Swedish furnishings company got its name?, why magnets go on for ever with-out losing energy, or how cosmic stardust is formed, then look inside these pages there is also a bit mythology and a few Latin words too. And by the way Erato is from Greek and Roman mythology - the muse of lyric poetry and hymns coming from the Greek origin meaning, literally `lovely` so this collection is quite educational too.


The Muses Garden Party


Resplendent in the summer sun,
The broad green leaves of Helicon,
Swept downward towards the sea,
The lower meadows formed a park,
A high stone wall swung in an arc,
To a marble portico-
Guarded by a grim centaur,
Who opened up the great bronze door,
And bowed his head to Erato.   
                                                       

Review by: Neil Brooks

The Sons of Camus, Writers International – Journal.  Autumn 2010, Issue 7.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a two-colour cover and 200 pages.  Poems, writing, and essays from various contributors. Submissions considered from writers over 55 years only and only via e-mail to: Miss Ann J. Davidson, editor, scwijournal@earthlink.net Publisher: Rubi Andredakis, roubi@cytanet.com.cy   ISBN 1705-429X  and 978-9963-668-30-4  Price, including shipping cost is: €9.00, £6.00, USA $10.00 Canada $15.00

This in some ways eccentric magazine, published annually and running to 200 pages is limited to “Friends over 55”. That knocks out a wedge of Pulsar Poets for a start. Nor is it clear whether it is open to any ripe contributors or just those who are mature and had work already accepted by the journal.  International it certainly is, its contributors, for example, jetting in from New Zealand, Zimbabwe and China. But whether you have to be an admirer of Albert Camus is less clear, but the contributors’ list does include some daughters of Camus. The journal boasts both poetry and prose with generous page allocations to a relatively small number of writers.  As far as the prose is concerned, two writers stand out, Raymond Humphreys and Morelle Smith. The former has chosen mostly novelists to illustrate themes e.g. Yuletide (mostly Dickens), Writers at Sea (mostly Conrad and Melville) but thoroughly readable. Morelle Smith not only produces richly descriptive travelogue prose, but some moving poetry too. I read her account of Novi Sad, a City on the Danube with interest, since I may be visiting it in a month’s time. One of her finest poems From Sarajevo to Carcassonne reaches a poignant moment when the writer is driving with a Bosnian couple away from Carcassone, all listening to the soundtrack of the man’s cello music recorded in a bombed-out library in Sarajevo. A car crashes into them. No-one is hurt. The Bosnian woman says calmly,”It’s nothing/ after what we have lived through.”   Review by: David Gill.

*

Pennine Ink 29, poetry and prose.   A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 45 pages.  Published 2008 by Pennine Ink Writers’ Workshop.  Compiling editor, Laura Sheridan, Mid Pennine Arts, The Gallery, Yorke Street, Burnley, Lancashire, BB1 1HD.  Editors: Sylvia Gartside, Alex Marsh, and Laura Sheridan.  Cover artwork, Florentyna by LS. ISBN: 0-9548891-3-4 Price £3.00 (price quoted in year 2008).  Sheridansand1@yahoo.co.uk

With a long list of contributors, 51 in this their 29th issue, there is bound to be a varying degree of accomplishment among the pieces. Clearly, different publications will have different standards, and I would consider this to be overgenerous in its scope.

Let’s start with the poems. A number of them seem to be gap fillers. Indeed some can hardly be regarded as poems, though there may be a flash of wit, tenderness or thoughtfulness in them.  Now, we could start a decade long debate on what is poetry and what distinguishes a poem from a, well, non-poem; and a living poem from a workshop artefact.

So, while many of the poems draw from experiences we would find moving, they would need to take the leap into a higher orbit, with richer lexis and turns of speech we don’t expect but that deliver further and/or deeper meanings. They are at the “interesting idea” and “interesting draft” level. That would be the case of How they Met Themselves by Laura Sheridan –with its sci-fi conceit where a couple come across their younger selves “on a wide street /at the edge of eternity”. In The Gift, Christine Potter tells how a stone presented by a friend conjures up its ancient life as a knife or axe head, establishing a timeless connexion with fellow humans of a remote past.  Marion Beck’s Bitter Fruit tells us of an old man bringing exotic fruit to his wife in, we assume, a care home. The virtue of the poem is how much is said in a few words (“he visits his wife of sixty years”, “she will stare as he feeds plump segments / into her mouth the corners drooling”). There is an added poignancy in how he relives their past, seeing her and their children as they were when she was the one who bought them fruit. 

There were poems that exposed moral conundrums in thought-provoking stories, such as Revenge and Man Enough by Richard Lighthouse; those that touched on complex aspects of human experience: aging, family, relationships, painful or happy memories, illness. However, the language was more often than not predictable and didn’t spark off any revelations.

The proof of a poem is partly in how it clings to our memory. One puts the book down, walks away to get on with survival and a week or two later, some have sieved down into oblivion, some have left a mark, whether a hint or a smack – though it has to be said, there are instances of negative memory too; but we will not go into that here. I remember this little poem called Thomas Edwards’ Pocket Watch by Byron Benyon. The poet and I disagree on how to use the apostrophe; I am of the Keats’s, James’s conviction. Aside from that, I appreciate the pause for reflection and the subtle hand. Here is this watch, which has survived the carnage of war; only the carnage is not mentioned, and no need to mention it either. We know from history, from documentaries, from art, from poetry. Say “blossom”, that’s enough. We share this perplexity that the object lasts better and longer than the subject, and the journey from the lifeless body to the museum where only leftovers of us remain. Philip Burton’s The Dry Spell uses lexis in a more sophisticated manner than most poems in the collection, and the weaved syntax is mature and thoughtful.  The motif of white is pursued throughout the piece, and linked to the underlying notion of dryness, which interestingly, takes different hues of meaning as the composition progresses, but always conveying a sense of loss.

A notch above were two other poems I would like to comment on. One was Counting for my Life by Nicola Daly. A filmic zoom strategy carries our eyes with the narrator’s eyes along the space the scene takes place in, and away from the brunt of what is going on, but far from alleviating the sense of the tragedy, it intensifies its effect. That is what poetry is about too. Peter Schwartz’s Son of Water is one of the most experimental poems here and bases its impact on the stringing of intensely suggestive baffling images. Surrealist, a tad; beautifully so, and of that mesmerising quality that entices and lingers. At the same time, good poem that it is, Son of Water exercises its evocative power on reality itself. On taking it in, it has affected my perception of the rivers near us, specially, for some reason, the Thames as it runs through Lechlade and beyond. It also has left me with memorable lines, and a stunning last verse:  “and when his feral song begins / with the liturgy of raindrops and people / empty their flasks to catch pieces / of this horizon, he, the son of water will turn/  to ice, like an anchor against / the sea’s quarantine /(a shadow no more)”.

Review by: Cristina Newton   Editorial note: I did ask for a 250 word review!

 

The Hawks Mewl and other poems; selected poems by Nigel Humphreys.  Slightly larger than A5 size, stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 38 pages.  Two hundred and fifty copies published in May 2007 by Arbor Vitae Press, BM Spellbound, London, WC1N 3XX. Introduction by Jonathan Wood, editor, Parhelion Poetry Series, London. No ISBN. Price £4.99 + £1.00 postage and packing, (price quoted in year 2007). Thratheewoodz@hotmail.com

This is a beautifully presented collection, the first volume of the Parhelion Poetry Series imprint, and editor Jonathan Wood’s introductory comment on the ‘rare beauty’ of this poet’s ‘observational clarity’ is borne out in many of the poems included here. The bird of the title poem is ‘perched high/in a spindle pine’ and ‘backlit by rift landscape’, the resonance of her cry ‘reaching back to Druid caves.’

Humphreys is as perceptive of flora as he is of fauna, writing touchingly of a dead beech tree that the forest will ‘grow back as though it had never been’, words that echo his, and our own, mortality.

In the delightful poem Cowrie Shells, a memory of his mother, he perceives beautifully the shells’ ‘humpty’ shape and ‘crimped mouths which/sucked their bottom lip’. The poem explores their exotic connections in a wonderfully evocative stanza that moves from Polynesian queens to African bazaars and the gambling dens of Dahomey.

Mortality is the theme of For valour, in which a vicar conducting a funeral service knows it to be a ‘dress rehearsal’ for his own imminent death. Humphreys observes his departure from the proceedings with powerful simplicity:

I saw him in the car park

over their heads,

a passenger in his own car

quietly slipping away.

The best of Humphreys’ poems are those that are simplest in their use of language. In others, a piling up of descriptive terms and unusual words draws attention from the poems’ focus onto the words themselves, compromising the very ‘observational clarity’ that can be his strength. However, despite sections that can sometimes feel overloaded with effects, there is much to enjoy in this varied collection.  Review by: JK Sharp

 

Vespula Vanishes and other poems by A C Evans.  Stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 27 pages.  Published in year 2007 by Inclement Publishing, c/o White Rose House, 8 Newmarket Road, Fordham, Cambs, CB7 5LL.  Limited edition.  Edited by Michelle Foster, cover design by author.  No ISBN.  Price ?

This is a spare, elegant collection of poems on themes of darkness and desire, a sense of disconnectedness and dissonance in the world and a search for identity. The identity that appears to be at once longed for, embraced and feared is at times personal identity and sexual identity, at times the identity of the universe we inhabit –

                                            “....this decaying mansion

                                                 We call home.”

A.C.Evans has a wide vision, encompassing images of dying suns, at the same time as he describes the detail of “cracked pavements and overturned rubbish bins” in his unflinching exploration of a “ruined world” full of “the pain of separation,

                                                                                  Or worse, the anguish

                                                                                  Of not knowing you.”

A sensual love of words, a delight in riddles and paradox, pervade the poems. Some, especially in the early part of the book, are very spare, compressed, some lines consisting of only one or two words, but this challenges the reader to pause and give a word such as “reflect” or “spreading” its full value. The first poem in the collection, “Misplaced Poem,” issues an arrogant challenge to the “casual, friendless, unwary reader,” to look inwards and take nothing for granted,  join the search: “you

            Must abandon your decaying faith, you......

            Must, now, see yourself.....as you are.”

The unwary reader might well be unsettled by parts of the exploration, such as “Slave Mask,” but these poems are stark, delicate and forensically precise in searching out the darkness, pain and hope like “slivers of glass” in a flawed world.  Review by:  Eve Kimber

The Invention of Butterfly, poems by Christopher James.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 75 pages.  Published during year 2006 by Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR. Cover painting by Joseph James: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. £7.00 in year 2006. www.raggedraven.co.uk  ISBN 0-9542397-9-2 raggedravenpress@aol.com

What leaps out from this book, almost from the start, is the sheer specificity of the adjectives. 'The London Underground Hand-Cart' is a good example. The poker being played on the tube is Chinese, the drinking songs are Portuguese, the clocks Swiss. The burgers are made from ostrich and the cider is flat. Throughout, James uses adjectives widely and with a great deal of thought. There is no sense that words are used randomly. Often, this is very effective: there is an erudition to his poems that requires the imagery to be accurate. 'Import', on the subject of Shakespeare's wine, echoes Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night by referencing the Canary Islands' reputation for fine plonk. Sometimes, though, a little more vagueness would have helped the poem, made it more accessible to the reader by allowing them to fill the gaps with their own experiences.

'You will be expected to marry smartly the worlds of art and science'. These words, from 'Cold Storage' have been taken to heart in this generously filled collection. Throughout, James uses a range of zoological, botanical, avian, sociological and other themes to add some scientific rigour to his work. This is a poet who wants to describe the world correctly, even using the Latin names for various fish (which he helpfully translates in the footnotes). To put it simply, James is clearly a clever chap who likes his poems to be as accurate as possible. This, his first collection, is a sign of good things to come.  Review by: Andrew Barber

Dole ANTHEMS, poems by Paul Tanner.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect bound-book with a full colour cover and 121 pages. ISBN 978-1-4475-4828-7  Published in year 2011 by Lulu.com www.lulu.com/spotlight/TANNER   £8.95 (includes post and packaging), or download PDF for £3.50.  Also may be purchased from: News from Nowhere, Radical Community Bookshop, Bold Street, Liverpool. 

Note from Pulsar editor: this bloke writes like a tongue-in-cheek revolutionary, a Wolfie Smith type but with a harder point of view. To a certain extent you could say there is a nihilistic, punk type, blank generation approach to his poems - but I like the cutting edge and the incisive wit; he tells it like it is.  You have to smile because you know that most of what he's saying is spot on.   Sample from poem, 'Our Trap,'  "being stuck there / on the wet Job Centre steps / with a tatty sow in pink trackies / coughing the details of her latest pregnancy / and an S-shaped creature with no teeth / trying to snatch the fags out of your pocket / as you wait for your dole / and are are always skint . . ."  Another poem, 'The Cycle,' "I was hiding /  in the bogs at work /  trying to write a poem / when the boss caught me / the poem was about / me hiding in the bogs at work / trying to write poems / and the boss / always catching me /  but since the boss / caught me in the bogs / trying to write it / this one will have to do."  There are a few expletives in the book, so not for easily offended wimps.  If you are not an easily offended wimp then I suggest you buy this one - it will make you smile.  DP.

*

Carpe Naturae in Poetry, poems by Michèle Ford. Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 45 pages. Dedication by Justin Sullivan. Published during year 2010.  ISBN 9781453836040  Price?  michèleford1@yahoo.co.uk   Amazon Link:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=michele+ford+gothic+poetry&x=0&y=0

Michele Ford Photo of: Michèle Ford

This well produced book contains 33 one-page poems, consisting mainly of impressionistic dashes of highly coloured and intense phrases. Ford, who states on the cover that “her colourful life experiences are intricately woven into this gothic verse,” does not altogether demonstrate intricate weaving; rather, her poetic method seems to be that of the Impressionists in painting, laying vibrant and distinct notes next to each other, sometimes without any connection or blending, so that they will resonate into meaning in the mind of the reader. Sometimes this works, as in “Flamenco Flamingo”:

                                                                      “Leaves flutter in streets

                                                                       Dancing round death,

                                                                       Like mottled fire tongues,

                                                                       Life’s parching lungs.”

For me, on other occasions, a line such as “Hopscotch treacheries spreading benign,”  failed to yield any meaning however much I squeezed it, or stood back and half closed my eyes. The initial suggestion of children unkind to their playmates seems contradicted by “benign.” Better also not to use titles such as “Haiku” if the poem does not follow any of the form’s norms. Ford’s love of nature and of words, however, infuses her work, and there are many beautiful evocations of seasons and places – “Summer buzzing ticking and creeping,

          Shadows of clouds sailing the skies,” an alternation between sweet and gothic moods, which gives a strong sense of a young writer open to life’s experiences. Her poetic method needs development to better communicate with the reader, and give a deep and sharp sense of her meaning rather than – at times – creating confusion. Some of her poems might lend themselves to being set to music. 

Review by: Eve Kimber

*

Steal Away Boy, selected poems of David Mitchell. Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 256 pages; also contains black and white photographs.  Edited by Martin Edmond and Nigel Roberts.  Cover design by: Keely O’Shannessy.  Published by Auckland University Press, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. ISBN 978-1-86940-459-8 www.auckland.ac.nz/aup  Price ?

This substantial volume was produced with the help of David Mitchell’s daughter, Geneviève, and the authors and editors Martin Edmond and Nigel Roberts with the aim of presenting ‘the lyrical beat intensity of an antipodean hipster and iconic poet.’  A considerable part is devoted to a detailed and painstaking description of Mitchell’s life.

The editors do their utmost to establish the best of credentials for Mitchell, likening him to seventeenth century ‘sonneteers,’ he liked to spell words in archaic ways, why is not clear.  They also like to compare him with Villon, and even the poets of Ancient Greece, but without presenting any real evidence.  Indeed, Mitchell’s list of alleged influences, ranging from Jesus Christ, via Marilyn Monroe, Anne Frank to Donald Duck, gives the impression of a desperate desire to send up anything and everything within reach.

The editors have pointed out Mitchell’s flat style of delivery and the fact that the poetry is written to be heard rather than read.  This is borne out by Mitchell’s choice of subjects like the ‘My Lai atrocities,’ where the final poem has less to do with the event than with the sufferings of his wife.  Much of the poetry relates to the poet’s own world and his attempts to organise and categorise his personal relationships.

In the ‘Poem for my unborn son’ he tries to foreshadow the boy’s development, but is inevitably drawn back to his own experience, trying to project a persona which is not his. ‘Escape is the only answer, ‘steal away boy.’  The poem on his father’s death ‘old rock clad man, sea girt . . .’ again fails to get beneath the surface and express feeling about the subject.

The author’s desire that his work should be read aloud is everywhere apparent in the way the lines are arranged, nearly always with gaps between them, sometimes consisting of only one word.  Much of the work here, as in ’Singing Bread’ or Albino Angels,’ where image is piled upon image, whether or not comprehensible, shows the author to be a left-over from the beat generation, using the relentless piling on of images to bludgeon the listener into some kind of understanding

On occasion, as in ‘Maltese Jack,’ Mitchell is able to organise the images to convey a picture or a mood, as in the portrayal of Soho or of Paris in ‘The Singing Bread.’  This mood-building is carried over into some of the later work, such as ‘Dark Fire’ with its brooding depiction of a savage past, or ‘Armageddon/Hokitika Blue,’ where he muses on New Zealand’s savage past.  In this case the savagery of the white man. In poems like these, there is a hint of the major poet David Mitchell could have become, if only, and here the old cliché is appropriate, life had not got in the way.   

Review by: Ingrid Riley

* * *

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #6 (58) March 2011

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      Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #6 (March 2011), click on the surname of an author, contributor or press, underlined below, to link to the review.

The Second Fifty - Jenefer Ann Murray

A fanfare of Musical Limericks - Ron Lubin

Krax #46 - various contributors

Krax #47 - various contributors

Acumen 66 (January 2010) - various contributors

 

The Second Fifty, poems by Jenefer Ann Murray.  An A5 size perfect bound book with a three colour cover and 85 pages.  Published during year 2008 by Palores Publications, 11a Penryn Street, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 2SP.  ISBN 978-0-9556682-7-2 £8.50. 

 

Jenefer Ann Murray takes the reader on a memorable journey through her childhood and to some imaginary places, recalling her experiences in the poems ‘Windmill,’ ‘Party Hat’ and ‘The Pebble.’  In the poem ‘The Box,’ everything is seen from a three year olds viewpoint, and the language is correspondingly simple.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The poet selects apparently unimportant details, her problems with her hair in ‘Uneasy Lies the Headgear’ or ‘Apple Trees’ and again refers them back to her childhood and youth.  In ‘Lucky Girl’ the poet describes her school years and admits something which comes over in most poems, how she is comfortable with herself, ‘I admit I love me.’  This ease with herself has carried her through the horrors of boarding school and the loss of her brother in ‘On Being Treated Right’ to the death of a small child in ‘Grief Poem II.’  One of her main themes here is love, whether experienced by the flighty young girl in ‘Being in Love,’ the disillusioned young woman in ‘Fortunate Sorrow’ or the 81 year old in ‘Gorgeous Old Man.’                        

 

Here, as in all her collections, Jenefer Ann Murray ranges widely across the various aspects of her long life.  In ‘Looking Back’ she refers to the ‘vast tumultuous waterfall’ of life, and we sense that she generally approves of what she has lived through, and is ready for ‘one further flight . . .’ before the tempestuous journey is rounded.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Above review by Ingrid Riley 

*

A Fanfare of Musical Limericks by Ron Rubin; foreword by Humphrey Lyttelton.  An A6 size hardbook book with a full colour cover and 172 pages.  First published during year 1986; revised and expanded edition published  in year 2008.  Illustrations by Hazeldine and Tim Holder.  Published by Hampstead Press, 16 Heathville Road, London, N19 3AJ.  hampstead@blueyonder.co.uk ISBN 978-0-9557628-1-9  £10.95

 

Imagine it.  A book full of limericks.  Some 170 pages of limericks all with a link to music, musical instruments or players.  And if that wasn’t enough you get a Foreword by Humphrey Lyttelton plus a sprinkling of racy illustrations.                             

 

Ron Rubin is a jazz musician (piano) with it seems a sense of humour.  A Fanfare of Musical Limericks was first published in 1986 but has recently been revised and expanded. You could easily imagine him entertaining fellow musicians with his limericks during those interminable journeys between sessions - something short and sharp to keep everyone sane.    I assume that once you have composed your first 100 limericks it is difficulty to stop.  Limericks and humour go together, and according to Humph, ‘musicians have a style of humour all to themselves’.  Here’s an example:

The piano’s a clever invention,

But one thing perhaps I should mention:

It’s sensitive strings,

Like the players – poor things-

Are always in need of attention.

 What do you think?  Could you survive a deluge of limericks?  Perhaps one a day for the next year or two?  Try this rather more personal one:

A roving musician called Rubin

Liked black coffee, with one sugar cube in;

But one night in Bombay,

At a topless café,

It was served to him white, with one boob in.

 

If you want to see the accompanying illustration, you need to buy the book.         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

I suspect that musicians live closer to the edge than most of us.  An edge where ‘the choice is a stark one between laughter and suicide’.                                                                                                                                                                                          

From here in the comfort zone, a limerick a day may be too much.  But I could possibly survive one a week.       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Above review by John Plevin                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

*

 

Krax #46, (January 2010?): poems, reviews and illustrations from various contributors. Stapled, untrimmed A5 sized booklet with a two colour cover and ? number of pages, (pages are not numbered).  Frequency approx every twelve months, can be longer.  No ISSN. Editor: Andy Robson, c/o 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR. £4.50 $9.00

 

Krax is full of fun and thoughtful poems. The main thread of the poetry and short stories gracing the pages of this A5 bible is fun and knowledge. There is every day humour and the poems cover a wide range of subject matter and off-beat attraction, both in the UK and Stateside. Krax also has its own mighty review pages of small press reviews, which are delicately interlaced with poetry competitions and info. Krax has interviews with poets and some nifty cartoony illustrations too.

 

I really appreciated that Krax revels in its own joy and silliness. We all need a bit of that from time to time. There were quite a few laugh-out-loud poems that made me chuckle. The subject matter in this issue ranges from poems about Time Machines / Sitting on the lav/ Odes to sausages/ Husband shopping/ Super Poodles/ Pirates/ sonnets/ Giving up smoking/ Photocopiers. There’s a very eccentric mix to keep you reading and smiling, depending on your own sense of humour, if you have one that is.

 

Your Sonnet

So you sit to scribe a sonnet

As a poet you may pose

Scratch about sonorous syllables

Sonnets are not caws of crows

Then you pause a pronoun

For example "you" "you" "you"

Gives you overt alliteration

Hooks a reader on to you.

You the poet poeticizing

Reaching for the readers soul

All your oo-s and A-s imploring

Baring all to share your whole

With the book-worm, with the horse- woman

With the often over-looked.

If you write romantic sonnets

you must keep the reader hooked. oo? You!            Richard Cheevers

 

Above Review by Neil Brooks

 

*

 

Krax #47, (November 2010): poems, reviews and illustrations from various contributors. Stapled, untrimmed A5 sized booklet with a two colour cover and? number of pages, (pages are not numbered).  Frequency approx every twelve months, can be longer.  No ISSN. Editor: Andy Robson, c/o 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR.  £4.50   $9.00

 

Rising costs and internet competition mean that small press poetry magazines struggle to survive.  A notable exception appears to be Krax Magazine. You won't find it on the internet. It's a genuine blast from the past.

 

So what is it about KRAX? What brings in contributions from the likes of Michael Newman, Oz Hardwick and David Pike? Why are people posting stuff to the c/o address in Leeds from corners of the world?

 

The clues, as they say, are here. In issue 47 there is a lot of material from the USA; Kentucky, Texas, California and New York to pick a few random locations. There are also many poems from the ladies. 60 Minutes Creation News Magazine from Susan Levasseur caught my eye. Here's an extract:

 

Ducks dive for food

With brisk, bristling beaks.

 

Shimmering fish scramble

Flit-flop under water.

 

Bees perk up with a

Goulash of perfumes

Inspiring them to sweetness.

 

Water dances decidedly over

Sun-streaked rocks.

 

Now -

Tell us the news.

 

But in KRAX there's the other end of the bardic spectrum to be found too. John V. Spinale's Birth Control

illustrates a point:

 

We gave up Martinis

On learning what they do.

Our daughter was Martini One,

Our son Martini Two.

 

As well as poetry KRAX contains quality graphics, cartoons and articles. But what's the real KRAX secret? Simple. KRAX doesn't take itself too seriously. It's great fun. You'll enjoy it.

 

Above review by Gwilym Williams

 

*

Acumen 66, January 2010; a literary journal, the first issue in Acumen’s 25th year.  New poetry, prose and reviews.  An A5 size perfect bound book with a full colour cover and 124 pages.  Editor: Patricia Oxley; Advisory Editor: Danielle Hope:  6 the Mount, Higher Furzeham, Brixham, South Devon, TQ5 8QY and 4 Thornhill Bridge Wharf, London, N1 0RU.  Consultant Editor: William Oxley.  Book Reviews Editor: Glyn Pursglove, 25 St. Albans Road, Brynmill, Swansea, SA2 0BP.  www.acument-poetry.co.uk  ISSN 0964-0304 Single copy prices: £4.50 UK, $10.00 USA.

 

Acumen is a well-established literary journal edited by Patricia Oxley, assisted by her husband William, and now in its 26th year. Subscribers to Acumen 66 not only received a sunflower on the cover but a free packet of sunflower seeds, (which, incidentally, failed to reach this reviewer). Poetry rings the changes with literary essays. Among the poets are famous names like Wendy Cope, Andrew Motion and Alan Brownjohn. Where serious verse predominates in Acumen, Wendy Cope’s A is for The Archers and Adultery comes as light refreshment. By and large the Archers behave themselves, but “I listen sometimes, doing random checks/ So I’ll know when there’s more illicit sex.” Another poem (a serious one this time on the subject of semantics ) entitled Meaning by June Hall impressed me considerably, in lines like “Meaning cannot be confined –we miss and find and miss it/again and again like a sea-bird riding the wind, visible and invisible…” Among the literary essays I was fascinated by Ruth O’Callaghan’s Observations on Mongolian Women’s Poetry, a realm of poetry totally new to me. But best of all was Thomas Land’s How a Poet’s Killer has become a Hero in Hungary. Despite the title with its emphasis on Sergeant Andras Talás, the essay is an amazing and moving homage to a very fine poet Miklós Radnóti. He was with a group of other Hungarian-Jewish prisoners on a “deadmarch” westwards in 1944 when he was executed by his guard. Radnóti’s poems were recovered, much admired, and became available in English translation.  Editor’s note:  I confiscated the sunflower seeds, to give to my grandchildren.  DP

                                                                                                                                                            
Above review by David Gill

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #5 (57) December 2010

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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      Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #5 (December 2010), click on the surname of an author or Press underlined below, to link to the review.

Hereafter Landscapes - Jody Azzouni

When You Come Again Will You Never Go - Andreas Morgner

Made in Germany - Julian Woodford

A Mermaid's Tale of Xanadon't and other poems -Wendy Webb and Guest Poets

This Is Not What You Think - Jim Murdoch

Kokopelli's Dance and Other Poems - Bryan Owen

The So-Called Sonnets - Bruce McRae

 

*

Hereafter Landscapes, poems by Jody Azzouni.  Landscape format, perfect-bound book, 9” x 7” size, with a full colour cover and 56 pages, (also features colour illustrations and engravings by John Martin, 1789 – 1843).  Published in March 2010. The Poet’s Press. 279 – ½ Thayer St, Providence, RI02906, USA; www.poetspress.org  ISBN 0-922558-42-6.  $19.95 papaerback. jodyazzouni@mindspring.com

Jody Azzouni was born in New York.  His poetry speaks of the “invisible future” but is addressed to a complacent present.  A present where we seem indifferent to the pain and damage we inflict on the planet leading to a future where “the ashes flutter like black moths” and the “water from the sky is acid”.  A future where there may be no place for Mankind.  The  poems are aptly accompanied by illustrations from the engravings of John Martin (1789-1843), engravings that gave nightmares to generations of Victorian schoolchildren.

This bleak view of the future of humanity leaps at us right from his first poem ‘Oracles for modern times’ where our gods are “without magic”, simply faces trapped in the “coins in our pockets”. A future where “we will wander the earth like plastic bags.”  Each poem can be seen as a key unlocking the door to a dark world.  A world where our noble ambitions turn out to be simple greed.  Consider the poem ‘Will we still have blogs?’:

“We were an empire once

(but the binge of landscape is over).

 

Only skulls still move like armadillos

(and we can finally retire the wheel).

 

When the last new thing is made.”

 

Hereafter Landscape gives us a glimpse of a future where there is little hope.  If it makes the reader think of what can be done today to make a better tomorrow then Jody Azzouni will have succeeded.  Personally I wish him luck. When I click the switch on the wall, I want the lights to come on.    John Plevin

When You Come Again Will You Never Go, poems by Andreas Morgner.  Slightly larger that A5 stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 56 pages. Colour photographs included.  Published during year 2009 by Unlikely Books, 500s. Mesa St,. #389, El Paso, Texas 79901, USA.  www.UnlikelyStories.org ISBN-13: 978-0-9822934-3-0  $10.00

This is a powerful single-theme collection of poems stimulated by appalling conditions in many parts of the African continent.  The American poet, Andreas Morgner, has been able to convey in close-up such nightmares as a slaughter yard in Nigeria, a filthy gold mine in Burkina Faso, a massacre in Sierra Leone. Four of the poems are set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the quite recent atrocities described reminiscent of those recorded a century earlier by that intrepid investigator E.D. Morel in Red Rubber. Plus ça change...

Many of poems narrate poignant situations, conveying the poet’s sympathy for the long-suffering Africans: the father whose wife has been killed by militia, and whose baby son he watches over in a clinic throughout the night until morning breaks:

“The father hears a sigh and in the melting shadows, a small eye opens.”  Or the hotel waiters, treated with contempt by army peace-keepers and self-satisfied diplomats they have been serving, finally go home.

                                                                     “Down the streets to where friends call

Them by name, the evening’s cooking fires are starting, and

Children run to greet them.”

A word about the verse.  It follows natural speech rhythms, but unlike a lot of free verse many of the poems are organised in long lines of six, seven or eight stressed syllables in blocks of four to as many as ten lines. Moreover, in an unexpectedly old-fashioned way each line starts with a capital letter. The message at all times comes over loud and shockingly clear. Altogether I was im/depressed.  David Gill

*

Made in Germany, poems by Julian Woodford.  A5 stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 16 pages.  Cover and page design by Mark Barton, MK66, Design.  Published during year 2009.  No ISBN.  Price £2.49 which includes the cost of P&P.  Enquiries to: julianwoodford@yahoo.co.uk

Julian Woodford’s poems have a classical element to them and follow traditional forms.  The ten poems in this collection are concise and filled with emotion and feeling.  The poems delve into the somewhat fairytale world of the pain and longing of relationships. Some poems even made me think of the Brothers Grimm tales. The poems seem to work on the fertility of their content.  I enjoyed the humour in the poem muse’s present / She’s had pictures, fairy tales, two poems and a song, starlit-dripping whispers/

Each poem seems to contain its own tale and intrigues the reader with mystery.  The first poem ‘Spare set of keys’ which is a Shakespearean sonnet, begins with the opening lines of an old wooden door opening to the sea.  In its closing couplets the poem embodies the shortness of the rhyme tradition.  I enjoyed reading the ten poems that take you to a different echoing territory. These are passionate poems and they grew on me as I read them for this review. 

I can’t help but feel the poems are born out of the language that shapes them. The poem "One Take" has an almost Bukowskian directness and short punch:

from "One take"

 

It’s one straight take,

we don’t rehearse,

 

Nothing else, no rewind

 

from the poem "I am unbiddable"

 

So far, I’ve understood my life,

each particle and line,

but this is beyond me,

 

Neil Brooks

*

A Mermaid’s Tale of Xanadon’t and other poems by Wendy Webb and guest poets.  A5 stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 33 pages. Front cover illustration: The Faerie Glen by Dee Sunshine.  www.redbubble.com/people/deesunshine  also www.thunderburst.co.uk.  Rear cover artwork by Kay Weeks, http://awalkintothepast.blogspot.com/2010/03/far-from-ellicot-city.html  Published 30th September 2010.  Series: Mermaid Tales,  ISBN-13: 978-1-903264-88-1 Wendy Webb Books, 9 Walnut Close, Norwich, NR8 6YN; tips4writers@yahoo.co.uk £3.50

As well as editing this collection, Wendy Webb has written the Title Poem. A Reviewer refers to it as being written ‘by Synaesthesia,’ a second one says ‘imagine a synaesthetic experience, multi layered...’

So, ‘Synaesthesia.’ Condition in which one type of stimulus evokes another, i.e. hear a sound, visualise a colour, or, one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experience in another. So, a literary device where one type of sensation is described in terms of another. I think many poets use this device unconsciously.

 

The further I read in the poem, the more bewildered I became. I felt I needed a glossary to help me.  ‘This Misticol’s beyond me, with no hookah, I’m just the mouth that reads from Mr. Avon, The FattaPilla puffed, Nigmatic, pukka, then rang a Yerk bell and, before he was quite gone,’  Mr. Avon must be Shakespeare, but many of the references eluded me. ‘LeastCoast’ is East coast, perhaps, ‘FattaPilla,’ caterpillar. The author tells us ‘HeartMore’ is Dartmoor, but what of ‘Biblitec,’ ‘Merflake’?

 

However, when I allowed myself to be swept along in the flow of the Mermaid’s tale, (tail?) and the expanse of metaphor tumbling over metaphor, I felt lulled into a land of make-believe, similar to the spell the poem, ‘The Land of Counterpane’ cast over me as a child. Geographical, literary and classical allusions abound, interspersed with references to personal and everyday life. ‘one Merflake was enough, and serving tea with salmon and cucumber sandwiches, and fancy cakes. The mermaid listened, in sincerity.’ Myrmidons make frequent appearances, originally a war like Thessalian people who followed Achilles, in later usage, a ruffian for hire, an unworthy servant, a bailiff, ‘The Myrmidon was perfect, I ate bread,’ yes, but later,’it seemed like honeydew in Myrmidons and so refreshed the deepest parts to song.’ which seems as though Myrmidons is a place. Fantastical, capricious, often whimsical verses which left me pondering on the nature of meaning, wondering what was eluding me. Poems written out of a fertile mind, sometimes almost spinning out of control into fanciful spaces, the poetic equivalent of Picasso images. Although you may get lost in the who, where, and what of this extravaganza, enjoy it for its pace and flow. Congratulations to Wendy for maintaining the impetus, and explaining the settings in Norfolk.

 

There are lovely poems at the front and back of the book, from John Elinger, Joan Sheridan Smith, Anne Mullander, Norman Bissett, Clare Knight, Denise Margaret Hargrave, Caroline Gill. They give us beaches, oceans, memories, waterbirds, spring flowers, a golden haired boy, and waves, in well formed verse and colourful imagery which rebounds in the memory. Buy the book and form your own opinions.  Kate Edwards.  

This Is Not What You Think, poems by Jim Murdoch.  A5 perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 112 pages.  Published on 19th July 2010.  FV Books, 4c Bumbrae Street, Faifley, Clydebank, GB81 5BY.  ISBN 978-0-9550636-3-3.  fvbooks.com also jimmurdoch.co.uk and jim-murdoch.blogspot.com   Price?

In an essay titled Inside Out and subtitled Notes on the Autobiographical Mode the poet Robert Creeley begins with the words I’m telling you a / story to let myself / think about it…

Having thought about it I think it is also what Murdoch is doing with This Is Not About What You Think. But having said that, it’s important to quickly qualify it, for Murdoch states in his introduction that he doesn’t see all the poems as being autobiographical:

They are my reactions to certain subjects, some which I have experienced at first hand, some which I’ve witnessed others experience, others which I’ve read or heard about…

Murdoch’s poems are mostly short and to the point.  Lonely City, Edinburgh, begins:

I dragged my loneliness

down Rose Street,

looking for a cold one,

 

and we watched a dancer

lose her top

every third record

 

in this wee corner pub…

 

Here is one of the shorter poems You and I: A Poem About Identity. One may think of it as a life tracking itself.

 

You are not me and yet you are –

you’re that other part of me

that brings me to peace with myself.

 

Loneliness is incompletion

but you make me whole and still more:

you’ve let me see what I could be.

 

And I love you for that.

 

I have the feeling that something rather interesting is going on here. And so, I’m tracking Jim Murdoch with more than passing interest. Might this poet be on the cusp of something? Time will tell.  Gwilym Williams

 

Kokopelli’s Dance and other poems by Bryan Owen.  Slightly larger than A5 paperback book with a full colour cover and 43 pages.  Published during year 2010 by Matador, 3 Weir Road, Kibworth Beaucham, Leicester, LE8 0LQ.  ISBN 978-1848763-951. E-mail: books@troubador.co.uk   www.troubador.co.uk/matador  £6.99

Bryan Owen’s poems range widely, from Europe to the USA and Canada, reflecting his own travels. In many poems he takes an observation, such as the beauty of the night sky, and uses it as a basis for a moral or philosophical point, hoping in ‘A gentle sprinkling of stars,’ that the war and cruelty around us is not present on other planets. The stark truth of invasion and subjugation is present again in ‘Deal Beach’ where, whatever the poet’s sympathies, Caesar’s victory is shown to be inevitable. In some of theses poems, such as ‘A Sign in Montana’ and ‘Dune Acres, Indiana,’ the writer’s liberal, enlightened form of Christianity contrasts sharply with the blinkered views of suspicious, closed societies – ‘those great ideas / upon which the republic was founded / seemed to be no more.’

Other poems reveal a pessimistic outlook o the world.  ‘Aporia’ lists the current fears and concerns, from global warming to the alienation within a growing population and asks ‘How shall we live in the years that are coming / . . . when so many fears . . . / hang over our lives?’

The answer may be to cut ourselves off like those closed communities in the mid-West.  Or it may be found in direct acts of individual goodness, like the Chinese man helping the writer’s daughter on an escalator, ‘An act of kindness in the city / two strangers met for a moment / and knew it.’

Maybe our salvation will be the scenario depicted in ‘The Voices of Scotland,’ the kaleidoscopic, human melting-pot where our common features prevail. ‘We are all related / one to another - / by genes and by blood, and by our very humanity.’ The poet himself seems to preserve some sort of hope by contemplating the Scottish countryside, the lochs and towns.

‘For a brief moment / a rainbow arches / bridging the breach / between dreams and what is.’

Bryan Owen states that he has set out in his poems ‘those universal themes of love, liberty, justice, the search for meanings and protecting the beauty of the world we all live in.’ In doing so he has produced an imaginative and engaging collection.  Ingrid Riley

*

The So-Called Sonnets by Bruce McRae.  A slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a two-colour cover and 80 pages.  Cover art by Laurie Lipton.  www.laurielipton.com  Cover graphics design by Bill Reed. Published on 15th October 2010 by Silenced Press.  www.silencedpress.com  ISBN 978-0-9729410-5-5  www.bpmcrae.com   $14 USD.

The first thing to grab you, (or otherwise), regarding any book on a shelf is the outside cover.  Does the book look interesting enough to pick up and read?  This of course is a personal thing.  The cover of Bruce McRae’s (BM’s) book has an almost ecclesiastical feel.  You see a person ascending or descending well worn stairs in a cathedral-like building. The person has a bag of some sort suspended from his hand.  Does the bag contain books, a bomb, (or more likely it looks), a large portion of chips?  Anyway, an interesting start.

There have been a few books over the years I have read which made me laugh out loud in public; the sort of guffaws that make people stare at you in surprise.  Some of the poems in BM’s book, through dint of sheer inventiveness and dry humour, made me chortle out loud – I couldn’t help it.  You know the type of thing, Mrs Miggins has just given birth to a new baby and is proudly displaying the same to passers-by in a supermarket.  You are duty-bound to look in to the pram and say things such as ‘how gorgeous,’ and ‘he looks just like his father,’ and ‘bless him.’  BM is less forgiving, (though probably more accurate), in his poem, ‘Newborn.’  Verse includes:

“Unfortunate child.  Born so ugly

the stars crawled away to die.

So ugly the father scooped

out his eyes with a sugar spoon

and the mother changed sex . . .”

The poem ‘Cum Laude’ gives an incite into pseudo self-seeking academia where students register for college but do naff all. A bit like a kind of X-factor, but with even less X-factor, if that’s possible:

“The University of Self-perpetuating

Self-myth.  As seen on TV.  Students

large it up in front of oversized and

multiple mirrors.  They’re majoring

in ambition, their lectures and lessons

unattended . . .”

The poem concludes:

“. . . The graduates go

on to work in me-me-media. Their CVs

sexed up, legendary, ghost written.”

I found the book very readable, amusing, well written and unpretentious.  Would I buy it?  Blimey, we’re talking about $14 USDs here.  Yes I would.  David Pike

*

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #4 (56) September 2010

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Return to Home Page

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #4 (September 2010), click on the surname of an author or Press underlined below, to link to the review.

Signs - Catherine Graham

Smack a Trifle - by Neville Phillips

Powerless - by Will Daunt

Sandcastles at Evening - by Martin Lyon

The Beckoning Wild - by Lucy Lepchani

Ways of Saying by Helen Ashley

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Signs, poems by Catherine Graham.  A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 25 pages. Published during year 2010 by ID on Tyne Press, Flat 4, 43 Percy Park, Tynemouth, North Shields, NE30 4JX. www.identityontyne.blogspot.com  ISBN 978-0-9565496-0-0  Cover design: Dr. Sheree Mack. Price?

An apt title, ‘Signs.’ – yes, plenty, but no signposts. Half the pleasure of these poems is the way the meaning becomes clearer with each reading, the other half comes from the unexpectedness of lines like:

‘this is the place

where dandelion clocks stand still.’

And:     ‘...................skimming stones

            Across reality.’

Any only child will recognise themselves in the poem of that name, likewise ‘Sister’ will strike a chord with all who are such. The images in ‘Industrial Panorama’ brilliantly echo the Lowry painting.’

            ‘its priestly-tall steeple poking a fag end sky.’

            headscarved and slippered at back doors.’

I found a mystery in the title poem, where is she journeying to, and to meet whom? Who is it alights ‘with only the ghost of a well dressed smile’ and ‘alights’ from what, a bus, a train, a plane? – or is it simply a beautiful metaphor? If so, I haven’t solved the puzzle, but I’ll dig deeper, because that’s what many of these poems want you to do as the truth of them unravels. ‘The Agoraphobic Poet’ is a delightful piece of whimsy, with a sadness lurking, we so hope the cobbler will repair the shoes and set her free.

Nowadays, we poets are supposed to show, not tell, but with many of these I could have used a bit more telling. There is poignancy and nostalgia in poems such as ‘Things I Will Put in My Mother’s Pocket’ and ‘Black Bullets and Vinegar.’

            ‘The aftertaste hangs in my mouth,

            Lingers on my tongue like grief, bittersweet.’

A closeness to family and friends and her environs comes across strongly. The Northern Voices and Northumberland Writers’ awards are well deserved. Because much of her work is about people and places in the North East, I found it quite parochial, those of us who live further South may not always find it easy to identify with or relate to. My husband enjoyed this poetry more easily than I did, - but then, he comes from the North East.  Kate Edwards.

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Smack a Trifle, odd quirks in prose and rhyme by Neville Phillips.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 151 pages.  Published during year 2009 by Matador, Troubador Publishing Ltd, 5 Weir Road, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicester, LE8 0LQ. www.troubador.co.uk/matador  E-mail: books@troubador.co.uk ISBN 978-1848761-872 Price £7.99 

This is not a poetry book but a book of odd quirks in prose and rhyme as the cover has it. The author is an 85-year old retired actor. He dedicates his book to the odd glass of wine for the little book should not be grumpier or sadder.

There are 27 pages of poems within the 151 pages. The rest of the book is taken up with a selection of amusing tales found under titles like Short Arse, The Enormous Rainbow and Two Nice Ladies of Nice; a selection which may be suitable for readers who appreciate end of the pier wisecracks. It's all good pun.

The poems, if I dare call them that, are rhymes of the cheeky chappie variety and they are mostly very short. Here's a typical example from Thoughts in Shorts or Rhyming  Briefs as author Neville Phillips punningly labels one group of them:

A Mixed Blessing

When he fell into the pool at Lourdes everyone was mortified,

But our Lady in her mercy smiled on him.

"A miracle! A miracle! I can move my legs!" he cried.

Then he gurgled his last words, "But I can't swim!"

The most poignant poem in the book is The Old Pro's Lament. Here, Neville Phillips reflects on his life on the stage. Things aren't what they were.

I want to  see the curtain rise

And footlights all aglow.

The way a play is staged today

Dismays an aged pro.

. . .

I know these days are gone for good:

It seems another age

When curtains rose and footlights shone

And magic took the stage.

 

There are 4 more verses in similar vein.

 

Smack a Trifle is the ideal book for great aunts, resting actors and old soldiers residing in seafront hotels. Mildly titillating and sure to spark a fond memory or two. To be read with a glass of wine at the elbow.   Gwilym Williams 

 

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Powerless, poems by Will Daunt.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 66 pages.  Published during year 2010 by Indigo Dreams Publishing, 132 Hinckley Road, Stoney Stanton, Leicestershire, LE9 4LN.  Cover photography: ‘Ashurst Beacon 2040,’ by Will Daunt.  Cover design by Ronnie Goodyer and Indigo Dreams. www.indigodreamsonline.com  ISBN: 978-1-907401-09-1 Price: £7.25

This fifth collection of poetry by Will Daunt is packed with mystery and intrigue. He tends to take the reader to the place of his thoughts, inviting you into his personal landscapes of rural England and his familiar Lancashire. He visits Devon, Cornwall and even our beautiful Wiltshire.  I really liked his poems.  You gain a real sense of places with imagery from the present day and how objects from the past reflect in the conscience now, for example in the series of poems several farewells SUNDAY SHOES/AN AUTOMATIC WATCH, these things or objects trigger memories and take us back. There’s also tender humour in poems like SUNDAY IS A DAY OF.... SHOPPING and LAMBORGHINI.

Will has talent for writing about nature that is around us with feeling and depth and with the geographical observations of a poet who travels, where poems take you on a journey using the landscape as a muse, to take you to a place you feel you may have visited or would want to explore. The sequence poems RE-SELL/RE-CYCLE/RE-FUEL/RE-FURNISH had a wonderful metre. I read them out loud as a sequence, even sang them to get the natural rhythm of the words. A lot of the poems resonated with me as reader and as a poet the earthiness of his words struck a chord in Moss Roads/ Above the trees. Salmon-through-RIBBLESDALE mentions the natural instincts of the salmon’s journey home. You get a good sense of dear Blighty and Will even mentions Stonehenge in his poem Sarum. This is a collection of variety with poems that zip around from the past to the future to settle nicely like an electronic bee on flower. The poems are written with a mature hand that has been around watched, lived and learned.

MOSS ROAD

there is a different life-distort, a shelf of saturated baize, an arable table - the Moss:
that mass of dense, deep soil, which (were you brave enough to build upon) would behave like swell beneath your home, kept buoyant by a raft -
an otherwise unsupported way to live. And its net of tarmac stretches unevenly lower than squinting-height,

ARTIST, STUCK IN SCENERY

His writing thins, like gravel tracks, and blends
with racks of furze-remembered wheat
and maize, crow crawled with dust that lazes
past wind-washed clumps. Geraniums.
And deep with bass, ponds bronze, while vaguely
silage steams, like barrows in the dew
but inspiration shuns his notepad

Review, by Neil Brooks

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Sandcastles at Evening, poems by Martin Lyon.  A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 32 pages.  Published during year 2010 by Acumen Publications, 6 The Mount, Higher Furzeham, Brixham, South Devon, TQ5 8QY.  Cover design: © Patricia Oxley 2010. Image: www.photoeverywhere.co.uk Acumen occasional pamphlets #15.  ISBN 978-1-873161-24-1  Price £3.50 

Sandcastles at Evening is Martin Lyon’s first collection.  His poetry is of place, love and death with the occasional, sometimes obscure, nod to the classics.  An underlying pattern of rhythm and rhyme binds this eclectic mix together.  Places visited include the Gedi ruins in Kenya where the ‘bones of a dead city silently decay’.  The quiet dignity of Gedi leads to a conclusion that perhaps we all can share:

‘May I pass gracefully when falls the night,

And slumber like these ruins, robed in white.’

 

Out travels take us onward to Cyprus and an encounter with a ghost (or maybe an alien), then onto Ireland and Iona, returning via Atlantis to the less romantic Bow Bridge with the acid criticism:

 

‘Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

A vista so offensive to the eye…’

 

Our present day preoccupation with celebrity finds a voice in the poem ‘Fame’:

 

‘At last fame’s scales have fallen from my eyes,

And my false glory crumbles into shame.’

 

Fame is invariably short term.  Poetry however provides at least the opportunity for a more lasting legacy.  Does ‘Sandcastles at Evening’ add to this?  On the whole I think yes, although  in the poem ‘Horace to Leuconoë’ the poet concludes:

 

‘Decant  your wines, and limit your long hope

To a brief interval.  For as we talk

Life grimly hurries by.  Enjoy today,

And trust the future least of everything.’

 

Perhaps that is what you need when reading poetry, a glass of good wine.  John Plevin

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The Beckoning Wild, poems by Lucy Lepchani.  A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 32 pages. Published during year 2010 by Acumen Publications, 6 The Mount, Higher Furzeham, Brixham, South Devon, TQ5 8QY.  Cover design: artwork, ‘Shiva,’ © Brenda Rogers 2010. Cover layout: Sean Hellman. Acumen occasional pamphlets #16. ISBN: 978-1-873161-25-8  Price £3.50. 

Lucy Lepchani has chosen her title well (see above), since so much of her feeling and thinking conveys an urgent need to escape from domesticity, from conventions (both in life and poetry) and embrace the alluring wild, the free, the natural, the artistic. In the fine opening poem Cartography, where she describes her severance from a cartographer lover in a plethora of ‘metaphysical’ imagery, the crumbling relationship is expressed in the special vocabulary of map-making: e.g. ...he angled me with theodolyte eyes/ locked me into a key and reasoned that I/ could be folded up into his pocket. But she escapes to a wilderness ‘and where own-two-feet forged new found lanes/ on the route to my own true North. (Phew!)

Many of the poems in this selection are about relatives, the one I find most appealing being An Armada of Aunties, where the poet gives full rein to her humour and considerable invention. Imagine aunts, for instance, as ‘A mainstay of earth-mothers in Marks & Spencer cardies’. Seriously, these companionable aunts were life-buoys to the young Lucy, just witness this moving extended metaphor:

 

                                            “These soft-dough invincibles

                                             were ballast to my childhood’s fragile hull,

                                             while my brittle parents wrecked every chance

                                             and then each other

                                             on rock after treacherous rock.”

 

To conclude, Lucy Lepchani handles language like a conjuror: it’s full of linguistic surprises, delightful, sometimes challenging. I only wish I could have quoted more for you, dear readers. But why not discover the proof of the pudding yourselves?  David Gill

 

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Ways of Saying, poems by Helen Ashley.  A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 32 pages.  Published during year 2010 by Acumen Publications, 6 The Mount, Higher Furzeham, Brixham, South Devon, TQ5 8QY.  Cover design: © acumen 2010.  Acumen occasional pamphlets #17.  Price £3.50.  ISBN: 978-1-873161-26-5

This collection of poems might best be described as thoughtful and gentle. There are no dramatic outbursts of feeling.  Major themes, such as friendship, love and death, are touched upon peripherally. For example in the poem, ‘Generation Gap,’ “. . . my son will ever replenish the joy / that my long dead mother still tears away.”  Human life is firmly set in its natural context.

In ‘After Life,’ the soul of the departed seems to be carried away, “. . . to a point where bid and light fused.”  The poet expresses a wish for a similar outcome when she dies.  In ‘Bill,’ a dead blackbird symbolises the death of a friend.  A pair of swans in ‘Eternal,’ marks the continuity of life.

Closely linked is the poet’s sense of historical context, from the gentle regret for a more natural past life in ‘Grandmother’s Jug,’ to her more colourful vision of the past which is expressed in ‘More Than Meets The Eye.’  Here, the poet’s imagination superimposes the colours and sounds of a ruined castle.

In ‘Misfortune,’ Helen Ashley presents us with the gulf between modern, rationalistic attitudes and the traditional, superstitious view of life.  ‘North East,’ points out the contrast between the harsh North Sea landscape and the sheltered vision of Devon which offers gentler, safer limits.  The poem, ‘Letters,’ describes the burning of letters, “watch the smoke lift them, twist / untwist black curlicues of grey, to white,” and recalls, “words that meant passion once / wrought without the boundaries of time.”

In this collection the reader will find a strong image of nature, the image of birds used as a metaphor for life and death.   Ingrid Riley

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #3 (55) June 2010

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #3 (June 2010), click on the surname of an author or Press underlined below, to link to the review.

Mohawk man - by P.J. Dodd

Incident in Pisa - by Ian McInnes

Losing the Edge - the eleventh anthology by Ragged Raven Press

A moment of Attention - by Chris Hardy

Krax Magazine No. 45, poems - reviews and illustrations from various contributors.

Strangers Like You - Mark Mansfield

 

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Mohawk Man and other poems by P. J. Dodd.  A slightly smaller than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a sepia tone cover and 62 pages.  Published during  2010, www.mohawkman.co.uk also see www.pjdodd.co.uk ISBN 978-0-9564792-0-4. UK £10.00. No publisher postal address shown in the book.

Mohawk Man and other poems is a first collection of poems and so the variety is there that is properly to be expected, but poetry must always be worth the weight of the paper and then there's the quill and candle on the cover...

Sometimes there is some charm and delicacy as in:

The high ring of flowers

on each cactus part

smile like maypole dancers

in pink elegant dresses ...

but then there is anger and frustration:

The man is a cunt.

The man is a cunt.

The man is a cunt.

The man is, a cunt....

Nothing clever there. We can only move on. There is humour, dark at times, but also a deep sense of despair; perhaps merely that things are as they are; that we have, the author aside, sunk to a sub-human level:

Fat, fat, slime, fat, slime,

(no low fat healthy option this time).

Try not to savour, swallow quick;

Are you really loving it? ...

The avant-garde often has a taste for words without wine, but it's worth noting that price wise at ten pounds we're now into the stratosphere. The point is, that with this slim and expensive volume of P.J. Dodd's material, as compared for example to Seamus Heaney, we're not getting enough of the poet's richness of language as Andrew Motion calls it.

Poetry is more than journalism and points-of-view hacked into verse. Review by Gwilym Williams.

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Incident in Pisa, poems by Ian McInnes.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and 45 pages.  Published during year 2009 by Matador, 5 Weir Road. Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, LE8 0LQ. www.troubador.co.uk/matador  e-mail: books@troubador.co.uk ISBN 978-1848761-971.  £6.50.

This is an interesting first collection; I liked the way the poems were witty, charming and full of human emotion. When reviewing poetry collections I sit in a comfortable chair in the garden, weather permitting, and carefully read the verse to get a feel of the content.  I found reading Incident in Pisa a pleasure as the weather has been so nice, and the poems where thought inducing and reader friendly.

The collection is agreeably set out using themes as starting places. The poem, A visit to Streatham, draws you into suburbia, Outside the bus must be waited on / A leaf caught in a belch of wind, is held for a moment in cold sunlight / then drops through the gutter slats . . . I like the momentary details in this poem. The next part of the book is Tribes of Men with poems about sport, bravado and cybermen. Then following segment of this collection features poems on people themes with witty verse about executives, death, students and Parallel wives;  all very enjoyable. There’s sadness and joy in these poems and some great lines like in the Spring song of the executive, My car’s parked smooth as a bullet outside restaurants with dark windows . . and from Student Song, Who is this at my graduation who offers me jobs, thirty thousand a year?

The collection has two touching poems in The memoriam page,  Nest / My girl blues, then finishes with a nature poem, The river, Will watch the seabirds wheeling free / Where the catcher seeks the oyster yet /And the deep sun bites back.  An interesting array of echoing poems.  Neil Brooks

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Losing the edge, anthology of poems from various contributors.  The eleventh anthology of poetry from Ragged Raven Press.  An A5 size, perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 96 pages. Published during year 2009 by Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR. www.raggedraven.co.uk e-mail: raggedravenpress@aol.com  ISBN: 978-0-9552552-5-0. £5.00

An eclectic selection of poems in this competition anthology, disparate thoughts, slanted ideas, lyrical, intelligent, hard hitting, leaving a gasp in the mind. Not for the faint hearted, many poems require knowledge and understanding from the reader

The first prize goes to Angela Readman’s ‘The Scent of Mrs. Di Maggio’s Bedroom’ and is well deserved. Compelling imagery, conjuring bedrooms in states of glamour or disorder.

Too many potions and bottles on the dresser,

Glass that gabbles when I walk in the door.

My half blown apology cracks to sand on my tongue.’

I believe the best poetry leaves echoes which resonate strongly when the poem is left behind, a beautiful haunting, often a matter of personal preference and one’s own experiences, I believe many lines and stanzas will resound in this way for other readers. One such is ‘The Book of Sheep’ – David Mark Williams, where a grassy pasture becomes

A book of hours they faithfully scribe,

Working in the fine detail.’

Likewise John Terry’s  ‘ Losing The Edge’ from which I assume the book takes its title, a cataclysmic poem which takes one to the edge of loss before returning to more solid ground

We might walk off the world

In the middle of a word,

Fall a different way –

Andy Humphrey’s ‘Breathing  for Me’ is a beautiful, passionate poem, Ami Roseingraves ‘Get the Point’ a moving picture of inner city turmoil, despair and desolation. Equally affecting, Deborah Harvey’s ‘The Worm,’ –vivid descriptions of the family whose names she finds inscribed on a gravestone. Two I must mention for their skill and dexterity, K.V. Skene, ‘The Regenerative Body,’ intelligent and thought provoking, and Antony Scott’s ‘Double Helix’ where he cleverly writes the poem in the shape of its title.

Some of the poems I found slightly obscure, probably a failing in myself, not the poet. Reading this collection is valuable and inspiring, many of you will prefer poems I haven’t space to mention, but all are worthy of their place in this intriguing anthology. Review by Kate Edwards.

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A Moment of Attention, poems by Chris Hardy.  Slightly smaller than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a two-colour cover and 83 pages.  Published during year 2008 by ‘Original Plus,’ 17 High Street, Maryport, Cumbria, CA15 6BQ.  Cover design by Martha Hardy.  ISBN 978-0-9546801-5-2. £8.00.

There is something of the Mediterranean in much of Chris Hardy’s poetry.  The sea with its shivering boats seems close by and there is the faint smell of olives.  All comforting fare for a reader emerging from a bitter and long winter.  But the poetry is not just sea and sand, it is populated by people.  People getting married, taking photos, cleaning floors, clearing tables in the local bar, having babies.  People going about the business of living, like the grandmother in ‘The Open Door into the Garden’ holding her grandson for the first time where her thin fingers hold him in a net.  Equally it is not all about living, death is also be present.  In ‘The Way Home’ when buying a place in the country we may be enchanted by the lapwing’s call, but this is also where farmers hidden in the bales shoot themselves.  And in ‘Words Like Hounds’ we are reminded that life’s blue curves are floored by death’s horizon.  Chris Hardy’s poetry is rooted in experience, the experience of an observer who recognises the value of distance.  Certainly a publication that deserves a moment of your attention. Review by John Plevin

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Krax Magazine No. 45, poems, reviews and illustrations from various contributors.  Reviews are carried out by anonymous persons.  An A5 size, untrimmed, stapled booklet with ? pages, (pages are not numbered).  Published during year 2008. No ISSN.  £3.50 $7.00.  Editor: Andy Robson, c/o 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR.  No e-mail, no www listed.

This collection of British and American verse is something of a lucky dip, some good things, some provocative, some damaged. Free verse poems, several here like Charles Kesler’s Willie’s Book Distributer and Tim Wells’s I’m going to make Heaven my home would work as performance poems. But Bob Newman’s  satire The Women’s Institute pulls out all the stops of rhyme, allusion (to Blake’s Jerusalem), puns for flamboyant presentation of that WI run by

                                        ‘The monumental Mrs Mason,

                                         The dark satanic Mrs Mills.’

Here and there contributors appear to be tackling themes for homework: Write about the changing fashions of footwear perceived from the point of view of a dance floor; write about the contents of a toolbox; what can you say about the colour yellow?(this last well elaborated by Michael Spindler).

Which leads me to sentimentality. In Jack the Nipper, the author wishes his pet hedgehog could talk: “Hey buddies, I was out on the tiles last night etc.” And worse, the poem about a dog with ‘little brown ears’ who gets rejected by a bitch called Tiny. Result: ‘A tear trickles down his cheek’. Where did I read: ‘Sentimentality is emotion gone wrong’?

Krax offers a fair number of short poems: limericks, senryu, etc., some of which come off.  I particularly enjoyed Joseph Hart’s Senile Senryus, so here are a couple from his set of 6 for the flavour:

                                       These days when I pass

                                       A clock I get the urge to

                                        Give it the finger

                                        Assuming I am

                                        On speaking terms with myself,

                                        Solitude is good.

In brief, Krax does unleash a fair scattering of talent but with a dash of ineptitude. Perhaps the editor(s) could be carefully selective? Review by David Gill

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Strangers Like You, poems by Mark Mansfield.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 83 pages.  Published during year 2008 by Van der Decken Press, Table Bay, New York.  Front cover photograph by Luida Mansfield.  Cover design by Shawn Smith, Geneva Printing Company.  ISBN 978-615-32012-0  Price $8.20. For information, e-mail: mmansfield001@rochester.rr.com

Mark Mansfield 

Photograph above: Mark Mansfield

 

The author was born in the USA, travelled extensively and worked in various professions.  His amazingly varied life is reflected in his poems.  They are almost narrative in form, taking incidents from his own experience.  He merely states them, leaving it to the reader to assign any wider relevance.

 

Mansfield’s poems are often dense and leisurely paced.  When looking in a shop window he recalls in the poem A Tough of Light . . .’ ‘a trace of camphor from a woman’s hair.’

‘Empty Courts,’ depicts a relatively minor interlude, with the shattering impact delivered in the last two lines.

 

                                    ‘Except that we were young and she would die

                                      long before the next winter’s first snow.’

 

This sense of a writer haunted by his own past recurs throughout: 

 

‘The Whisper,’

                                    ‘I passed along the pier

                                    and stopped for nothing but

                                    to watch day disappear,

                                    then turning, heard you there,

                                    although you’ve been gone for years.’

 

Unfortunately, some of the poems such as ‘On Her Birthday,’ or Rocket Room,’ while obviously meaningful to the poet, are difficult to appreciate fully, because of references which are not familiar to the reader.

 

Most poets are introduced by a quotation from a well-known writer.  Sometimes the link to the poem is obvious, but more often than not it is obscure or even impenetrable.  However, it rarely seems that the introductory line adds anything to the poem.

 

These minor criticisms apart, Mansfield has something to say, and at his best says it with feeling.  Ingrid Riley

*

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Webzine, Edition #2 (54) March 2010

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Return to Home Page

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #2 (March 2010), click on the surname of an author, underlined below, to link to the review.

Driving through the Debris - by Ivan Wallace

Divinity is Prised Loose - by Michael Thorne

The Third Fifty - by Jenefer Ann Murray

The Fourth Fifty - by Jenefer Ann Murray

Fires of Memory - James Knox Whittet

I Wandered Only As A Cloud - Wendy Webb

 

*

 

Driving through the Debris, poems by Ivan Wallace.  A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 36 pages.  Published during year 2009.  No ISBN.  Available from the author: 15 Drumhoy Drive, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, BT38 8NN.  £3.00.

I’ve always believed that inside every poet there is a voice that is trying to get out.  In Ivan Wallace’s ‘Driving through the Debris’ the voice is one of ribald humour, liberally dosed with alcohol.  After a night on the booze in ‘A Drop of the Hard Stuff’, a hangover brought on by drinking a mix of milk and ‘Poteen’ is put down to the simple excuse that ‘the milk was off’.  In ‘Not so Famous Poets Convention 2009’ we are told by a dead poet that alcohol ‘will kill anything that lives and preserve anything that’s dead’.  It’s almost enough to tempt you to join the Temperance Society except I heard that they’ve had their licence revoked.

But it’s not all booze.  Have you ever thought why Adam and Eve had belly buttons?  Perhaps God made us like we would make a pie with a hole in the middle to let out the heat.  We are left wondering ‘if he licked his finger when he’d finished’. In ‘Withering Sights’ a passer by complains that ‘the cold gets to you when you get to our age’.  You conclude that ‘he thinks you’re as old as him’ and ‘maybe I should dye my hair’, then remember you don’t have any.

I suspect that I am closer to Ivan Wallace in his taste of singer-songwriters than I am to his poetry.  A ‘Van fan’ in ‘The Van Morrison Appreciation Society’ believes that Van is on a par with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.  He is told in no uncertain terms ‘that Van couldn’t even lace their boots’.  However if you want a bit of easy fun, Driving through the Debris doesn’t disappoint.  Review by John Plevin

*

Divinity is Prised Loose, poems by Michael Thorne.  A5 stapled booklet with a 3-colour cover and 53 pages.  Published during year 2009.  No ISBN.  Front cover image from www.banksy.co.uk Order via www.myspace.com/rhuardean at £3.50, includes cost of postage and packing.  E-mail: mike_t8@hotmail.com

Michael Thorne’s poetry accumulates observations of people and tells tales of his travels with no holds barred and with the odd bleep-bleep word; these poems are layered with humour and imagery. Some of the poems have a sense of mystery of human encounters along his journeys. I really enjoyed reading these poems - I heard the morning sing/Autumn/Pins and Up early for Paris were some of my favourites and I liked the fact that each poem contained a different mood ranging from the reflective side of the mind as well as the more gritty and humorous poems like Want a job? /The Tale of the Office Manager. Yeah I liked the fact that there was variety and range in Michael Thorne’s poems which continue to surprise and delight throughout the 53 pages like the reference to Charles Bukowski being a tight arse in the poem Judicial Review and the flactuance in the poem/ As if I could care/ made me laugh out loud. There is something in Michael Thorne’s poems that makes you relate to the human condition / experience and how we interact and observe each others behaviour in our cosmopolitan cities and on our own journeys.

Up early for Paris

Set the functioning light’s bare grey, barren glow

against my yawning senses, up early for Paris.

The scalps of twenty other passengers, set ahead

equally struggle with air, thought and communication.

I preferred it on the station floor,

cold, beneath John Betjeman’s statue.

I preferred it in the early shower,

hot faced and bleak eyed in the clouded mirror,

I preferred it in your bed,

dreaming of fresh apricots at the height of winter.

 

Autumn

When winter had grown cold,

Hard as a frozen tap,

We knew when time would come for spring.

And when spring had become lush,

Soft as morning sun,

We held tight in preparation for summer.

And when summer blew dry,

In equals portions of green, gold and brown,

We would pretend that it would stay that way forever.

Review by Neil Brooks

Neil Brooks photo

Photograph of reviewer Neil Brooks, above.  Click on image to enlarge.

*

Palores Publications’ 21st Century Writers.  The Third Fifty, poems by Jenefer Ann Murray.  A5 Perfect bound book with a 3-colour cover and 65 pages. Published during year 2009 by Palores Publications, 11a Penryn Street, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 2SP.  ISBN: 978-1-906845-05-6   £8.50.

The collection, as the title implies, contains 50 poems and is the third book in a series. The poems are written in the sometimes flowery language of a bygone era.

The author, pictured with her brother and their dog after the war, must be quite far advanced in years, and that's what makes this book so intriguing and interesting; for it's the enthusiasm for writing that shines through in almost every sentence. The strong subtext hammering through is that we are never too old to make good use of our grey matter.

To nail down Murray's own phrase, one that she uses in at least two of her poems, the poetry is awfully nice. Yes, on the one hand it is indeed what you'd expect to find on the book table at the village hall or in the dust motes behind the back pews at the local church, but it is also more; as the quote in the front of the book alerts us: In every work of art there should be space for the mind to travel between like and dislike.

The poem Sam's Shed is perhaps a metaphor for The Third Fifty:

At last when he was grown-up

and had a house with a long garden

he began to build it in his spare time

what an excitement, his shed. . .

 

In the poem Sam and Sybil take care of the garden, the flowers, the paths, the bushes, the trees. There's the old door and some beams and weatherboard walls...

 

Songs for people of a certain age. And, yes, I'm getting there.   Review by Gwilym Williams

Gwilym Williams photo

Photograph of reviewer Gwilym Williams, above.  Click on image to enlarge.

 

*

Palores Publications’ 21st Century Writers.  The Fourth Fifty, poems by Jenefer Ann Murray.  A5 Perfect bound book with a 3-colour cover and 73 pages. Published during year 2009 by Palores Publications, 11a Penryn Street, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 2SP. ISBN 978-1-906845-07-0  £8.50.

Although the author has reached her mid-eighties she still produces some interesting poems and prose, digging deep into her past, building on life experience.  What we have here is an unconventional autobiography, presenting the poet’s life in the form of ‘snap-shots.’

In the poems, ‘Beginning,’ Little Brother’ or ‘The Inescapable Inedibility of Candles,’ just to mention a few, Jenefer Ann Murray gives the reader an insight into her childhood and how she saw the world then through the eyes of a child.  At the same time this is a child who is fully aware of what is to come later as she says ‘Being an infant is uphill work though.’ ‘Youthful Protests WWII’ and ‘Going down to Pentabulo,’ reflect early experience of men, but again filtered through the older woman’s awareness.

There are heart-felt poems here like ‘A Truly Miserable Moment,’ ‘Till Death us do Part,’ ‘Follow-on’ and ‘Sequel,’ which describe the devastating effect of choosing the wrong partner in your life. ‘Blind Man’s Buff,’ ‘Not Unusual’ and particularly ‘Grief Poem III’ present a side of life which the author is able to conceal below the lighter poems.   ‘Mighty Oaks,’ ‘Agapanthus,’ ‘That Old Sin,’ ‘Seaside Garden Summertime’ and ‘Rose Grower’ are on a lighter note and echo the humour in ‘Epigrams.’ In the poems ‘Ornaments Overhead,’ she compares the upbringing of her own children to that of a seagull mother with her chicks entailing the ‘learning curves’ . . . ‘you will have to feed the chicks,’ the anxiety of raising the offspring.

Finally, there are the wry philosophical poems of old age, ‘Where loss, departure and death are concerned,’ ‘it’s the other side of love.’

After reading this collection you have the feeling that you know the writer and understand her development from child to wise old lady. Review by Ingrid Riley

*

Fires of Memory, poems by James Knox Whittet.  A5 size Stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 23 pages.  Published November 2009 by: Wendy Webb Books, 9 Walnut Close, Norwich, NR8 6YN. No ISBN. E-mail: tips4writers@yahoo.co.uk   £2.50.

James Knox Whittet is a poet from the isle of Islay in the Hebrides. In this collection Fires of Memory we are seldom far from the cries of seagulls, the sight of swans dipping their necks into a loch, the mist-shrouded mountains, but lest you should think you are in for an undiluted dose of Celtic Twilight I must assure you that this poet has his feet firmly under a table, for example, of a motorway service station restaurant in Newport Pagnell at 3am. There in a bleak, tawdry atmosphere he sits observing three other travellers, who like himself are breaking their journeys “to destinations not wholly of their own choosing”.  A touch of Phillip Larkin here. His sympathy for people, particularly those who suffered, whether he knew them personally, or simply from a report in the local paper, is a pervasive characteristic. Hence the fine, moving title poem Fires of Memory, written in memory of a Norfolk farmer who, as a soldier helped, to liberate Belsen, couldn’t forget what he saw. He was haunted:   

 

                                            But memories of mountains of children’s shoes

                                            Spilled from each cupboard you opened;

                                            Glaciers of eyeless spectacles stared back

                                            At you, like sun strands on splintered glass.

 And campaigned to publicise the horrific truth.

 

Whittet, shows a mastery of traditional forms (perhaps he uses free verse elsewhere).The three sonnets display different arrangements of rhymes, and one of them Cadences runs on lines of four feet instead of the usual five. There is a clever terza rima and a poem of cinquains, a form quite new to me, where as in haikus the syllables are counted. Babyhood is encapsulated in 2/4/6/8/2 as follows:

                                             Faces

                                              moon from above

                                              as I lie in this pram

                                             wrapping sun strands around my frail

                                             fingers.

 

I heartily recommend this small bouquet of beautifully crafted poems smelling of heather mingled with cooking oil.  Review by David Gill

                                                                                                           

*

I Wandered Only As A Cloud, incorporating Quiet Voices In The Loud Child, poems by Wendy Webb.  A5 stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 31 pages.  Published during year 2009 by Wendy Webb Books, 9 Walnut Close, Norwich, NR8 6YN.  ISBN-13: 978-1-903264-80-5 £3.50. tips4writers@yahoo.co.uk  www.norfolkpoets.blogspot.com   www.coastingnorfolk.blogspot.com

The shade of Wordsworth and echoes of his poems permeate this collection, daffodils bounce and rebound through the poetry as Wendy Webb walks and climbs in the Lake District.

‘I wandered lonely Dora’s field,

All winding clouds of daffodils…’

Sometimes it reads almost as a pastiche, 

‘though my heart now with pleasure fills

and dances where the warbler thrills.’

again referring us back to Wordsworth. The poems choosing to link Keats, John Clare, and Betjeman with the area imitate their style and mindset very cleverly.

I was not always convinced by the flow and rhythm of the poems, occasionally seeming as though the writer was overcome by thoughts and ideas and tried to fit too many into a line or stanza. This was particularly noticeable in ‘Quiet Voices in the Loud Child,’ where the metre is often disturbed by the urge to express too much at once, then settling into well measured  verse.  Nevertheless, the poem is an epic achievement of loss, loneliness, hidden yearnings, with references to the Bible, Mythology, Peter Pan, - here is a leaping imagination encompassing many things to illuminate meaning.

‘I shade that beauty which has not yet grown,

in ghostly face drained into winter’s loss,

to grow myself a spring for Psyche’s pain

back into heaven , when her joy is born.’

Later in the reminiscence, journeyings. Norfolk to Devon, Dartmoor, Glastonbury Tor, the M6, M62, all seasoned with remembered joys and griefs, memories of old sadness resolved in new intentions and insights, culminating again in the spirits of daffodils.

Wendy is prolific and entertaining, with an interesting and unusual view of things. Much of the poetry reads like a discourse between the poet and a remembered self, which, as eavesdroppers, we are privileged to overhear, and may learn much from the courage and optimism which glow softly through this work.  Review by Kate Edwards

Wendy Webb photograph

Photo of Wendy Webb, above.  Click on thumbnail image to enlarge.

 

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #1 (December 2009), click on the surname of an author, underlined below, to link to the review

 

Genteel Messages - by Gwilym Williams

More Su - by Su Laws Baccino

Peeling Oranges and Lemons to Dartmoor - by Wendy Webb

Utterances - by Frédérique Lecoq

iota 82 - by various contributors

Incubations - by David Gill

 

*

 

 

Genteel Messages, poems by Gwilym Williams.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 54 pages.  ISBN 978-1-906357-17-7 Published by Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY. poetrymonthly@btinternet.com  £5.25.

 

I really enjoyed reading this collection; it’s a book I actually took to work with me to view on a 12 hour shift, where I slowly (and with joy) read through.  I discovered and liked the poet’s rich imagery and observations, items that to some could appear mundane but he has made interesting. There’s sensitivity in his words too. Gwilym has tackled lots of different themes/subjects with humour and imagination; topics like flat packed furniture made me consider putting together flat-pack furniture, with-out reading the de-structions, which I tend to do. Gwilym has packed a lot into 54 pages some of the poems were like small sketches even caricatures of quirky human behaviour and the nature and how people act, Good companions/poets of the public bar. I also enjoyed his homage to his literary heroes Beckett/Bukowski/RS Thomas/ 'grunt' and found it all quite educational. I’ve not heard of Coluim Wallace (1796-1906), lots of references to history. I have never been to Vienna, it seems like a place to ignite inspiration if you’re a writer. Genteel Messages is a readable collection and has a chap-book feel to it! A bargain at £5.25.  Gwilym Williams provides an insightful view of many themes through a poet’s words.  I have many favourites 

 

Okabe’s Frottage Sites

 

Okabe’s pencil blurs rapidly over a surface

and an image appears on paper;

every stone leaves a unique imprint;

just like your thoughts.

 

Walking with Bukowski

 

Say, you might read a passage to me

from Buk’s new book

the last night of the earth...

 

you’d like the feel...

the black and red cover...

the acid-free paper...

 

Neil Brooks

 

*

 

More Su, poems and prose by Su Laws Baccino.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 41 pages. Published in year 2007 by dibleydo. ISBN 978-0-9553656-1-4

Cover note by U A Fanthorpe.  £5.99.

 

The Suffolk coastline and countryside figure strongly in Su Laws Baccino’ poems.  At one moment we are comfortable in a ‘Dormant Land’ where ‘snow falls silently from indigo sky’, the next moment we are immersed in the 1953 floods where children ‘slipped slowly from adults’ frozen hands’.  But nature kind and cruel is not the only inhabitant of her landscape.  In ‘Sunrise’ the ‘Sizewell dome shimmers, mirroring the rising sun’, while elsewhere the residents of Acacia Square rebel against the introduction of wheelie bins.  And of course the hand of man has its place with the ‘warmongering politicians’ in ‘Who Cares’ puffing out ‘their bullet-proofed chests’.

 

The sea also figures in the two prose items included in the collection.  In ‘The sea was huge,’  Jack has a storm and Mother Nature to thank for his transition from simple fisherman to canny businessman.  The futuristic story ‘Crowded Out,’ set in 2050, describe a world where the boundaries between death and life are strangely blurred.

 

In summary ‘More Su’ is an eclectic mix and not always a comfortable read.  But maybe that’s no bad thing.

 

John Plevin

 

*

 

Peeling Oranges & Lemons to Dartmoor, poems by Wendy Webb.  A5 size stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 39 pages.  ISBN 978-1-903264-77-5 Published in year 2009 by Wendy Webb Books, 9 Walnut Close, NR8 6YN tips4writers@yahoo.co.uk  £4.00.

 

A magical mystery tour. A curious mixture of clues and locations. A kind of join-the-dots poetry.

A so-called stream of consciousness. An almost A to Z atlas of Great Britain ...

 

Well, who knows? Maybe there is a something or other to be unearthed at the end of it all.

 

For me, Webb demonstrates much too often the old trick of using nouns as verbs. Almost a sleight of hand I think it should be, not blatant. Her bold style took a bit of getting used to.

 

Tardis me to 1947

or, for example

My rats all cockroach from the sinking ship

 

Clues, to something to be found beyond the poetry, abound:

Read the Qur'an to find (his name means 'Jew')

or, again by way of example

Scarborough 45, 'Take the exit,

after 300 yards turn left ...

 

Lines like the following unearthed memories of puzzle-setters like Dan James and Kit Williams and jolly car treasure hunts from village to village through the green and pleasant countryside:

Spent Botticelli's Venus discards Mars,

to Wessex peaceful Hardy, when all's Donne:

 

What to make of it all? There is a kind note inside the front cover guiding the reader to 4 other Wendy Webb books together with instructions as to The correct sequence to read these poems.

 

To be quite frank, without the lure of some precious artefact like the famous golden hare, I found it all rather too much.

 

The front cover shows a picture of a mound called Brentor Church. Perhaps it's also some kind of clue?

 

I think it best to leave the final word to Webb herself:

The moment is all challenge in the mud.

 

Gwilym Williams

 

*

 

Utterances, poems and photographs by Frédérique Lecoq.  A5 size booklet with a two-colour cover and 15 pages.  No ISBN  £6.00  Available thro’ frederique.lecoq@yahoo.com

 

Frédérique Lecoq is French. Utterances is her first collection of poems. These seven poems sprang from her profound feelings for the Cornish coastal town of St Ives during the first of two years spent there. I have to say at the outset that the booklet is beautifully produced with mounted photographs echoing the seascape imagery of most of the poems.

 

St. Ives establishes the closest possible relationship between town and newcomer: mother and child, opening with:

 

“You have welcomed me into your pregnant belly.

     I am reborn along the path of your estuary.”

 

The sea also plays the role of mother, but a murderous one. The last verse of The Sea runs as follows:    “Mother and destroyer,

                                 Your true colour is silver.

                                     You heave the hour

                               And swallow it like a flower.”

 

The photo here suitably shows a silver path across a pewter-grey sea.

 

However, the poem that appealed to me most was Surf. Here the language has a lyrical impetus: and some delightfully weird thoughts, for instance, where the poet walking along the beach wonders whether she will survive the encroaching winter:

                                “Will I wake up like the sleeping marmot?

                                Will I defrost like the dead frog?”

 

She also has feeling for assonance (has she read Verlaine?) as here:

 

                                “The bay echoes its last whispers to me

                                And disappears into the mist.”

 

The sixth poem St Uny Church signals the end of her poetic childhood. It’s a powerful poem with punishing imagery, e.g. after a short walk to St Uny Church

                               “ My organs are bleeding from the journey

                                 and drum against the ground under my feet.

Shortly after, her” body overflows with its own blood

                          returning to the estuary below.

                          It becomes a one-eyed crawling snake.”

 

Mercifully she revives, inspired by “the spirit of the poets”.

 

David Gill

 

*

 

iota 82, 2008/2, quarterly publication of poems from various contributors and reviews by Bob Mee. A5 size perfect-bound book with a two-colour cover and 56 pages. Editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch. ISSN 0266-2922 Submissions and correspondence to: Nigel McLoughlin, Editorial Board, iota, Room QU223, Francis Close hall, University of Gloucester, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ.  Subscriptions address: Bluechrome Press, PO Box 109, Portishead, Bristol, BS20 7ZJ.  www.iotapoetry.co.uk iotapoetry@gmail.com Single issue £3.00. Annual Subscription £12.00.

 

Every issue iota provides reading of quality and variety, and number 82 is no exception.  The first few pages list the winners of this years’ poetry competition which are remarkable pieces of writing, like ‘Our Lady of the Doorway,’ by David King who won the first prize.

 

The poems ‘Arthur’s Self Portrait’ by Maggie Frolish, ‘Obedience’ by Hilary S. Bussey and ‘The Lodger’ by John Daniel, contain elements of anger out of bounds, anxiety and a kind of helplessness, even fatality, which is expressed in the lines, ‘He shouts. Like that. Burst of volume,’ I must not speak or shuffle my feet,’ ‘I study her face, wondering how a woman so cruel could produce such perfection,’ Insulating himself from the world.’

 

Calvin Green in ‘Old Man’ describes – on a more sombre note – a father figure whose life is ebbing away through cancer and strokes.  The son comes to the conclusion that he hardly knew him.  He resigns himself to the fact that ‘we all die, each with his own grief.’

 

There are many more outstanding poems for the reader to discover, like ‘Dead Stock’ by Sean Elliott who uses the day to day activities of a book shop as a metaphor for the way we treat other people, categorizing them and often discarding them.  ‘We . . . sift the nameless from the soon forgot.’

 

In ‘A cold coming’ Norah Hanson reworks the nativity story to show Bethlehem today with walls, checkpoints and weapons.  But now, as two thousand years ago, there is still love and hope in the world, ‘there is an energy which can conceive a child of peace in the womb of a virgin.’

 

Towards the end of this issue there are a number of reviews which are informative and also make interesting reading. 

 

Ingrid Riley

 

*

Incubations, being longish poems in prose contexts by David Gill.  A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 84 pages. Front cover painting reproduction: Johann Wolfgang Goethe in Italy by J.H.W. Tischbein.  Published in year 2009.  No ISBN.  Available from the author at: 38 Yarnells Hill, Oxford, OX2 9BE.  £3.50 (includes the cost of postage).  irenedavidgill@btinternet.com

 

What makes this more than another poetry collection are the prose pieces preceding the poems, a fascinating and useful device. How often have you wished to know the background to a poem, or the story which inspired it. Well, here that wish is satisfied. It is like being taken by the hand and led through a history – of David Gill’s travels, his ancestors, his wife Irene’s amazing family, the people he met and knew, their stories told in a way that makes you feel you know them too, his grandfather, who once served on the same ship as Joseph Conrad, his friend Peter in Saxony.

‘A letter to Peter Friedrich’ is the story of a lasting friendship, from when the boys became pen pals soon after the end of the war. A visit to Gdansk, the home of Irene’s grandmother in childhood when it was called Danzig, gives rise to a poem about two Post Office sieges, Dublin during the Easter Rising, and Gdansk when Germany invaded Poland.

No letters arrive, no letters depart,

Pigeons range quietly along upper sills

Where, below them, rifle barrels start

To quiver like sandpiper’s bills.’

Nyakasura revisited’ is a wonderful tale of a school near the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda. The poet’s taut descriptions and imagery transport the reader into that landscape.

‘The burnt sienna camelots

Of termites,pursueing their own

Strange collective lives.’

In ‘Station Masters’ a connection is made between Joseph Conrad and Franz Kafka, ‘The Battle of Berlin Zoo’ reveals much of the poet’s humanitarian spirit towards animals as well as mankind. ‘Samso,’a Danish island where Irene is taken, escaping from Nazi Germany, is exhilarating and beautiful, even with the frightening background of threatened invasion.

'Your careful hands,

Curators of seashells, tiny scallops,

Mussels like jewellery boxes

With opal linings.’

A youthful Portugese is urged not to embrace futility or to lack hope, and ‘The Goethe Rose’ describes how a rose from Goethe’s gartenhaus in Weimer eventually

‘unwraps it’s soft strong petals

in Caerleon beside the Usk.’

Adventurous journeys, compelling events, described in flowing and intelligent poetry and prose.

 

Kate Edwards.

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 52, September 2009

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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Suburbs of My Childhood, poems by Bill Vartnaw, published year 2009.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 74 pages.  Cover design by Douglas Rees; photo at page 71 by Jim Scott.  Published by Beatitude Press, Berkeley, California, USA. Web www.beatitudepress.com   ISBN: 978-0-9815047-0-4  $12.95 Bill Vartnaw: taureanhorn@hotmail.com

          Bill Vartnaw (b. 1949) is a well-known Californian poet.  This present collection of poems covers the period 1972 to 1995, hence the title Suburbs of My Childhood.  His opening poem ‘The Pursuit’ proclaims: ‘I come to/this life to leave my fingerprints.’  Which he does, and some of them are pretty oblique. For example, we find in ‘Contact Sport’ a basket-ball game sandwiched between scenes of demolition, shrewdly philosophical points being punctuated by the Boom! of the lead ball against the brickwork. Or he asks a simple(?) question: ‘what use is/a rain barrel/ in summer time?’ (‘Sonata’) Amazing how much goes on in that barrel at an atomic level – before the rain comes! ‘Cezanne’s Apples’ includes the line ‘nature morte avec pommes (still life with poems),’ and before you can fault him, the deliberate mistranslation leads to a thought-provoking revelation of a natural connection between apples and poems. Vartnaw’s free verse poems, are often difficult (it has to be said) but well worth decoding.  David Gill

*

Of Birds and Bees, poems by A. F. Harrold with drawings by Jo Thomas.  Hardback A5 size book with a two colour cover and 47 pages.  One hundred copies for sale.  Published in year 2008 by Quirkstandard’s Alternative, 79a Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG2 7PT. Web: www.jothomas.net and www.quirkstandsalternative.co.uk and www.afharrold.co.uk  ISBN-13: 978-0-9557081-2-1  £20.00 + £2.50 postage and packaging.

          These poems feel slightly overwhelming, some a little obscure on first reading, but when read twice, thrice, they gather one up into A.F. Harrold’s world, and what a place that is. The birds, insects, and other creatures in these poems, some observed in England, others in California, are described with scrupulous attention to detail, and often with loving humour. An aura of love pervades the pages, whether Harrold  is depicting ‘the tiny whirl - light bee,’ or a snail, ‘300 million years of design shining out,’ or visiting a girlfriend on Christmas morning. Plenty of joy and delight in this book, the poet marvels at the flight of a hummingbird, and is amazed to find a seagull performing the same reversing flight.

          “a wingtip on the wheel, an eye out the back window,

          elbow crooked over the seat’s shoulder- only

          the recorded message- this seagull is reversing-

          was missing. I came home laughing, unexpected.”

He sees a dragonfly;

          “the fat flying twig of nacre-armour shifts

          like a blur of geometry to a new there.”

I felt I was seeing these beings in a new light, a swan makes ‘his lomping lazy lope along that path,’ then becomes ‘a free-flying, flame- white arrow in flight.’

          Poems to lift the spirits, but not without a pervasive sadness here and there, a hint of melancholy, a frisson down the spine.

          ‘something unique and immovable

          was lodged inside me, troubling me.’

Soon dispelled by the interior of a seashell, ‘violet, smooth as unintended love.’

          Although this collection doesn’t contain any overtly ‘love poems’ it is an affirmation of love, nature, and life:

          ‘it’s all going on, great thrusting life, going on all on its own.’

I’ve quoted widely from this collection, because I feel the poetry will lure and draw you in far better than my prose. The illustrations are beautifully drawn, lending an almost spectral, dreamlike quality to the pages.  Kate Edwards

*  

The Waters of Mars, poems and photographs by Frédérique Lecoq.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a three colour cover and 14 pages.  Hand made by the author in year 2008.  ISBN ?  Price? Contact details as follows: frederique.lecoq@yahoo.com or though web address: www.Flickr.com/photos/frederiquelecoq/

As someone who has over the years struggled with foreign languages I am somewhat in awe of a poet from France writing poetry in English.  Frédérique Lecoq, born and bred in France and now living in London has in her collection ‘The Waters of Mars’, given us a series of poems reflecting her observations of the Cornish environment with many of the poems accompanied by her own photos.  The poems range from the rock pool in ‘Stillness’ where the ‘clock has stopped’, at least until the next tide, to the wider view of ‘St Ives, Town Of My Dreams’ which reminds her of the ‘miniature town’ she built as a girl and where she felt ‘safe and protected’. 

A nice compliment to the Cornish town and people.

However, it’s not all landscape and nature.  A number of the poems are concerned with memory and time and love.  These poems stand on their own, no photos are needed enabling the reader to make a connection with their own experience.  In ‘Autumn Leaves’ she recalls the loss of a loved one where the dead leaves on the ground are a reminder ‘that once I loved and have been loved’. In ‘Love and Reality’ she sees man as love and woman as reality where ‘Together, they give birth to truth’.  For all our sakes I hope she’s right.  John Plevin

*

Norfolk Poets and Writers, Anthology 2008, Edited by Wendy Webb.  An A5 sized stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 50 pages.  Poems from various contributors.  ISBN: 978-1-903264-74-4 £5.00.  Cover picture: Lavenham, Suffolk, 2008. Published by: Wendy Webb Books, 9 Walnut Close, Norwich, NR8 6YN.  E-mail: tipsforwriters@yahoo.co.uk

A diverse and thoughtful anthology of poetry, lots of interesting poems packed with feelings on varying topics.  I liked the nature themed poems as well as the observational and life inspired work. I enjoyed the sheer diversity of the writing and re-read many poems to absorb the flavour of the words and imagery. There were many references to the sea and coast  which has always been a great focus of the muse for poets/artists for generations. There were a few poems that made me laugh too, which is always good. The poem Teenage Anthem by Dee Gordon provides a slant on the Larkin poem, This Be the Verse, a comment on the attitude of youth from the parents perspective. It was nice to see a Sophie Hannah poem in the Invited Guests section. This Anthology is great tribute to the individual talent of writers and to all small press poets who scribe away for the love of words and language. It was a joy to review this anthology sat in my garden with the sun beaming down, for a change.

I liked this poem for its humour,

WORDS by Simon Ward

Somewhere beyond the sunlit leaves

a flight of multicoloured words is wheeling

forever out of reach, While close at hand

I hear the tapping which may correspond

to fifty thousand monkeys typing Shakespeare.

How long, I wonder, will they take,

when this particular ape

has not completed even half of line

to requisite perfection or design?                  

Review by:  Neil Brooks

* 

Joined-up Writing, an anthology of writing by members of Barmouth University of the Third Age.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 128 pages.  Published during December, year 2008, by Round House Publishing, Dolgellau, Gwynedd, LL40 1LD.  ISBN 978-0-9560394-0-8 Editor-in-Chief: Richard Paramor.  Cover illustration by Gladys Lawson, page illustration by Jack Richardson.  £4.95

A diverse anthology of poems, prose and short stories.  The reader finds contributions that show great skill in taking something intrinsically ordinary and adding a little drama to give it more interest.  The writers have kept close to their own experience.

In ‘The First, but not the Last,’ by Cliff Probert, the reader’s attention is kept alive to reveal in the last line the image of the moon landing.

          We are left unsure as to whether John Reece’s story, ‘La Grande Sorpressa,’ his very close encounter with Sophia Loren, is in fact a dream?  He did accompany her to a book signing, but as for the rest, who knows?

          Many of the prose pieces investigate a state of mind, such as Sylvia Vannelli’s ‘The Void,’ where we discover the salient facts of the woman’s past life leading up to her final act.

          In the case of Richard Paramor’s story ‘Guy,’ we can only hope that the chilling account of a plane crash is a dream.

          In this collection there are familiar stories that are well written, although short, like ‘A Fishy Tale,’ by Glenys Lawson, ‘The Unexpected,’ by Margaret Ashby to Diane Andrews, ‘Taken for a Ride,’ and we are always left wanting to know more.

          Viewing the collection as a whole, however, the impression which remains is the quirky humour surrounding the familiar.  These writers, although I could not mention every one, are in my view at their best when they deal with subjects which are close to them.  Ingrid Riley

*

Alright Squire? No. 2, poems by Paul Tanner.  Small stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 21 pages.  Published during year 2009 by last chance before bath-time publications.  £1.99. E-mail: saneboy@hotmail.co.uk

See page 41 of edition #52 of Pulsar for an example of Paul Tanner’s work. Basically: irreverent, hard-hitting, non-pretentious, in your face, ‘ave it!’  Not for the easily offended.  Recommended.  David Pike

*

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 51, March 2009

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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iota 80, 2007/4, a quarterly selection of contemporary poetry.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 56 pages.  ISSN 0266-2922. editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  www.iotapoetry.co.uk Email: iotapoetry@aol.com  UK sub £12.00 or £3.00 per issue.

Iota, a poetry quarterly of 20 years standing, attracts verse from the UK, Ireland and the US, hence the range of cultural ‘feel’ in the featured poems. The dominant medium is free verse (sometimes slackening into prose), though it’s possible to smuggle in a rhyming verse if you are as subtle as Fergus Chadwick (‘The Wiser Clown’). I enjoyed a fair number of the contributions, not least for their imagery wired up to our technological age. Here’s Kathy Miles in ‘Space Junk’ using the magic of her poetry notebook to “open the door of the wind” and spot not only her lost socks and her Swiss Army knife but ‘All the debris of my life/orbiting the earth above my head/pieces of my skin becoming stars.’ And from Michael W. Thomas’s very challenging 2-page poem ‘You Won’t Fall’ this self-portrait with mobile: ‘You are known – one among them,/even with your futureman clothes/your pocket that chuckles and tweets/as messages tuck themselves in/from the ends of the sky.’  And from Liverpool there’s a poet who wishes he ‘could fly like a casserole’. Good luck to him!  David Gill

*

Ju Su, poems and short stories by Su Law Baccino.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 38 pages.  Published during year 2006. E-mail: alfndibs@tiscali.co.uk ISBN 0-9553656-0-0 £4.99.

A diverse collection of poems, ranging from descriptions of scenes, places, people, to tales of travel, loss, and love. Her choice of words and imagery are often arresting,

‘And so ends summer, wind whipping pebbles;

ominous aubergine sky, mirroring the inky sea;’

She writes from a wide range of experience, having lived in several places abroad, but a strong impression comes from her poetry that she is happiest in her native Suffolk, to which she returned. The first section of poems, ‘Roots,’ speaks powerfully of her memories and current pre-occupation with the landscapes and villages.

                                ‘All around, yet far away, distant,

  isolated voices call.’

She doesn’t hesitate to remind us of the dangerous ways in which marshland and coastline have been used. ‘Stations……….power stations…’ However, she writes equally well of ‘les Alpes maritime, -

                                ‘Purring pines whisper above cliff-top sentinels

                                sprinkling dust that flies far on a diffident breeze.’

The section called ‘Life’ is full of contrasts, ‘Yearning’ and ‘Rebelling’ lively and joyful, whereas in ‘Vanishing’ sadness looms through the poem, even before we are sure what happened.

                                ‘With a wave they slipped away,

  disappeared.’

A piece of flash fiction is powerful and emotive, painting disturbing pictures of a terrible incident. I wasn’t so sure about the short story. Well written, atmospheric, but I wasn’t quite certain what was going on. A ghost? A dream? – but that may be a fault in my reading of it. See what you think! A worthwhile collection.  Kate Edwards

*

Reflective Images, a collection of English poems by Binayendra Chowdhuri.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and 41 pages.  Published during year 2007 by: Varuna Asi, D57/32-C, Krishnapuri, Sigra, Varanasi – 221010, India.  ISBN 81-901245-4-4  Price: Rs. 50.00

This collection confronts the reviewer with several major problems.  Perhaps the most obvious is the question of cultural references.  With no idea of what the battle of Kurushetra, (Kunti’s Prayer), involved nor of who Karna and Kunti are, it is impossible to appreciate the meaning.  Chowdhuri makes such assumptions throughout, but fails to provide a ready-reference glossary.

The problems go deeper.  Time and again we encounter  examples of bad English:

‘stepping at your threshold,’ (page35),

‘. . . your. . . face breaks into thousand pieces,’ (page 36),

‘suddenly his attention caught of a lonely lady,’ (page 37), are but a few examples.

Another problem is the subject matter of the poems. ‘Inexorable Time,’ (page 8), seems to offer a weighty and portentous message, but on examination merely states that time passes.  Leaving aside the use of words such as ‘remuniate,’ (ruminate?), ‘An Admonition,’ (page 9), piles image on image, but never actually says anything.  Imperfect images coupled with faulty use of language and impenetrable cultural references make this a difficult read.  Ingrid Riley.

* 

Matters Arising, poems by Peter Johnson.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 62 pages.  Published during year 2007 by: Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY.  ISBN 978-1-905126-93-4 e-mail: poetrymonthly@btinternet.com Price: £5.50.

Many of the poems in this collection have been previously published and as I progressed through the book I could understand why. Anger, sadness and self doubt prevail amongst the many themes.  Here is an extract from

Bipolar’.

I do not envy you

Having no scars

From self-inflicted wounds

 

I do not want to have

Your certainty

Of who you are

And will be tomorrow

I choose to have my flesh, raw

From walking on burning coals

And the hours I spend

Talking with angels

 

Memory Loss’ explores, one presumes, the process of getting over a love affair

Somehow

In my memory now

I never see you full face

You are never looking into my eyes.

I can recall you only

In profile.

 

The poet, however, has a developed sense of humour and this one struck a chord...

 

In The Fifties

 

....we wore black roll-necks

And coughed our way through

Innumerable Gauloises

To look like Jean Paul Sartre

-Or was it Camus?

And were found at all hours

Debating the finer points

Of existentialism

Not in pavement cafes

Of which there are few in Manchester.......

 

All good stuff and very enjoyable.  

 

Dick Stewart

* 

Mastering Music Walks the Sunlit Sea, Roundel and Sonnet Sequences by Alan Jacobs. An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 63 pages.  Published during year 2008 by: Matador, 9 De Montfort Mews, Leicester, LE1 7FW.  ISBN 978-1906510-893.  E-mail: books@troubador.co.uk  www.troubador.co.uk/matador  Price: £6.99.

To fully appreciate Alan Jacob’s book of Roundels and Sonnets, it would be helpful to have studied more than a smattering of eastern philosophies and religions.  The imagery is rich, powerful and rooted in nature and things such as the moon, music, the songs of larks and philosophy have personality and impart wisdom and influence.  Heady stuff for your average reader.  However, one need not know about Buddhism, Platonism and Gnostic Christianity to recognize Jacob’s craftsmanship.  He is a serious poet with an ear for rhythm and rhyme, and his frequent use of alliteration and internal rhyme make for a pleasing read.  The sonnet and roundel are tough taskmasters, and Jacobs is up to the task.  Harold Webster

* 

A Lament For England, poems by Roland John.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 98 pages.  Published during year 2005 by: bluechrome publishing, PO Box 109, Portishead, Bristol, BS20 7ZJ.  ISBN 1-904781-76-4 Web: www.bluechrome.co.uk Cover illustration, death of empire, by Erik Ryman.  Price £7.99

In addition to being a poet, Roland John is also reviewer, translator and expert on the poetry of Ezra Pound.  In other words he’s no stranger to the literary world and therefore should know his business.  Perhaps this artistic background explains his dim view of the silent majority in his poem ‘Attainment’ as being ‘dull as ditch-water’ with retirement only a ‘few years in safe captivity’.  Personally I felt more comfortable with his sympathetic view of the workers in ‘Foundry’ breathing ‘nickels, arsenic and lead’ then coughing ‘the black phlegm’, no safe captivity here.  Sympathy was also present in the hospital visitor  in ‘Just Visiting this Time’, knowing that soon he’ll come one last time only ‘to find your shadow on an empty bed’.  The long poem ‘A Lament for England’ traces the changes from a time of ‘Empire Made’ through a World War to the ‘lurch into hedonism and the perverse’ to reach a land of ‘increasing credit’ where we buy the perfect lifestyle.  Shades of the credit crunch here.

Roland John’s poetry mainly concerns people and places.  There is a sense of personal experience gathered over many years and in many countries.  Not always an easy read but worth the effort even for those of us secure in our ‘safe captivity’.  John Plevin

*

The Sons of Camus, Writers International Journal, special feature, “Gallery of Historic Spaces,’ by Morelle Smith; Autumn 2007, Issue 5.  For writers and artists over the age of 55.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 190 pages.  Written articles, poems and illustrations from various contributors. Submissions to Ann J. Davidson, editor and graphic designer, thro e-mail: scwijournal@earthlink.net                  Editor: Rubi Andredakis, Gropious Street, No. 30, Limassol, 3076, Cyprus;  e-mail: roubi@cytanet.com.cy  ISBN 978-9963-668-30-4  ISSN 1705-429X   Price: CY £5.00, €9.00, UK £6.00, USA $10.00, Can $15.00.

I was very keen and interested to read The Sons of Camus, an journal of international writing named after the existentialist philosopher and Nobel prize winning author Albert Camus, (famous for his first novel L’Etranger, known in English as The Outsider, which I read in my youth).

What I really enjoyed about this journal was the diverse mix of poetry, art, short stories, essays and archaeology – plus the special feature gallery of Historic Spaces, which I found well-written with imaginative descriptions, that made me want to visit the places and walk in the vivid landscapes amongst the ruins and sunlight.  This journal has it all.

I found the poetry accessible and strong, even mature as many of the writers featured are over 55 (as we are told in the introduction).  I like the bucolic sense the writers have for country life.  There were so many poems I enjoyed reading.

One of the poems I liked:

The Mountain

The mountain doesn’t like to be enveloped by haze,

It doesn’t like brooks with tamed torrents,

It doesn’t like the wounded embrace of the spruce trees

That hold back landslides.

The mountain doesn’t like anything.

 

With the icy hunger

Of its powerful, deified body, it absorbs everything,

Torments everything with the mute laughter

Of it concealed cracks and chasms.

 

The mountain fears nothing not even

Death,

It’s heart is a smooth rock

From which no edelweiss can be plucked.

 

Milena Merlak translated poem.

 

I look forward to reading Issue 6.  A very well-put together journal of inspirational writing from passionate writers.  Neil Brooks

*

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 50, September 2008

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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Sympathetic Magic, poems by Brian Fewster.  An A5 size perfect-bound paperback book with a full colour cover and 92 pages.  Published on 31st January 2008 by: Poor Tom’s Press, 89a Winchester Avenue, Leicester, LE3 1AY.  ISBN 978-0-9543-3715-5 price £6.00. 

There are many powerful poems in this collection, the rhyme and metre flow without effort, the rhythm sometimes so strong one feels compelled to read a poem aloud. Brian uses many poetic forms, sonnet, sestina, villanelle amongst them, each form appearing the right one for the poem within it. Often the writing is sad, as in ‘Three poems for Jane,’ which are heart-moving. Others are suffused with humour. There are lines of particular beauty, as in ‘Moorland’…

                                                ‘Clouds disintegrate,

                                                 sliding over the hill’s edge

                                                 into the sky’s lake.’

                I turned to the title poem several times, something in it eluded me – is it about the search for order in a chaotic world?…

                                ‘By now the past has generated more

                                 thick sheaves of junk to bin and guilt to store.’

It would seem early man had more imaginative ways of dealing with life’s pressures and disappointments…

                                                                                   ‘…means

                    of filtering their words through magic screens.’

The poet’s erudition, his knowledge of art, science, philosophy, come across strongly, a metaphysical quality is woven seamlessly into the poetry. An intriguing collection, making one think and ponder on the diversity of life, love, and everyday scenes.  Kate Edwards

*

from the field book . . . a  collection of poems from Carol Thistlethwaite.  A perfect bound book, with a full colour cover and 100 pages. Price £4.99 plus p&p or £1 e-Book. Publisher: BeWrite Books UK, 32 Bryn Road South, Wigan. Lancs. WN4 8QR; www.bewrite.net  ISBN 9781905202768 paperback 9781905202775 e-Book.

These poems are an adventure, an excitement of birds, a journey through fields and woods, across marshland and sea - shores. Afterwards, you will be glad you set out, got your feet wet in long grass and rock pools, perched on cliff tops, you’ll see birds with a new way of looking. You’ll know their ways, their being, their similarities and differences, as diverse as humans. Next time you see a swallow, you will recognise it in a different way…

                ‘…Excited chatter

                Saharan sun-scorched faces…’

It reminds one of how far they have come,

                ‘tracing the curves of earth,

                weaving lovers’ lace

                through the skies.’

Watching rooks in tree tops…

                ‘To know the thrash and thwack

                of life all-precarious.’

Carol uses words in a way that gives us new insights into the avian world, the poems are alive with discovery, giving our perceptions a keener edge. Even if, like the poet, (a long time member of the RSPB) you are a dedicated birdwatcher, these poems will expand and broaden your horizons by the sheer diversity and vitality of the descriptions and language. The bird’s various habitats are searchingly portrayed, how they live, survive, and have their being is lovingly depicted, on some pages the arrangement of words portrays the birds in flight, on others, we can hear their scrawls and cries and rustlings, and we learn more from this than from any number of technical books.

                ‘black-headed gulls crowd in,

                over-dipped in ink,

                web-feet-first,

                blotting the page.’                                                

Kate Edwards

*

Virtual Eden, poems by Pat Earnshaw.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 32 pages.  Published in year 2008 by: Gorse Publications, P.O. Box 214, Shamley Green, Guildford, GU5 0SW.   ISBN 978-0-9524113-8-5.  Price £4.50 post free UK.

To fully appreciate this little book, one needs to put aside a few grown up attitudes about imagery.  An eight-year-old child knows that inanimate objects like tombstones and dark rooms actually can and do talk to us.  We can and in fact often do slip into reveries and revisit past experiences and become true artists, invisible observers of others’ and of our own behaviours.  The book is a gathering of poignant reflections that transport the poet back to another time within her childhood.  The memories are as beautiful as they are painful, but they do not always describe an Eden.  My favourite poem, and one I think that must be absorbed before reading the rest, is “Dredging for Memories,” which prepares the reader for what is to come: “Lost in a wilderness of fantasy/ mismatched with memory/ I tuck myself into a crevice/underneath the torrent of a waterfall, and safe from ambush,/ am content to watch the world....”   Harold S. Webster

           *           

Distant Close, poems by Will Daunt.  An A5 size perfect bound book with a two colour cover and 64 pages.  Published on 14th February 2008 by Lapwing Publications, c/o 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast, BT14 8HQ.  ISBN 978-1-905425-73-0   www.freewebs.com/lapwingpoetry/ and e-mail lapwing.poetry@ntlworld.com Price £6.95.

This one will appeal to the resolute reader. It’s not easy. It’s not meant to be easy. Reading it left me exhausted. I can’t imagine the effort required to write it. Daunt’s regular readership will know what to expect in the way of puns, metaphors and word tricks. The rest of us will have to dig-in, prod and poke. It’s a bit like cleaning your ears. Something will emerge eventually. Perhaps grit? Incidentally, I read the book to disintegration. It simply fell apart in my hands.

The title piece Distant Close comprises the last 15 pages of the book and is a kind of a nosey parker’s cul-de-sac guide going from no. 1 to 13 and then back down the other side from 12 to 2. Eavesdropping at 13a: Aviary produces the following:

Bird song? I’ll give you bird song

‘til you’re sick of twittering, Look –

much better, listen. I’ve reversed

this cage called home, culled half

the usual clutter, made each room

a gaping prison…

The first part of the book is basically an assortment of postcards and paraphernalia from bardic travels.

In Stirling Efforts

…voices diverge

like words in a wilderness –

grit fills the vacuum

Poetry with grit. That sums it up nicely.   Gwilym Williams

*

The Magnificent Guffaw, poems by Richard Wink.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 40 pages.  Published in year 2007 by erbacce press publications, Liverpool, UK.  Cover design, editing and typesetting by Alan Corkish.  ISBN 978-0-955754-8-8 www.erbacce.com ¤5.50 $3.99 E-mail: aprilmaymarch777@yahoo.co.uk

I really enjoyed reading The Magnificent Guffaw. It tenderly describes the modern day madness of human nature and what it is like to live in a city in these times.  I enjoyed the humour and tenderness contrasted with the mud of everyday routine and the mundane things of life. I liked the concise way the poet delivers his voice of urban tales and hope.  I sat and read many of the poems out loud in my garden, (the neighbours probably thought I was bonkers!), but it seemed the right way to absorb the words.  I loved the way he describes the British culture of booze and nightclub-worship with an enigmatic vision - “On the dance floor they question my sexuality / Sure I can smile honey” – it reminds me of the eternal hangover of my drinking days.

I thoroughly enjoyed this chap-book and am resolved to read more of Richard Wink’s work.  Some of my favourites were: I Feel Mysterious Today – “There is a weird smell coming from the fridge/ as I walk through the door/ the cat licks its balls/ in a touching display/ on my returning” and Guts Up – “On occasion you can confuse them by playing a mental from the local hospital/ chuck a rotten cabbage/ scream like a dirty filthy banshee/ By this rule of thumb/ madness conquers fear”.  Neil Francis Brooks

*

Sunflower Equations, poems by June English.  A slightly larger than A5 size book with a full colour cover and 76 pages. Published during year 2008 by Hearing Eye, Box 1, 99 Torriano Avenue, London, NW5 2RX.  ISBN 978-1-905082-34-6 www.hearingeye.org Price £6.95. e-mail: books@hearingeye.org 

Sickness, abuse, infidelity beat like hammers throughout the poetry of June English.  And if this isn’t enough we can add the difficulties of growing up in wartime Britain, clutching our ration books and gasmasks, peering fearfully down the alley where baby Rosie died ‘while Mummy danced with G.I. Joe.’  Fairy tale endings also seem to be excluded.  Peace, marriage and a new life in a new and distant country offer little in the way of sanctuary with the ‘silent months of snow,’ the ‘talk about bullies and bond slaves’ and where ‘my blouses cover the blows.’  Harrowing stuff, a view of a life on the margins of the unbearable.  But in the midst of all this pain there are glimpses of a gentler existence: the uncle who makes violins sitting ‘cross-legged, penknife in raw-boned sailor’s hand,’ and perhaps finding love in ‘Sonata’ and the ‘summer nights we’d sneak away’ to where your ‘hands worked rhythmically in tune – to rouse latent sonata chords in me.’

After reading her poems I’m reminded of past childhood visits to the fairground, of being thrown around and tossed through the air, half frightened to death but wanting desperately to go back and experience it all again.  John Plevin

*

The Cast-Iron Shore, poems by Pat Jourdan.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 40 pages.  Cover design, editing and typesetting by Alan Corkish.  Cover painting by Pat Jourdan. Published by erbacce-press publications, Liverpool, during year 2008.  Price £4.00  www.erbacce-press.com  ISBN 978-0-9555754-9-5

The city of Liverpool provides a backdrop to most of Pat Jourdan’s poems, whether a winter scene in ‘February Sundays,’ . . . ‘a surprise Liverpool on fresh paper,’ and almost obligatory, ‘Ferryboat to Birkenhead,’ or, The Cast-Iron Shore.’

In the title poem she describes the broken remnants lying around on the shore, ‘the fag-ends of industrial days,’ and goes on throughout the book depicting the remnants of her childhood and later life. 

There are many focal points here of remembered incidents: the German prisoner-of-war catching the girl’s eye in ‘After War,’ the soldiers and the aid worker striking a contrast in ‘Shannon Café,’ and even the brother ‘his internal landscape changed from ours,’ marked forever by unmentioned experiences in Afghanistan, (That Far-Away Look).

The poet’s voice here is confident and experienced, but even this does not protect her from the occasional strained image, such as ‘Apricot skies dashed with sparks – like an orgasm gone wrong,’ or ‘the dotted chewing-gum stars on the pavement.’   But these are minor sins when measured against the image of ‘Kathleen Ferrier, Telephonist,’ penned in by the rules while her voice soars in her head.

Here and there, the reader comes across some vivid images, ‘the surge of the tide,’ and ‘the smell of salt-charged air,’ (Shoreline), or in ‘Heresy,’ describing the baby’s eyes ‘bullet-blue from heaven, dropped sky dolloped into skin.’

All-in-all an interesting and wide-ranging collection.  Ingrid Riley

 

Book & Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 49, March 2008

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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I Went With Her, poems by Alan Hardy.  A slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and fifty two pages.  ISBN 978-1-905126-98-9.  Published in year 2007 by Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY. poetrymonthly@btinternet.com UK price £5.50

This is Alan Hardy’s second collection and some of the poems have been previously published in, as he puts it, ‘the usual suspects.’ For me, ‘Night-Porter’ stands out, head and shoulders, from the rest of the material. . .

. . . you will understand that seedy look and smell

of interrupted sleep,

slightly querulous avoidance of eyes,

in the fidgety night-porter’s crumpled shame

having to make a living waiting for others

to deign to ring a bell

in his beaten-down eyes,

you will see the fervour and hot-headed contempt

that massacred the Tsar and bred a coup,

The book, on the whole, is a little less interesting than the above poem would suggest and one gets the impression that the poet is sometimes lacking inspiration, for example there are a couple of poems concerning flies, another on wasps. This made the reading slightly hard going; however, I was considerably cheered by the Pythonesque gem on the rear cover, ‘. . . He won second prize in The Hastings International Poetry Competition 1994. ’  Dick Stewart

*

Sound Signals Advising of Presence, poems by Peter Hughes.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and seventeen pages.  Published in year 2006 by infernal methods, Quoybow, Stormness, Orkney, KW16 3JU.  ISBN?  UK price £3.00.

Even if one has never been to a Scottish island, these poems wholly convey the feel and atmosphere of such a place – the lost and lonely shores, the slow tracking of time, as though the tides, the sands, the wind, move everything to a rhythm of their own.

A phrase that caught me, referring to ‘we & the strange house’, was ‘that resound to little adaptations & imagined trespasses.’ (The ampersands are the poet’s own.) The house, what he sees from and around it, the sea, tides, are the recurrent themes, uninhabited buildings, a deserted peninsula, loss and loneliness drift through the pages, but hope as well, - ‘the most stunning sights are the normal daily occurrences.’ The words are like a reverie floating through the poets consciousness, like driftwood cast on a deserted beach

Perhaps one should never ask what a poem is ‘about,’ but I would have liked to be a bit more certain that this was a return, that a house was being restored, or did I get that completely wrong? ‘Green hill,’ ‘green doors,’ ‘an unblocked chimney,’ ‘undressed walls,’ all speak of a place, a time, a moment in a landscape, hinting at lives led within it, in an arresting collection of images.  Kate Edwards

 *

In the beginning was the song, poems by Glenys Jones.  A slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with seventy four pages and a full colour cover.  Published during year 2007 by: Matador, 9 De Montfort Mews, Leicester, LE1 7FW.  E-mail: books@troubador.co.uk  Web site: www.troubador.co.uk/matador  ISBN 978-1905886-975   UK price £6.99.

The book’s cover gives the lie to the old cliché that you can’t judge a book by its cover - the sunlight on the mountain, the soft blue sky, the rugged rock, the out of focus gorse, the withered grass, the undersized tree reaching valiantly skyward all serve to illustrate exactly what’s in store.

Glenys Jones is the time-honoured reluctant poet finally pressed into the limelight by family and friends; a kind of Welsh Lao Tzu at the gate you could say, but it’s all very well done and often done with a light touch. The collection takes its title from the poem beginning with the following lines:

Before we spoke, we sang

With the birds in the trees

The wind on the lake

This hints at transmigration; an ancient Celtic belief system and this kind of thing fits well as I’ve hinted to Jack Tait’s cover image. Jones is less happy with modern hustle and bustle. Here’s Epitaph: One in full:

A womb

A tomb

And in between

Life

A crowded room

Full of shouting

Where no-one speaks

 

Aunt Mabel, 90, one of the original conspirators, must be delighted with her niece.    Gwilym Williams

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Iota 78, 2007/02.  Poems and reviews from various contributors. A perfect-bound book with a two-colour cover and fifty six pages.  Editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch of Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  E-mail: iotapoetry@aol.com  + web address www.iotapoetry.co.uk  ISSN 0266-2922  Year sub £12.00 UK, rest of the world £18.00.  Individually £3.00 per copy, UK.

You will not like all of the poems in this slim edition, perhaps not even most, (one might say the same about Whitman's "Leaves of Grass”); but if you read "Iota" carefully, you will come to the conclusion that, whatever its shortcomings here and there, this is an important gathering of work after all.  It is, I think, a platform on which aspiring poets may stand and build intricate images of original thought that tweak the mind in new and refreshing ways.  Just about the time you are ready to dismiss it all as vague prose in short lines, you come across poems that cut deep, that touch a chord and knock the smugness out of you. 

All in all, considering the publication's purpose, the editors have chosen well.  Harold Webster

*

A Real Man, poems by David Savoury.  A perfect-bound book, slightly larger than A5 size, with a three-colour cover and ninety four pages.  Published during November 2006 by Paula Brown Publishing, 26 Uplands Road, Drayton, Portsmouth, PO6 1HS. Information via e-mail: paulabrownpublishing@btinternet.com ISBN 9781905168125  Price?

David Savoury’s ‘A Real Man’ represents some twenty years of work, but for all that it’s not always an easy read.  The publisher’s introduction claims that the poetry ranges ‘from the surface of a man’s skin’ to ‘the boundless perspective of the cosmos.’  Quite a stretch.  Helpfully the poems are grouped into broad and ambitious themes: self and society; the fragility and wonder of humanity; and the dichotomy between flesh and spirit.  All good subjects for the poet.  Self and a rather bleak view of society are present in ‘The Suburbs’ where ‘refuse congregates’ in black sacks ‘like so many mourners.’  In the poem ‘Beach’ humanity is reflected by love turning towards sleep ‘leaving me in our darkness.’  Our insignificance in the wider scheme of things is measured in the poem ‘Growing Desert’ addressed to God where man is just ‘a grain of sand… dead  in a boundless vacuum.’  I found the poems in ‘A Real Man’ grew on me.  A slow process but worth the effort.  John Plevin

*

Waves, 2007: 37th Annual Anthology of the Society of Civil and Public Services Poetry Workshop. Poems displayed in an A5 sized stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 28 pages.  Membership is open to anyone who works or has ever worked for a civil or public service organisation. Chairperson/Editor: Liz Rowlands, 19 Arkley Court, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 2YR.  E-mail: pw@gothicgarden.freeserve.co.uk  ISSN 1475-144  Price £2.50, includes post and packaging.

This is a delightful anthology from the above named society.  The collection covers a wide and varied range of subjects.  In ‘The Upstairs Cat,’ Muriel Stammers cleverly evokes the nature of cats, threatening menace to other animals, but seeking the favour of human beings who are a useful source of food and admiration.

More serious themes are also chosen.  Mike Boland in ‘Among the rocks of Albion,’ offers a romantic view of Britain’s past, “we are the land; locked into a grid of unseen power / that webs across the hills, woods, rivers/earthing us among the rocks of Albion.”

Angus Livingstone in ‘The Potter,’ describes how a routine activity gradually takes over the potter who dreams of producing the perfect pot, “and when it’s thrown and only then/she’ll know time and pain and cold/but she will smile before she sleeps.”

There are many more themes in this collection which should be mentioned, in particular the various evocations of nature, such as ‘Suburban Summer,’ by Terry Rickson, or ‘End of Summer,’ by Terry James.  This is an anthology which has something to offer everyone and stirs the reader’s imagination throughout.  Ingrid Riley

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Minor Yours, poems by Peter Hughes.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 11 pages.  Published during year 2006 by Oystercatcher Press 4 Coastguard Cottages, Lighthouse Close, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6EL.  ISBN 1-905885-008, price £3.00.

Minor Yours; (Mine or Yours?) poses just that dualistic question, as do the poems in the slim volume, with interesting cover illustration by the author (which, in colour therapy terms, would show that the artist had issues with gender, psychic stability and direction ….) The poems start to confirm this, moving from: ‘I’m a charcoal sketch/ a self portrait in an unframed mirror/ a subterranean rumour/ a trickle of coal dust……’  to ‘purposeful steps/ usually kill an insect or two/ you can hear them in the attic/ or in the alley down the side of the house/ maybe it’s a neighbour’s dog a fox/ or some less easily named/ nocturnal presence,’ then, with more definition: ‘time to clean out the pipes &/ listen to the dripping in the cellar’, confirming the duality: ‘pros and cons  light and dark/ your turn  my turn’,  ‘vicious and sympathetic by turns’, but (don’t worry about it!) ‘where no-one is watching or measuring/ setting you up to shoot at the target of yourself/’ while the last poem has more visual structure, the message is still lost, as it feels, is the poet: ‘though the dogs are waiting/ with reflections in their eyes/ for someone to tell them/ this is not happening/ someone will come back.’  Of course they will. And it’s important to say it when you feel it. And paint it. Wonderful words.   Janie Thomas.

 

Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 48, September 2007

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

The Mansion Gardens, poems by Alan Morrison. A slightly larger that A5 sized perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and 71 pages.  ISBN 1-905168-11-X.   Published during year 2006 by Paula Brown Publishing, 26 Uplands Way, Drayton, Portsmouth , Hampshire, PO6 1HS. paulabrownpublshing@btinternet.com  www.paulabrownpublshing.com  Price ?

Alan Morrison, the man who *re-jigged Under Milk Wood to much acclaim, is an out of the ordinary writer. His work abounds with strangely named characters like Short Shanks the Shopkeeper and The Turpentine Prophet.

The poetry in here will appeal to many a reader’s socialist feelings and includes a selection of Morrison’s epigrams, or as he refers to them - overbs. There are also lengthy pieces like Rats, Cats and Kings, a homage to Orwell in Catalonia and a number of poems written in a kind of Joycean verbalesque manner.

If you think you’d enjoy a mulligatawny of poetry served up, not by a flyblown waiter, but by a creative and thoughtful poet seeking to enrich the language, both with and without pub beer wisdom, then this handsome 172-page volume could be just the thing for you. 

 Footnote: * re-jigged - in the sense that an old boat (or idea) is equipped with a new sail.                                                         Gwilym Williams

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Poems by Soran Hassan.  An A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 48 Pages. ISBN 0-953681-7-0.  Published during year 2004 by: Writers Without Borders, 22 Margaret's Grove, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9JH.  Price £3.99.

Wandering and searching for meaning in what must have been a very alien world, Soran finds a universal point of reference – the many faces of nature.  He sees the flowers growing, blooming and dying, ‘a wind rises / scatters the butterflies . . . nothing new in the garden.’  Soran uses nature repeatedly in his poems as a means of conjuring up ‘the world beyond boundaries,’ the life which he lost.

Aspects of the poems are underlined by drawings which echo ‘Guernica’ with their evocation of fractured reality.  Soran is trying to resolve his own devastating experiences, to cope with ‘the hugeness of suffering . . . to open the door to a new philosophy,’ – however difficult that may be, ‘but one door will open / the sun, the seas, birds, all things will enter / and one way will lead to felicity,’ (Sent to Coventry). The poet himself, ‘looked for a new land / where your dreams would not be slaughtered.’  The destination, Birmingham, might seem to us to be near farce.  But for Soran the city is not loaded with the baggage of associations – it offers a new perspective on life.

These poems portray a world we can hardly imagine, and we can only marvel that the poet has taken the vocabulary of his second language and approached it in an original and fruitful way, ‘under the canopy / of refuge poetry.’  Ingrid Riley.

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The Triad, a collection of poems by Charles Portolano.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 38 pages.  ISBN 0-9779035-9-1. Published during year 2006 by: RWG Press, P.O. Box 858, Rockford Il 61105, USA.  Price (USA) $6 (includes the cost of postage).   Copies may be obtained from: Charles Portolano, P.O. Box 17205, FountainHills, Arizona, AZ 85269-7205, USA.  Also view web:  www.thesouldecision.com E-mail: angeldec@hotmail.com

What do Americans think about America?  There are probably a million points of view, but in Charles Portolano’s ‘The Triad’ this particular American seems somewhat disillusioned with a society caring only for what we can hold in our hollow hands.  A similar message comes through in ‘Cutting across Kansas’: harangued by hand-made signs telling him abortion is murder, the car driver is more concerned with the thought that war is murder. The car-driving poet in ‘Cutting across Kansas���, perhaps like the rest of us, doesn’t like tailgaters, in particularly those driving a huge black Hummer fast like a black hole which when it finally overtakes presents him with the rear bumper sticker Honk if you love Jesus.  But the pellets of protest are tempered with gentler thoughts: the old man in ���Haunting’ walking the length of an old dry-docked sailboat his hand never leaving her side; and in ‘Gypsy Fever’ the flamenco dancers laughing loud loving life.

There must be room for protest.  Those of us alive in the sixties will always remember the power and impact of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War���.  There is much in the world today that demands our concern, but the voice of  protest seems strangely muted.  Perhaps in his way Charles Portolano is doing his bit to remind us that we need from time to time to prod ‘The Hornets’ Nest’ and be ready to dieJohn Plevin.

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Homing, poems by Philip Ramp.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 88 pages.  ISBN 0-944550-72-X.  Published during year 2005 by Pygmy Forest Press, 1125 Mill Street, Springfield, OR 97477, USA. $12.00 U.S.  Copies may be purchased at $12.00 from: P.O. Box 34 Aegina Island, 180 10, Greece.

These words are a form of poetry that I feel drawn to: ‘Emotional but without histrionics, wilful but lacking the mayhem of dream; conclusiveness of falling, the insistent plea of logic in its refrain.’ They express the prosaic magnetism of someone who knows he’s not there yet, but is looking forward to the journey, enjoying the struggle of looking at the map and trying to decipher the way while looking up at the sunset feeling wistful in his head as well as warm in his heart, perhaps because of the company he keeps.  In his ‘Sometimes it Seems like Evening has the Answers   he says it differently: ‘as always, the expected time of arrival/depends on when you left.’ But has its own contradictions and these physical/metaphysical ponderings about nature in its many forms are what make the joy of rhythm and excitement of unravelling the thread of words forming the form, shaping the shape of his       poems.   Janie Thomas

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Mackerel Wrappers, poems by Martin Cook.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 36 pages. Published 24th March 2007 by HappenStance, 21 Hatton Green, Glenrothes, Fife, KY7 4SD.  UK delivered price £4.00. ISBN 978-1-905939-05 3.  Further information from e-mail address: nell@happenstancepress.com and www.happenstancepress.com

                An entertaining and clever collection, with surprising insights and often a deep seriousness almost concealed by the dryness and humour.

                “Herring Gull at Mwynt” becomes

                                                                ‘…a High Court Judge,

                                                considering my bribe of bone,

                                                          and whether to cull me.’

                Several poems are about friends and characters he has known. “Mildred” discards her wheelchair,

                                                                ‘…striding out….

                                                …bullying the countryside.’

Clarence, Danny, George, Lillian, all come to life with their quirks and foibles revealed to us in very wry, often sad, comments. The Title poem tells of eating fish and chips ‘in a polystyrene tray’ as the poet regrets the passing of ‘unhygienic newspaper’. He ends by describing how the Romans wrapped their fish in ‘old poems (or even discarded prose) ‘and how their empire lasted a thousand years.’ “A Christmas Letter” is a delightful ‘reverse take’ on the Round Robins so often received at that season.

This collection brings many a smile, and sometimes dampens the eye, leaving an impression of a poet at ease with his words.  Kate Edwards

 

Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 47, March 2007

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

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Poems About Places by Peter Naldrett. A slightly larger than A5 sized perfect-bound book with a two-colour cover and 45 pages.  Published in year 2006.  ISBN 978-1-4116-4072-6.  Price?  Available via: www.lulu.com or via Blackwell's, www.blackwell.co.uk.  E-mail: peter.naldrett@talk21.com

As stated clearly on the tin, these poems are about places. From Sydney to Vienna, Belfast to Brixton they’re all here and a very impressive travel journal it is. The blurb on the rear cover makes it pretty clear that these journeys have already formed the basis of much writing. I mention this because Peter uses a very factual and dead pan style for a poet and a teacher. Some of the endings of the poems left one hanging in mid air.

Avignon

I knew this place was in a song,

But I thought it was by Bryan Ferry.

No, no, no, that’s Avylon

But I stood on the famous bridge, anyhow.

 

Cold, cold, blowy and cold.

Universal culture drags me in McDonalds

Because toilets are free and clean.

And they even serve beer in this one.

 

That’s where I am now.

I am not at all sure that the romantic in me wanted to know that there is a McDonalds near ‘Le Pont D’Avignon,’ and of course, Bryan Ferry’s song is Avalon not Avylon but I strongly suspect that our teacher poet knows this and is secretly smiling whilst running his nails down the blackboard. Cunning. Dick Stewart           

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Orpheus in the Park, poems by Rose Solari.  A slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full-colour cover and 81 pages. Published in year 2005 by The Bunny and the Crocodile Press, Washington DC, USA. Cover design by Randy Stanard of DeWitt Design.  Photograph of author by Jimmy Patterson.  ISBN 0 938572  43 1  UK price on application. 

Behind Travis Hall’s out-of-focus cover painting of the Mystic River, curving like the trunk of an elephant, is a volume of autobiographical work where entangled threads of elegy, myth, block-verse and the occasional essay combine to inform and/or divert the attentive reader.

Poetess Rose Solari, not without pluck, unburdens herself in the public arena, settles accounts with her late parents and generally takes care of unfinished business. She hankers to run after loved ones just as ancient Orpheus pursued Eurydice when she had perished from snakebite. A serious case of introspection dressed up in Grecian cloth you might think. And there you might be half right.

For me Solari scores best when she gets away from the antique Greeks and puts more of herself into the poem as she does for example in her poem My Mother’s Elephants written with feeling  – one of the most moving in the book:

                Because of their size, and the shape of their ears, and the sweetness          

                and wisdom she claimed to see

                in their miraculously-lashed eyes, my mother,

                for as long as I can remember, loved elephants.

Like mother’s pachyderms Orpheus in the Park is a lumbering but impressive animal of many parts. The 7-page addendum will fill-in your mythological gaps.   Gwilym Williams

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A Rum Do, poems by Ivan Wallace.  An A5 sized stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 20 pages. Published in year 2006 by Bramble Press.  Available from Mr I. Wallace, 15 Drumhoy Drive, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, BT38 8NN.  No ISBN.  Price £2.50 (includes the cost of postage and packing).

This is not a collection that offers dramatically original insights or daring innovations.  Ivan Wallace gently probes everyday situations, the ‘little things,’ like a visit to the betting shop in ‘The Tip,’ or receiving medical treatment in ‘Blood Test.’  At the same time, everything is subjected to Wallace’s dry humour.  The blood test is administered by a cleaner, and the horse the old man was so sure of, loses.

Despite the humour, there is an element of genuine despair here. In ‘Giving Up,’ the man in the bar is giving up hope for lent.  In ‘Malice,’ the divorced man writes to his wife, ‘I’m so hungry I’ve just eaten a mouse,’ and she replies, ‘Next time try eating a rat, they’re more filling.’

This collection can be warmly recommended as the writer’s gentle humanity makes his poems well worth reading.  Ingrid Riley

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The Good is Abroad, poems by Will Daunt.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover and 52 pages. Published in year 2006 by Lapwing Publications, c/o 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT14 8HQ.  ISBN 1-905425-32-5.  Price £5.95  ��12.00.

To be a good poet you need to be an observer of life and nature.  To be a very good poet you need to be an observer with empathy.  Will Daunt in his latest collection ‘The Good is Abroad’ seems to demonstrate that he has both these qualities.  And perhaps even a bit more; he likes to play tricks with words.  The ‘Shadow Lad’ who ‘came fast to the world’ but ‘ran out of faces who���d let him fake lives’, and poor ‘Polly’ learning that ‘school’s full of places where you cannot hide,’ both are strangers to the absent ‘good.’  I must also admit to liking poets who are not stuck on style and form.  The occasional sonnet, villanelle and rhyming couplet dotted among free verse poems is my cup of tea, perhaps drunk in the ��Nursing Home,’ hiding in its ‘Welcome Room’ with one eye on the cricket until ‘pain stops play.’  John Plevin

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Coasting Norfolk, poems by Wendy Webb and Guest Poets.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full-colour cover and 92 pages.  Published in year 2006 by: Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY.  ISBN 1-905126-73-5.  Price £5.50.

Coasting Norfolk is the culmination of a year’s observations of East Anglia: history, art, culture, people, place; sketch impressions from near and far. I enjoyed the mixture of personal reminiscences and delight in the countryside – Wendy Webb’s work is sometimes romantic, rhyming, and feminine, (which I like), finding fun in the experiences and land she describes.  She is supported by guest poets: Brigid Simpson’s Selection of Norfolk Haiku and Norman Bisset’s Peace particularly appeal.  Somehow the minimalism of the haiku epitomise the peace reflected by the form, words and landscape: There isn’t much here but sea and sky, clouds and flocks of migrating birds, eye-patched like Nelson… while seeing far more and using the rhythm of bird names to bring colour to the senses and imagination.  It is an interesting collection of gentle poems which pay homage not only to the landscape but also to poetry about it.  Janie Thomas

 

Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 46, September 2006

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Dirty Blonde at the Cash Machine, poems by Ray Hollingsworth. An A5 size, spiral bound book with x? number of pages and numerous black and white photographs, (pages expand concertina style). Photography by Stuart Nicholls, photographic model: Julie Patterson. Published by Kiss Production Ltd, 2006.  E-mail erotic.cafe@btopenworld.com   £9.95. ISBN 0-9536958-3-2  Available via Amazon on-line.

With this glossy collection of poems and photographs I was like a traveller unfolding and refolding maps. Open, the book is sometimes more than a yard wide. I should have tackled it on the floor with a boxed pizza and an uncorked bottle instead of on a small table in a pub corner. Try this for size from Tee Shirt:

When you’re standing in a bus queue

and a girl comes up to you wearing a tee shirt saying

‘trust me, I am Jesus the Lord’

and gets so close that you can almost taste the flavour of her chewing gum …”

Hollingsworth’s words are backed up with atmospheric shots of model Julie Patterson in back alleys and under neon lights.  Dirty Blonde at the Cash Machine is a potent assortment of messianic verse, social commentary, inner-city rebelliousness and classy poster-poetry. Ray Hollingsworth is one to keep an eye on. You’ll find him at the pointed end of your next scenario.   Gwilym Williams

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Measured Rings, poems by Ingrid Riley.  An A5 sized perfect-bound book with 83 pages and a 2-colour cover. Photographs by Peter Riley, edited by  Dr Graham Riley. Published in year 2005 by Ingrid Riley, 18 Uplands, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7BL.  ISBN 0-9525304-3-0.  £5.99.

Regular readers of Pulsar will be familiar with Ingrid Riley through her reviews.  Her latest publication ‘Measured Rings’ provides us with the opportunity to look at the poet behind the reviewer.  Many of her poems examine the impact of nature on our lives: the stripped Autumn trees recalling ‘the whisper of a loving breeze’; the noisy ravens dropping from the sky ‘like sombre rain’; and in Winter the whisper of death that ‘comes in slow waltzes’.  But not all is nature and seasons.  A section of the book deals with conflict and its impact on modern life ‘where tears feed their hoard of sorrows’.  The brushes with conflict come in different guises from neighbours from hell with their ‘windows blinded by spinning threads of fear’, to the ‘tormented souls’ embroiled in the war in Iraq.

Whether in the world of conflict or nature, Ingrid Riley’s poetry has a certain lyrical quality, perhaps best tasted in the quiet of the evening with a glass of wine and time to think.           John Plevin

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Cheap Therapy, poems by Nick Mannion.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full-colour cover and 84 pages.  Published in year 2005 by Matador, 9 De Montfort Mews, Leicester, LE1 7FW.  ISBN 1-905237-42-1  £7.99. E-mail books@troubador.co.uk  www.troubador.co.uk/matador

Despite an unfortunate title and unappetizing cover graphics, Mannion more often than not delivers the aesthetic goods. He writes perceptively and honestly of the ebb-and-flow of human relationships, with scarcely any trace of bathos or self-pity. I would add that his poetry, all true poetry, may assist our healing, but amounts to much more than mere therapy in the end.                                                                                                                              Blair Ewing

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When the Thunder Woke Me, poems by The Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2005. The Foyle Foundation / The Poetry Society.  A slightly smaller than A5 sized stapled booklet with a full-colour cover and 32 pages.  Price? No ISBN. Published by The Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London, WC2H 9BX. www.poetrysociety.org.uk e-mail: fyp@poetrysociety.org.uk   Contact: Andrew Bailey.

 A vigorous and warm handshake should be given to whoever in the Foyle Foundation decided to help the Poetry Society showcase young poets. Of course teenagers and young adults will not have breadth of experience to produce deep poetry I hear you say perhaps; but this would be too stereotypical and mostly wrong in this case. The collection of the best from the Young Poets of the Year Award of 2005 does have its charming naivety in some places, but there is much to frustrate any of us who struggle with the form well into middle age and beyond, with their maturity. “How to Watch a Child Die” by Amanda Chong could easily have been simply maudlin, but a delightful line saves it; “Turn away from the blank faces of your own children/ and make no associations/ Pretend you do not notice/ how your teenager leaves her food/”. There are a few deliberately-obscure-to-be-fashionable pieces, but I am happy to persevere with re-readings over the next few months… there are few enough volumes where I would have said the same. Some of these names, I shall watch out for, to see if they are published and grow further. To take, unfairly, one example, Ella Thompson provided in “Finding a Voice” a simple form of words that led to many layered meanings representing frustration and despair using landscape/classical metaphors. When I make connections using these words where perhaps none were intended by the poet, I know I have found a poem that is worth returning to. I would recommend finding yourself a copy and look out for future editions. Lachlan Robertson

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Average Sunday Afternoon, short stories by Pat Jourdan.  A5 size perfect-bound book with 55 pages and a full colour cover.  Published in year 2005 by Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY. ISBN 1-905126-29-8  £5.50.

These stories are entertaining and fun, though some are rather ‘samey’.  Sometimes I wished Pat Jordan had penetrated deeper into the psychology of the essence of her tale and made more of it, rather than leaving the first idea on one level. For instance, Miss Havisham Reconstructed makes for light-hearted reading in the knowledge that everyone, but everyone, knows Miss Havisham from Dickens’ David Copperfield, so the legend can be used, or built upon to advantage. So when Miss Havisham decides to up and make something of her life in today’s culture, rather than mope it away the very thought is funny and the story too.  She and Queen Victoria epitomise a psychological illness which still exists sometimes unrecognized, however, and rather than disregard that and use it for the joke, it could have been unravelled and turned around more cleverly, to everyone’s greater benefit, without losing the laughter.   Janie Thomas

 

Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 45, March 2006

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

The Blood In My Veins, poems 1995 – 2005, by U.V. Ray; A5 size, perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover and 51 pages. Published in year 2005 by Cyberwit.net, 4/2B, L.I.G., Govindpur Colony, Allahabad-211004 (U.P.), India.  www.cyberwit.net  also www.uvray.moonfruit.com  ISBN 81-8253-042-3  Price Rs. 80/-  $15  ��9.

Minimalist hobo poetry has got to hit the spot like a shot of Polish vodka. Now when your mugshot is on the cover (leather jacket and shades) at nine quid a throw over the blurb promising primitive emotional vigour and your leading punch is that good old refrain to the young whore in Reno...that made my stay worthwhile then the poems inside need to be extra special, a lot more than mere jottings on the run. This is not always the case here. 

After the introduction which spoke of smashed up cars and trashed hotel rooms many of the poems turned out to be quite tame but The Painted Doll was in a different class; almost Bukowskian. It seems that U.V. Ray, the self-confessed Blue Coat School dropout, can do it if he tries. It's getting him to try that seems to be the problem.  Gwilym Williams

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Courtney’s the future she is,” poems from the people of Parks and East Walcot, Swindon.  Compiled and introduced by Community Poet, Tony Hillier.  Published in year 2005.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 74 pages.  Price / publisher / ISBN? Poems / responses to Tony Hillier, c/o The Shop, 66 Cavendish Square, Swindon, SN3 2LR, telephone 01793 529938 or c/o Walcot Community Shop, Sussex Square, telephone 01793 512878 of e-mail tony.hillier@ntlworld.com

Tony Hillier brings together the residents of Parks and East Walcot Swindon and represents their views in poetic form. The idea was to create a sort of social survey from which to inform and lobby.  And sure enough, as I was reading this publication Prime Minister Tony Blair was present in Swindon armed with a pressure washer and a rather fixed grin, trying to remove some particularly stubborn graffiti from a brick wall. Deserves a poem in itself.

Some of the poems are unassisted but most were the result of collaboration between Tony and the author. The poetry has a nice rawness and you can hear the local dialect in the voices of the poets. Here’s an extract –

Kids Today

Trouble is no discipline

Teachers daren’t breathe on the kids

Kids today

Toddlers with their mums and dads,

Chuck litter on the floor

And not a word is said,

Not a blind bit of notice taken

Kids today. That’s parents for you!

Babies bringing up babies.

One has to admire Tony Hillier for putting this project together. The book gives a voice to a community, the result isn't pretty, but it is very effective. Dick Stewart

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The Devil’s Advocate by Charles Portolano.  A chapbook of poems; A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 28 pages.  Published 2005. Price $5 including postage and packaging.  Published by RWG Press, P.O. Box 17205, Fountain Hills, AZ 85269-7205, USA. ISBN 0-9659495-4-0  E-mail: angeldec24@hotmail.com  www.thesouldecision.com

Charles Portolano presents a bleak and unrelieved vision of ‘the world spinning out of control,’ (‘End Time’), particularly the USA.  Many of the poems are scarcely-veiled attacks on politicians and their followers like ‘The bush is burning’ or ‘Duplicity,’ where the poet speaks of a dictator with a ‘crooked smile’ who is ‘always speaking out of both sides of his mouth.’

At their best the poems are an elegy for a purer, gentler America, as evoked in ‘Route 66’ where the famous highway is crumbling away into history, taking traditional values with it, ‘the landscape has changed / the times have changed / the people have changed / they think differently.’

Throughout the collection the mood grows progressively bleaker, we look forward to a message of hope at the end, into better times.  It never comes, ‘no Second Coming / no second chance / time’s up, game’s over.’  Ingrid Riley

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Chanticleer Magazine, issue 11 (October 2005), poems, reviews, news and views.  A5 size stapled booklet with a 3-colour cover and 40 pages. ISSN 1478-0704  Price £3.00.  Editor: Richard Livermore, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN.

Chanticleer Magazine Issue Eleven includes a lively series of poems and prose on a theme of ‘Elven’: Elven being a dyslexic, ‘mind-the-gap’ ‘eleven’, which foretells elfish mischief.  There is something intelligent about finding fun in everything and reflecting it beautifully, and the magazine does not disappoint.  Forty pages of poems, essays, quotes and reviews starts with a quote which speaks of ‘necessary destructions’: by the poet ‘who speaks in the name of a creative power capable of overturning all orders… in order to affirm Difference’ and the ‘politician, who is … concerned to deny that which ‘differs’ so as to … prolong an established  historical order…,’ followed by a series of poems by Anon, of Scotland, which demonstrate the same poetic principle: that the fool - as in court jester,  or Anon – is cleverest because he can show amusement in, and lift, all life’s tragedies, without blame.  Other articles and poems are worthy of such intelligent inclusion.  A joyous interlude. Janie Thomas

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Krax, No. 42. Poems, interviews, reviews, illustrations, stories, news – from various contributors.  A5 size stapled booklet with? number of pages.  No ISSN. Price £3.50 $7.  Editor: Andy Robson, 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS12 4RR.

Apart from the front cover, there’s not a page of Krax (Issue No. 42) that isn’t stuffed with poems, pictures, prose and reviews.  Clearly one of the Editor’s priorities is to squeeze in as much as possible.  Are other priorities discernible, for example content and quality?  As far as content goes a certain ribald humour seems flavour of the month, at least as far as this issue is concerned.  An above average example would be Richard Bonfield’s Zooplankton with its ‘vast paella of the weird.’  But there is also the occasional foray into a more thoughtful world such as that found in Harland Ristau’s poem Impromptu where most seem busy ‘searching muck for a moment of money.’

If you like your poetry to give you a fierce dig in the ribs together with the knowing wink, you’ll feel at home with Krax.  However, if you’re looking for something a little more meaningful you might be better off looking elsewhere.  John Plevin

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Iota 72, 2005/04; A5 size, perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover and 60 pages. Poems, reviews and news from various contributors.  ISSN 0-266-2922.  Editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch, Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  Subscription £12/year for 4 quarterly editions. E-mail: iotapoetry@aol.com  or visit www.iotapoetry.co.uk

In a world of flash-by poetry publications and read-them-then-they're-gone internet websites, it's a delight to know that Iota is still pressing out regular eclectic writings from poets across the world. It is an example to us all. Simple, single layered poetry that pleases such as "Romance at an OPS Convention" by Harvey Goldner (In her blue diamond dress/ she looked like a springer spaniel/ but naked on the grass/ she looked like God) could have benefited from a critical editor, but this was a minor gripe. I was particularly struck by Paul Lee's "The Negative Children" that touchingly illuminated an incapacitating skin condition. I also revelled in the daftness of Nigel Humphrey's, "The Quantum Leap Explained". There are also plenty of thoughtful reviews and scattered advertising pieces from the Ragged Raven "arm" of the Iota enterprise.
Endpiece: As I survey my substantial booklet collection on the shelves, including many of Iota's, I worry for the future. There is nothing like being able to pull the printed page from the bookshelf as it will always be easy to access this material on impulse. Let's ensure that we don't, in this small poetry world, become too self absorbed and lose these publications.

We need some fresh ideas to keep us relevant and exciting for the future.   Lachlan Robertson

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Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 44, December 2005

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Iota 70, 2005/02; A5 size, perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover and 60 pages. Poems, reviews and news from various contributors.  ISSN 0-266-2922.  Editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch, Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  Subscription £12/year for 4 quarterly editions. E-mail: iotapoetry@aol.com  or visit www.iotapoetry.co.uk

This issue of Iota is marvellous!  Spurred on by a ‘strange individual’ standing for parliament as candidate for the True English Poetry Party to highlight the need for a return to real English poetry which, he said, died out at the end of the 19th century when poets began to write unrhyming poetry, the editors call two witnesses who say that rhyme is ‘…the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre …����� and  ‘a large proportion of the language of every good poem can in no respect differ from that of good prose. We will go further.  It may be safely affirmed that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition’ (Milton, about Paradise Lost and Wordsworth’s preface to Lyrical Ballads).  This editorial is the hook upon which some well chosen poems are hung.  It works well. Congratulations Ragged Raven Press, Janet Murch and Bob Mee.  Subscribe.   Janie Thomas

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Iota 71, 2005/03; see previous review in this edition of Pulsar for Iota editorial information. 

Over the years Iota has retained a high quality of writing, and this issue, with contributions from Uruguay, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Poland and Belgium, as well as the UK, carries on this tradition.  It is difficult to identify a common thread apart from the tendency in these poems to look at life from a ‘different’ viewpoint.

In ‘The Print Room in Summer,’ Pat Watson contrasts the cool, rarefied atmosphere inside with the outside heat where ‘pigeons jostle peevishly,’ and where, one concludes, ��Brit Art, videos, formaldehyde’ belong. This atmosphere of timelessness appears again in ‘Dry-stone Sketch,’ where Philip Burton uses the unchanging features of the Yorkshire landscape to evoke the timeless aspects of life, cleverly linking up in the end to the values embodied in the work of the Bronte sisters.

There is humour here, too.  In ‘The day mum kidnapped my lover,’ by C R Cajari, the mother takes the scruffy young man and re-makes him in line with her own vision, then ‘released him back into the wild / to wander among commuters dazed and confused.’ At the end of the collection, as usual, there are several reviews of recent poetry collections and a list of forthcoming events.    Ingrid Riley

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The Univer-Soul Language, volume 1, poems by Sharia Kharif, Heather Smith, Cedric Mixon, Jacole Kitchen, Monica Hill (Diselysia). A slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a 3-colour cover and 119 pages.  Published 2005 by Kobalt books, P.O. Box 1062, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004, USA; www.kobaltbooks.com   Cover design by Holly Lane, cover model: Kesha Mixon.  ISBN 0-9754357-1-X.  $13.95.

The Univer-Soul Language – an anthology of poetry by five American poets of differing ethnicities and backgrounds.  Although the backgrounds are different the issues addressed cover the familiar ground of love and betrayal, of trying to find some meaning in the bumpy ride we call life.  Heather Smith sees in desire ‘the breeder of regret’ and ‘wonders if she is strong enough to make it without love’.  The introspective poetry of Cedric Mixon provides vivid images of a ‘black man stuck in the night,’ hiding in his ‘black-hoodie,’ trying to make it with his ‘pockets filled with boulders.’  Jacole Kitchen’s poetry is sensuous, full of wanting but not quite finding ‘the perfect man,’ ending up in a house ‘reeking of the stench that brokenness leaves.’  Solitude also figures in Monica Hill’s ‘song of loneliness,’ but finding in her poem to her daughter that ‘in a room full of strangers’ it is possible to ‘finally belong.’

I have the suspicion that these five poets are young and exuberant, creating poetry full of fast and furious rhythms and rhymes; perhaps people in a hurry bouncing off relationships like dodgem cars, seeking in Sharia Kharif’s words to ‘release the demons of wishful thinking.’  An opportunity, at least for me, hidden away in the quiet of the English countryside, to look at life through different eyes and different experiences – perhaps in the end this is the key attraction of poetry.  John Plevin

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Carp in the Wind, poems by David Gill.  A5 sized stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 22 pages.  Published 2004.  Price £?  Available from David Gill, (Oxford); e-mail irene_david@gills38.freeserve.co.uk

David Gill, an accomplished and perceptive poet who once resided in Tokyo, is the dinner guest who painstakingly examines the fish, in this case the carp, for bones that might stick in his throat.  The 22 bones, sharp and penetrating, are removed, turned, examined closely from angles and assembled delicately on the side plate together with skeleton and skin. The result is an often witty assortment of mid-length fly-in-the-sushi poetry.

Several of the works have been published in various journals but this needn’t put the reader off for the best; In Yodobashi Camera Store, Albatross, The Smile of the Great Buddha, and the title poem Carp in the Wind; have not.  I suspect that with my particular favourite, The Smile of the Great Buddha, Gill may have stumbled across an innovative poetry form – the Japanese Sonnet.

This booklet is much more than the sum of its parts, contains no haiku and will repay rereading. Buy it before your next trip to Tokyo.  Gwilym Williams

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Krax No. 42, an A5 stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and x? number of pages, (pages unnumbered). Poems, prose, reviews, news, cartoons and illustrations from numerous contributors.  Front cover picture, ‘Monkey Puzzle,’ by Harry Turner.  Published 2005, Editor: Andy Robson, 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR. No ISSN. £3.50  $7.00.

This was my first read of a Krax edition and it is certainly different from your average poetry magazine. I counted one hundred and twenty reviews of other publications, this achieved by microscopically small print and I suspect, a small army of reviewers. It was quite good fun to read the reviews of books that one has previously reviewed for Pulsar. Krax appears not to take itself too seriously; most of the poems are irreverent, humorous or resort to slightly dodgy rhyme. In all honesty, I have to say that some of the poems are dire, but I guess this means that everyone taking part can get into print. The illustrations are mostly fun with the exception of Alan Hunter’s which are seriously good. Every edition will, no doubt, have a few ‘goodies’ and in this one I thought Rodney Wood’s PHOTOGRAPHY, FILM AND TELEVISION took the honours.  Here is a short extract –

 

                I doze off in the cinema. The train passes shadows

                And I feel the roll and thud of wheels

                Before we stop at my station.

                I can’t wake and panic despite

                Telling myself I’m only dreaming.

                To find out, though I have to open my eyes,

                Get a snapshot of reality with my Kodak Brownie,

                Then go to Bonus Print and get it processed.

 

                A fun read and a good outlet for budding illustrators and poets.  Dick Stewart

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Brown Eyes, A Selection of Creative Expressions by Black and Mixed-race Women.  Edited by Nicole Moore. An A5 size perfect-bound book with 268 pages and with a full colour cover.  Published in September 2005 by Matador, 9 De Montfort Mews, Leicester, LE1 7FW, UK. ISBN 1-905237-16-6.  £9.99.  E-mail books@troubador.co.uk web site www.troubador.co.uk/matador

When I think about my own ancestry, I realise that my people’s rich oral tradition was lost when our written history began in the mid 17th century. This also resulted due to events that occurred at a time when whole branches of my family found themselves forced off their native soil and found themselves in the Americas. No, I am not black and my ancestors were not slaves; but Scottish. Many branches of my family would have been forced off their land in the Clearances and would have had no choice but to emigrate or face starvation at home. Yet why is there a persistent modern tradition of collecting the issues of black and mixed race peoples into collections such as this? Does the past lie so much heavier on those communities and why does there remain a need to revisit it? This anthology serves up an excellent collection of poems, interviews and essays to help answer that question. But equally, I would encourage black and mixed race readers to also search out David Craig’s “On the Crofters’ Trail: In search of the Clearance Highlanders” just to remind them that obscenities were perpetrated on others too.  Lachlan Robertson

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Straight Astray, poems by Alessio Zanelli.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 104 pages.  Published in year 2005 by Troubador Publishing Ltd, 9 De Monfort Mews, Leicester, LE1 7FW, UK.  ISBN 1-905237-17-0    £7.99  €12  $15

Forewords (and sleeve notes) are there to sell a book to potential readers, they have a tendency to be effusive, example; “Reading Alessio Zanelli’s poetry is like taking a grand and marvellous tour of sights rarely glimpsed . . .”  The book is expertly produced, looks the biz and has excellent artwork on the cover.  The poems within, from my viewpoint, are a tad mediocre with nothing particularly inspiring and none that are dire.  I guess, as ever, it’s a case of “horses for courses.” Example poem, one that I liked, New Year’s Dictum: An adage has that what/one does upon the new/year’s day is what it will/be mostly doing through all/the year. If that’s the case/then quite long sleeps, a bit/of writing teamed up with/rash drinking wait for me.  Overall score: 6½ out of 10.  David Pike

 

Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 43, September 2005

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Attic Warpipes, poems by Tommy Frank O’Connor.  An A5 size perfect bound book with a full colour cover and 82 pages. Published 2005 by Bradshaw Books, Tigh Filí, Thompson House, MacCurtain Street, Cork, Ireland; www.tighfili.com   ISBN 0-949010-99-5 price €12.  

This is a debut collection from the highly acclaimed poet, novelist and storyteller from Co. Kerry. Much of this work has seen the light of day in magazines, including Pulsar, over the years. The Poet splits his work into four sections and I was particularly taken by the first section ‘Tune in the Marrow’ which is largely a remembrance of past life in Co. Kerry. This is an extract from A Masters Rest, in memory of a master fiddler -

               

                A glass of porter banishes his blues,

                For chase he plays a set of reels and polkas

                Into tired yawn of tomorrow's early hours.

                Without a wife he has become groom

                To his fiddle, a troubadour

                Drawing the cork out of the draught of gloom.

 

                In Homing, the poet shares a train journey –

 

                Smoke in our -NO SMOKING – carriage draws her from the page,

                A doe scenting danger.

                Her eyes appoint me Fire Brigade.

                On return she releases her bosom

                To the infant’s hunger.  I point my eyes

                At my airport novel but it has nothing

                To this rapture.

 

The poems are warm, relaxed, polished and mature.  In short, this is a very special book by a very gifted writer.  Highly recommended.  Dick Stewart

                                                                                                               

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The Poetry Church, a magazine of Christian Poetry, Vol. 10, No. 1 Spring 2005.  An A5 sized stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 40 pages. Editor: John Waddington-Feather.  Published by: Feather Books, PO Box 438, Shrewsbury, SY3 0WN. E-mail: john@waddysweb.freeuk.co    www.waddysweb.freeuk.com No ISSN. Price UK £3.00, US $6.00.

Editor John Waddington-Feather, author of the Revd. Blake Hartley Mysteries, urges contributors to Pray and write in the Spirit at all times and it seems to me that they do just that. This issue, the cover stamped with an unsettling bold black cross, like an invitation to a funeral, contains 38 poems and 7 prayers arranged in strict alphabetical order for the doubtless devoted readership. There’s not much in here to satisfy the unsettling quandaries of the Doubting Thomas (R.S. or otherwise) although Robert Irwin comes close: Exit from the carrel / and low stackroom lined / with bleak files of remorse.

It’s an eclectic, but conservative, ecclesiastical collection with lines like The lake of sulphur silent waitsSo keep unto the narrow track from Sean Kinsella interspersed with lighter touches: Standing on the seashore / Reminds us life alters / As the turn of a tide from, in this case, Mavis Catlow.

Rock-solid cathedral bookshop material with theology enough for the usual suspects.   Gwilym Williams

Gwilym William, poet / Pulsar reviewer: Ennis, Ireland September 2005.

 

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TLAZOLTEOTL poems by Sandra Lester.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a black and white cover and 76 pages.  The booklet also contains illustrations by Sandra Lester and Raven Lassey.  Published November 2004 by: Q Q Press (COLLECTIONS), York House, 15 Argyle Terrace, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, PA20 0BD.  ISBN 1-903203-384.  Cost ?

I found these poems, urgent, fiery and fervent; often lyrical, but vibrant and tragic. Sandra Lester is a strong writer, with a passionate personality.  She collects experiences of earlier loved influences and weaves them into  poetry, contrasting them with rage and hatred against betrayal of power for the global imbalance of war over peace, famine over plenty, insecurity and pollution over security and purity. There are two epic poems which are both powerful: Mutiny 2000 – a tirade to mark the millennium, and Candy Cotton Kid and the Faustian Wolf – Ms Lester’s ‘informed psychiatrist’s’ view of Ted Hughes’s responsibility for Sylvia Plath’s suicide.  It was this last poem that brought me to my final judgement.  There is no ‘Truth’ in her view.  It is evocative literary supposition cloaked in a wolf’s cover of professional opinion; which can be a most damaging psychological confusion.  Men have always been selfish and cruel and women are always hurt by it.  But Ms Lester should know all about examining oneself for flaws before projection. 

Be careful if you buy it.  Enjoy the words, but understand the real, not the supposed, meaning.   Janie Thomas

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Helkappe, poems by Sandra Lester. An A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 64 pages.  Cover photograph and Purple Box photograph by Tom Benjamin. Published May 2005 by: Q Q Press (COLLECTIONS), York House, 15 Argyle Terrace, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, PA20 0BD.  ISBN 1-903203-449. Cost £6.50.

I rather like the fact that half a page is used at the beginning of this booklet to explain the meaning of the title: apparently it’s a Norse magic mask. It usefully offers the reviewer a short cut to explaining what it is all about. “The poetry in this collection delves beyond the masks we are forced by our society to wear, and the masks we chose to wear.” So in that spirit, I read on. Many of the poems read as irritating aphorisms on getting through life: “Astute people always outwit themselves in the end”. However, the longer pieces are more enjoyable (I hate being told what to think) and I was particularly enthralled by the proclamation-like “Beasts and Men:” “I, the Firebrand, challenge you as I gallivant to the gibbet.” Wonderful, almost gothic stuff! There is even a set of academic notes at the back to set out the meaning of some of the more obscure or invented words. It is an article of faith amongst aspiring poets that we should let the poem lie there and allow the reader/listener to derive the meaning. It is bad form to have to explain a poem. Well, nuts to all that, I like the fact that here, the poet is anxious to please and explain. In fact, surely that is the point about masks: you can’t wear one forever and stay sane.   Lachlan Robertson

Lachlan Robertson, poet / Pulsar reviewer: at North Swindon Library Pulsar Poetry Evening.

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Chanticleer Magazine, issue 9, poems, reviews and letters from various contributors.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a three-colour cover and 40 pages. Editor: Richard Livermore. Published by: Chanticleer Press, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN. ISSN 1478 0704   Price £3.00.

 Issue 9 of the Chanticleer Magazine, the so called ‘cock issue’, is a mixture of poetry and prose (extracts, quotes, reviews and a somewhat overlong essay on philosophy).  Poetry should seek to say interesting things in an interesting way.  Most of the poems in this issue do neither.  Myles Bigland in his review of the previous issue concluded that there ‘seems to be a definite predilection for homo-erotic works;’ this issue follows the same pattern.  I read with interest every word of the Editor’s philosophical essay, but I suspect my interest was sparked primarily by my advancing years and the pressing reality of Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’.

It cannot be easy to be the editor of a poetry magazine, so I wish Chanticleer well.  However, if as the editor professes he is keen to get the ‘message across’, then no matter what the message is, quality must be his first priority. John Plevin

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Poetry Express, the quarterly from Survivors’ Poetry, No. 20, Autumn 04 / Winter 05, Bumper Issue.  Poems, news, reviews, events and workshops. An A4 size stapled booklet with a three-colour cover and 47 pages.  Mailed free to all members.  Sponsored by the Arts Council, England.  Survivors’ Poetry, Diorama Arts Centre, 34 Osnaburgh Street, London, NW1 3ND. info@survivorspoetry.org.uk

The editor, James Ferguson, states in his editorial that he would like ‘the magazine to have something for all readers.’ Note: the magazine is also available in large-print format.  This bumper edition covers a wide range of material, from original poetry to translation, travel impressions, a substantial review section, and includes, in my view, some poorly reproduced paintings.

In the article, ‘Canvas and Wall,’ Mario Petrucci expounds at length on something he never succeeds in defining.  In ‘Numberless Calvaries,’ Christina Viti examines the poetry of Dino Campana.  Her, largely prose, translations of his work can only hint at the originals which appear to have been rather over-burdened with fevered imagery.  More interesting are the poems from Stevenage Survivors, in particular Neil Hopkins ‘Harwich’ which succeeds in blending the sights and sounds of a real place with the poet’s emotional responses.

The last quarter of the issue contains a selection of reviews, some of which, I feel, would have benefited from editing. It seems to me that the problem with this publication is that it tries to be all things to all men.  In future issues it might be better to concentrate on two or three subject areas?   Ingrid Riley

 

Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 42, June 2005

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Kung Fu Lullabies, poems by Chris Kinsey.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a 4-colour cover and 79 pages.  Published 2004 by Ragged Raven Press, 1 lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  www.raggedraven.co.uk   ISBN 0 9542397 7 6   £7.00.

The Cantonese character on the cover means ‘life force' and that is exactly what this handsome book of modern lullabies is all about.

From the poem ‘An invitation to imaginary numbers’ the lines A skein of geese tows the dark / flies a ragged noose around our roofs illustrate the multi-layered intensity to be found in this first collection. In a poem about County Mayo Kinsey cleverly works the half-rhythm in a manner reminiscent of Christy Brown:  famine came to our car picnic / her anguish more barbed than the fence which caught me.

Other poems such as ‘Alwenna’s flock’, ‘A smell of petrol’ and ‘Progress’ are commendable for their understated fury.  In sponsoring and supporting this intelligent and insightful poet the Arts Council of Wales and Ragged Raven Press have spent their money wisely. Now you can too.  Gwilym Williams

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Short Essays on Experimental Poetry by Doreen King; ‘Experimental Poetry in the 20th Century and Beyond.’  A5 size perfect-bound booklet with a 3- colour cover and 48 pages.  Published 2003 by Feather Books, P.O. Box 438, Shrewsbury, SY3 0WN. ISBN 1 84175 137 5  price £?

Dr Doreen King writes, “Poetry needs to be both emotionally appreciated and intellectually understood. People who enjoy the poem, but who do not understand the composition, structure, background etc. are like tourists visiting a foreign land. They enjoy the cultural activities, but they do not understand the people.” As stated on the tin the reader is treated to many short essays on experimental poetry, for example poetry and art/society/media/music, along with some more general essays on poetry forms, concrete/sound/visual/haiku/picture, computer and interactive poetry.   

The author tells us that the essays started life as lecture notes on contemporary poetry, concentrating on the period between 1950 and 2000. Let me give you a tiny taster – this on The Renku. “Each stanza is a 2-line haiku (or haiku-like verse) or a 3-line haiku (or haiku-like verse). There are alternating 3-line and 2-line stanzas and both forms are equally important. The terms stanza, link and haiku are used interchangeably. This is because each stanza is a 2-line or 3 –line haiku and each stanza is linked to the preceding stanza”.

There are pages and pages of this sort of stuff and whether you get anything out of this book will depend on whether you are in the intellectual analysing school or the Linda Lewis “I don’t know the meaning, I just feel the feeling” camp.  Either way, I have to say I found it all pretty poorly written with much of the material still, seemingly, in note form. The book is full of spelling and grammatical errors and illustrated in much the same style as my old school magazine with what looks suspiciously like lino-cut art.

Not my cup of tea but if you like spending your evenings posting Haiku on the BBC poetry web this could become essential reading.  Dick Stewart

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Goost, (a haiku sequence), by Doreen King.  Small perfect-bound book with a 3-colour cover and 60 pages.  Published 2003 by Feather Books, PO Box 438, Shrewsbury, SY3 OWN.  ISBN 1-84175-141-3, price?

I am always impressed by those who can craft the haiku form, given that the traditional Japanese format of 3 lines and 17 syllables offers so little to work with. The piece therefore has to be good enough to stop you in your tracks, gasp perhaps with pleasure at the underlying idea, admire the perfection of the meter or perhaps bask in the intensity of the image it has provoked. Beyond even that, to develop the haiku beyond its traditional confines is an extra level of skill and therefore if it is to be done well, must impress even more. In this booklet, you will not find traditional haiku poems and this author has not, unfortunately, displayed an interesting development of the form. I found some of them clunky to read; “sighing, cooing sea/ it rocks backwards and forwards/ the sun beaming down” or simply stating an inane truth; “that grapefruit is the size of just enough”. The small booklet included many pages of ink drawings of vaguely oriental aspect and added nothing to the meaning or to the aesthetic.

small book of haiku

sows seeds in the springtime mind

not germinating

 

The Japanese character, (above) means, springtime.  Lachlan Robertson

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Paradise Road, poems by Bob Mee.  A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full-colour cover and 103 pages.  Cover painting by Bob Mee. Published 2003 by Blue Fish, 7 New Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 2BP.  ISBN 0 9546197 0 6.  £7.00. E-mail: bluefishpress@aol.com

Poet, editor and boxing correspondent, an interesting if somewhat unusual mix of talents.  The prose and poetry in Bob Mee’s ‘Paradise Road’ takes us on a journey through time and space.  We meet and grieve with Ada Ellis, the young World War I widow crying for her lost husband and for ‘all the babies we’d never have’; we dip a toe into the history of boxing in ‘New Orleans, 1892’ when ‘James J. Corbett knocked out John L. Sullivan in 21 Rounds’; nearer to home with the ‘Swans, and Jeffrey in the Pub’ we learn to like Jeffrey ‘because he knows he has nothing to say but says it anyway’.

But does Bob Mee’s poetry pack a punch?  Maybe the extended title of one poem gives us a clue: ‘Don’t tell me anybody could write my poems, don’t tell me they go nowhere, do nothing.  What the hell do you expect?’  I suspect Bob Mee is full of words, hay makers from the heart full of passion with few if any concessions to structure and rhyme.   John Plevin     

P.S.  Where is Paradise Road?  A street in Las Vegas populated by Elvis look-alikes.

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Iota 69, 2005/1, a selection of contemporary poetry edited by Bob Mee and Janet Murch.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover and 60 pages.  Published by Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  ISSN 0266-2922.  £12.00 annual subscription or £3.00 an issue (UK).  www.iotapoetry.co.uk 

The latest issue of Iota offers a wide spectrum of poems from as far afield as the USA and Australia as well as local contributors.  There is no over-arching theme to the collection.  Rather the poets here offer gentle observations, such as Oliver Andrew in ‘Neighbours,’ describing how his neighbour fails to appreciate the things which annoy him so much but stands, ‘on his patio . . . watching the clouds, the stars.’  Some are less gentle, as in Gill McEvoy’s ‘Gunpowder, Treason, etc.’, which juxtaposes the noise and confusion of Bonfire Night with a child’s view of a marital argument, ‘a pale egg rising on my father’s brow, a roman candle whitely blossoming.’

Several poems in this collection are deeply cynical and disillusioned, such as Hugh Fox’s ‘Pissed Off,’ where the old man lists all that is wrong with his life, ‘pissed at being 72 in the perfect house in the perfect town, countdown close down to zero.’

The joys and downfalls of life are vividly expressed in this issue which, as always, is a pleasure to read. Ingrid Riley

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2004 You, Haikus by Gerry Gilbert, BC Monthly 54, Annual Edition.  Black and white stapled booklet with unspecified number of pages. ISBN 0 920250 25 4 price ?  Published by: BC Monthly 54, P.O. Box 48884, Stn. Bentall, Vancouver BC, Canada, V7X 1AB.

We drift through life not really recognizing the purity of poetry, nor seeing the sparkling essence of that reality.  2004 YOU is a queer reminder of that purity, rather like confetti is a reminder of a wedding.   The book contains Haikus for each month: 300 for January, 322 for February, 350 for March etcetera: 3958 in total.  But the quantitative is the only frustration here, as can be confetti, for they are all arranged scattered over more than twenty pages on both sides, which takes a while to read.  It’s easier to dip, and be reminded of the qualitative: that a few well-chosen words: ‘not trying to be/in a hurry can become/quicker than worry; or : the tiny housefly’s/evasiveness thrillingly/ intelligentle;  or : HOME CLOCKS’ TIMES VARY/ BY A FEW MINUTES SO THAT/ THE RIGHT TIME’S MENTAL can tell all one wants to know that day or that month – or perhaps even that year.  Janie Thomas

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Book/Booklet Reviews

Extracts from Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Edition 41, March 2005

Reviews from earlier editions are also shown below

Transitions, poems by H. C. Kim. A Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 81 pages. Published 2004 by The Hermit Kingdom Press, Suite 407, 3741 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.  ISBN 0-9723864-6-7.  US $11.50, UK £7.50, EU €12.50. www.TheHermitKingdomPress.com

This quasi-theological-political collection of changes composed in Cambridge (UK) and Bangalore (India) is written in American English. Some of the thirty-four poems are accompanied by meaningful monochrome snapshots; the police car before the church, the ubiquitous leaning bicycle; two examples. In the first group of poems time is perpetually flying: It is Christmas again / Time just seems to fly / It seems like yesterday… There follows a sequence in which boy-meets-girl: I will be there to shield you / To protect and uphold you.

The third and final section contains colourful impressions of Bangalore. This, in my view, is the most interesting part of the work. The poet wonders what the future holds for India: Will India repeat the errors of the West? / Will the society degenerate…

In his preface, written on American Independence Day 2004, H. C. Kim expresses the hope that we can “make this world a better place”.

Deep waters and a fair enough try.  Gwilym Williams                                                      

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Kicking Lou’s Arse, poems by Alun Rees.  A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 60 pages. Harpist illustration by Bill West. Published 1st November 2004 by Bucephalus Press, 67 Hady Crescent, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 0EB.  ISBN 0-903212-02-1. £3.00, $6.00 or €6.00.

This book of nearly eighty poems is a collection dating from 1962 onwards and many have been previously published although titles have been changed and revisions made.’ Kicking Lou’s Arse’ is also the title of one of the poems which deals with the fighting of leukaemia (Lou Kemia) by a lady named Jennifer. This is one of several rhyming poems –

Yet never, never did you moan

About the traitor in your bone.

 

A poem worthy of mention is “Strange Harvest” which, I assume, refers to the Aberfan tragedy of 1966.

I have buried my children alive;

Now let them grow

Into white and yellow flowers

To rid this valley of its gloom.

By far my favourite poem from this book is “Stonedancer”, an account of a mad man who dances on the cracks of flagstones in the belief that he can summon dancing bears-

He never could summon the bears he knew were dancing

Somewhere out on the rim between dark and light,

Dancing upon the cracks between fear and love,

Hoping that people would come. But still he danced.

 

Good value and worth a read.  Richard Stewart

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Seven League Stilettos, poems by Jane Kinninmont; an A5 size perfect-bound book with a 3-colour cover and 87 pages.  Published 2004 by Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  ISBN 0-9542397-6-8, £7.00.

Seven League Stilettos is a first collection by a young poet keen on cats and clothes.  And, if her poems are anything to go by, keen on life and love.  There is, in her free verse poetry, a freshness, a love affair with language, and a willingness to dive into waters of uncertain depth.

In ‘Sweetheart’ she sees in a sleeping lover’s hands ‘tiny question marks around the duvet’, and in ‘Totalitarian Love’ she borrows ‘from Joe Stalin’ and projects a lover’s face ‘gigantically onto the sky’.  But her poems are not all bliss, lovers sometimes leave, leaving the poet to ‘darken the sky, slam shutters across every star-hole’.  Death and despair also intrude: the death of a young friend in ‘For Lee’; the old woman in a room where ‘the face of the clock is dimming’.  And there is room for irony: ‘Oxford Street’, where ‘the streets are paved with plastic’; and the jaded sensitivity of the traveller, forgetful of past aviation endeavours, and soon to ‘move to Mars and moan about the weather’.

An exuberant poet bursting with words.  I can’t see her being satisfied with a first collection.  She’ll be back and being a modern young writer we can monitor her progress on her website: www.janeswriting.co.uk   John Plevin

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Senegal Blues, poems by Brian Daldorph.  Slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a 3-colour cover and 83 pages. Cover design by Christine Ewing. Published 2003 by 219 Press, P.O. Box 352, Perry, KS 66073, USA. ISBN 0-9722945-2-X  www.zigpress.com $10 U.S.

By making his book a collection of poems set in the framework of a travel diary, Daldorph puts his poems into context. His ‘Blue Notes,’ journal entries detail the places he visits and illustrates them with black and white photographs.  This helps set a mood for his poems which reflect the poverty and hardship, the colourful markets and the begging children, as well as his own reactions.  In ‘On the Beach,’ a ‘big-eyed boy’ asks for money, provoking the thought, ‘what I’d really like to give him / is everything my children have.’ Several of the poems attempt to get inside the mind of the people. ‘The Happy Man,’ describes the daily round of one of them, prayer, food and contemplation . . . and the next day, the next, the next of perfect happiness.’  We might well question whether the happiness of the women whose work enables him to lead such a perfect life, is itself quite so perfect?

The acute observations, travel notes, drawings and excellent photographs all complement one another to give us the feeling that we have almost experienced the journey ourselves.                                                                                                                                Ingrid Riley

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Chanticleer Magazine, Poems and Reviews, Issue 8, January 2005, a stapled 40 page booklet with a 3-colour cover. Editor: Richard Livermore, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN. Cheques payable to: Richard Livermore. ISSN 1478 0704, £3.00.

Chanticleer Magazine, in my view, is just about the most irritating poetry review booklet I have surveyed to date.  Not only does it narrow its choice of poetry to some fairly dire poems, it has long expositional editorials attached to various excerpts that treat the reader to boring 'context' that do nothing to enhance the work explained.  There seems to be a definite predilection for homo-erotic works, prose as well as poetry.  Frankly it doesn't enlighten me.  The sub-title of the magazine is 'setting the cat among the pigeons'.  It doesn't get close to being controversial.  I can’t recommend this edition of Chanticleer Magazine.  Myles Bigland                                                                        

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Logic and the Heart, love poems 1999 – 2003, by A.F. Harrold.  A5 size perfect-bound book with a 3-colour cover and 71 pages.  Published 2004 by Two Rivers Press, 35 – 39 London Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 4PS.  ISBN 1901-677-38-9, £8.00.  www.tworiverspress.com

There are three sections to this very interesting series of love poems by AF Harrold:  The first contains nine poems about his father’s last moments and death; the second recalls a particular relationship’s process, ending, and development past that ending; the third explores a cosmic universality of moment, season, philosophy, and meaning in love with its paradoxical qualities.  Each series is sensitive, deep and meaningful; discreet and private, yet all-embracing and connecting.  I found great enjoyment in the different intellectual levels explored, and appreciated the gentleness of spirit in the structure and rhythm of the work, which lies, sometimes, alongside an explicit physicality intrinsic to the poetic style.  This collection is so successful that it could be suggested that logic was also in the heart of these poems.  Janie Thomas

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Krax, No. 41, (2004), poems, photographs and illustrations from contributors. Stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover; numerous un-numbered pages.  Krax, c/o 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR, Yorkshire. No ISSN.  £3.00, $7.00.

From its Chrome Yellow and green felt pen cover to its bursting-at-the-seams with multi-typeface prose-poems and printing often impossible to squint at, this has all the feel of a 1970’s student rag magazine. This is gee-whiz poetry mixed up with amateur cartoon illustrations, with an eclectic mix of Jorie Graham-esque fractured text and even the recognisably poetic. I was driven to distraction trying to read the reviews set in a block text as thick as clootie-dumpling and as hard to swallow. I was enchanted by the odd gem of a poem, sneaked into the gathering like a professor at a hen-night. An irritating but strangely compulsive read with a liveliness that encourages me to think that however much I may be a traditionalist, thank god for the energetic and experimental.  Lachlan Robertson

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Edition 40 Reviews, plus earlier input, below:

The Cemetery of Pleasures, poems by David Gill. A5 size stapled booklet with a full colour cover and 26 pages. No ISBN. Available for £1.50, (includes the cost of p&p), from: David Gill, 38 Yarnells Hill, Botley, Oxford, OX2 9BE.

A selection of short poems, some written on sunny afternoons after work in a café over-looking the sea near Lisbon. Unsurprisingly, most of the poems are very laid back, quite descriptive and possessing a sort of ‘inner calm’ perhaps tinged with what the poet describes as ‘a strain of melancholy that seems to underlie Portuguese life.’

Like a good photographer, David captures ‘the moment’ with ….

Riders in Batalha

In the middle of the abbey square

A dirty moped leans, head locked, relaxed,

Its rider bulleted into mass.

A few dry leaves play tag in the wind.

A helmet, on the pavement, rocks.

 

Seafood

So, this morning, now as always,

tiers of hunters haunt the foreshore,

while their bright-roofed prey await

the next congenial sea, their Moses,

to wash them softly, luckily away

to the asylum of the deep.

 

Grilled prawns and glass of cold white optional. I was also washed softly, luckily away.    Dick Stewart

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Smoke, editions 52 and 53.  A5 sized stapled booklets with two-colour covers, approximately 22 pages of poems and illustrations. ISSN 0262852X, subscription £4.00 for 5 issues, post paid.  Editors: Dave Calder and Dave Lenkiewicz, artwork by Alice Lenkiewicz.  Published by: Windows, Liver House, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY.

As in the past it is impossible to identify any unifying themes in the poems included in these two issues, unless it is the tendency by many of the poets to take a quirky, side-long look at everyday events or action.

In ‘Trying a Different Shampoo,’ Helen Clare identifies the shampoo she is using and is assailed by guilt and fellow-feeling for her lover’s wife, ‘I’ll be watching women with trolleys and wondering.’  Several of the poems are perhaps too personal and thus obscure, but others reach out to a wider world, such as ‘Party Time,’ by Tim French which puts a new slant on the familiar police chase around an estate, ‘and a sign on the bumper that tells the world he’s “just divorced.”’  In ‘Dallas,’ by John Andrews there is a nice irony in the favourite uncle who establishes his own importance claiming complicity in the Kennedy assassination while all along it was just a story.

But hidden away in issue 53 is a poem which can bear comparison with the truly great.  Sandra Liao’s ‘Four Acts of Poverty,’ is spare and concise, keeping the deep emotions expressed under tight and masterly control, hardly and adjective here, the words simple, but in execution a true gem.  Ingrid Riley

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In Visible Worlds, poems by Brenda Tai Layton, published 2004, A5 size stapled booklet with a 4-colour cover and 28 pages. Cover artwork, Blue Horses in Lathkill Dale by Martin Holroyd.  ISBN 1-903031-90-7. Printed by Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY. Available from Portland Books, 93 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa, CV32 4JR; £4.00 + £0.50p p+p.

Writing poetry gives you the opportunity to be honest; without this honesty the reader simply turns away.  Brenda Tai Layton is an honest poet, she doesn’t let you turn away.  In her book ‘In Visible Worlds’, she writes about people, mainly black people, and what it is like to have ‘to walk the wrong way up the slide’.   Her poems are inhabited by characters clutching their ‘cardboard suitcases’: the cleaner with ‘legs barely broader than the wooden handle’ of her broom; the boy Specky, his short life existing ‘on the blade of bad things;’ and, the free woman, Susan Smith, lured back to Africa with the promise of ‘rich harvest,’ finding only famine beneath ‘freedom’s locked granary.’  Have you ever wondered why the word black is so often an adjunct to something negative?  In her poem ‘Think of a Colour’ Brenda Tai Layton demonstrates that being black, living in ‘the absence of light,’ has enabled her to break out of ‘the word’s prison.’  Let’s hope that we see more of her in the future.  John Plevin

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A Sunlit Mirror, poems by David Clarke, slightly larger than A5 size stapled booklet with 23 pages and a full colour cover.  ISBN 0-904179-68-0, £5.00 for a limited edition signed copy.  Published 2004 by Hippopotamus Press, 22 Whitewell Road, Frome, Somerset, BA11 4EL.

This collection of fifteen poems tries, charmingly, to recreate a love based on remembrance of infantile longing after fifty years of lifetime, once new opportunity arises.  The words wander wistfully through parkland, recollecting past joys, reflecting as a sparkle of sunlight on the lake, as in a mirror, but remain otherwise unspoken.  There are three voices: the man, the woman and a narrator, which merge into one tale of romantic longing that childhood innocence might become a mature marriage without losing the delight of inspiration.  Strangely, an introductory poem by W H Auden sets the context that when affection becomes adoration, and claim requires recognition, the lacuna between the loved and the beloved widens to unbridgeably universal proportion between stars and stargazer.  It is a mystery tale too.  I find myself wondering whether Ann replied to the romantic poems addressed to her?   Janie Thomas

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Tremblestone, Number 4, August 2004; poems and reviews from various contributors.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover and 84 pages. ISSN 1463-9181.  Editor: Kenny Knight, Assistant Editor: Delilah Fogerty.  Single issue price £4.00, three issues £10.00, six issues £18.00.  Cheques payable to ‘Tremblestone,’ Stowford House, 43 Seymour avenue, St. Judes, Plymouth, Devon, PL8 8RB.
Like all magazine format books, this is an eclectic volume of poetry, prose and reviews. The poetry itself ranges from the familiar and comfortable such as Martin Anderson’s  “Voyageur”:it will probably fail to reach her/ in that country where so many favours/ have to be begged, palms crossed with/ inscrutable haste, simply for a letter to arrive,” to the irritatingly obscure. I am not comfortable with prose pieces that attempt to wear a poetry jacket, they simply look uncomfortable and out of place. The reviews on the other hand I found a joy to read with a generous amount of space given over to getting under the skin of the work.  I did find myself passing over the more obscure broken line and chaotic layout poems but for those who like jigsaw puzzles, there may well be nuggets of gold here too. A very professionally put together piece of work.  Lachlan Robertson     

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When Divas Dance, The Diva Squad Poetry Collective, edited by Chezia Thompson Cager.  Poems by Chezia Thompson Cager, Clarinda Harriss and Kendra Kopelke.  Slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 103 pages. Published 2004, Maisonneuve Press, PO Box 2980, Washington, DC 20013, USA.  www.maisonneuve.com ISBN 0-944624-43-X, price?

This collection of three variously good works by three eastern seaboard poets is as provoking as enjoyable.  Chezia Thompson Cager’s work demonstrates a range and control of technical skill that impresses, yet isn’t used merely for its own sake.  ‘The Black Dog of Fate’ is a recitation of incidental, as well as meaningful, events in a young black man’s peripatetic life in the early twentieth century, with his Dog as his guide and protector.  Clarinda Harriss’s work generally didn’t enthral this reader.  Perhaps it’s an overt concern in her poetry with form rather than having anything meaningful to say.  Kendra Kopelke has a lot to say and says it entertainingly without obvious posture.  ‘Ode At The End Of The Century’ is a truism that should be considered carefully in the face of present evidence in our cultures.  ‘To My Thumb’ is a profound and disquieting piece that keeps one from thinking that Kopelke is merely looking whimsically askance at life’s vagaries.  Myles Bigland

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Rescript, selected poems by David Holliday.  A5 size stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 58 pages.  Published 2004 by Bucephalus Press, 67 Hady Crescent, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 0EB.  ISBN 0-903212-01-3, price £3.00.

David Holliday, ex-editor of iota, is alive and well and living in Chesterfield.  A singer in, and occasional conductor of the Chesterfield Male Voice Choir, he still finds time to write poetry.  The selected poems in ‘Rescript’ are a mix of rhyming and blank verse poetry with the occasional villanelle or pantoum thrown in.  The poems fit around a number of issues such as man’s vanity, time, and the place of science in a world largely ruled by myth.  Many of the poems are peppered with characters from history: Alexander with ‘the world at his command’, earning the tribute of a ‘buzz’ from a fly and a ‘hum’ from a bee; the priest in ‘Galileo’s Canon’ preferring  ‘blind faith’ to ‘sight enhanced by eyes’.

What struck me in many of the poems, was the ingredient of thought.  There is a mature poet here touching on issues that should interest us all.  In his poem on XIX Century music he concludes ‘the living listen to the speaking dead’.  In music perhaps, but elsewhere I suspect we are more like his ‘Ouroboros’, the symbol of eternity, ‘the worm that feeds upon its tail’.  Final word: my daughter sneaked a furtive peek, her verdict – “quite good,” she thought.  Praise indeed.   John Plevin                                                                                                                                                   

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Acumen 48, January 2004, New Poetry, Pros and Reviews. An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 122 pages.  Editor: Patricia Oxley, 6 The Mount, Higher Furzeham, Brixham, Devon, TQ5 8QY.  ISSN 0964-0304.  Single issue price £4.50, UK annual subscription £12.50, (for three editions).  www.acumen-poetry.co.uk

Acumen skips the editorial in this well produced magazine and kicks off with a lively “Box of Cuttings” of quotes and press cuttings on poets, poetry and the use of the English Language - all good stuff. I originally marked up five poems for mention which is a good sign. India Russell takes pole position with The Pattern Of The Real, which discusses the filtering of our memories over time….

All that was in essence nothing

Fades to nothing

But those true experiences

Which have their source in heaven-

The magic rain-blessed kiss

                                                                                                           In the darkening London square………..these remain…

 

Mario Petrucci writes about the 1986 Chernobyl clean up in Ukritye …

“Soles grow too hot for blood. Still they shovel the graphite that is erasing marrow, spine, balls…” Chilling reading for anyone living near Winfrith in 1976.  Still, that’s another story. Acumen has eight 1,500 word poetry reviews, a fat letters page and some good poems. Worth the money.  Dick Stewart

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Flight Patterns, poems by Joanne McFarland.  An A5 size perfect-bound bound book with a full colour cover and 53 pages.  No ISBN.  Published during 2004 by: Gold Leaf Books, 546 Union Street Studio 2B, Brooklyn, NY 11215.  Price $12.00.  E-mail: Jam.Art@juno.com

Arrangements in different patterns of words, sights, and descriptive colour in captured conversation form the basis of this collection about domestic circumstance in Brooklyn, New York.  This is Joanne McFarland’s third collection of poems, in which ‘there is a deepened sense of spiritual maturity as if the poet has fully opened herself . . . in a way all our lives depend on knowing . . . as she weighs creation against fate’ in two groups of poems: ‘Signs’ and ‘Men.’  I found the collection interesting but not deep.  Like birds flitting across the page, the poems are flights of fancy or insight that flash momentarily through habitual happenings, with telling word of phrase.  Like Woody Allen reminiscences, they do not penetrate the depths of my soul.  But I do not live in Brooklyn.  Janie Thomas

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Relations to Angels, a collection of poetry by Paula Puddephatt.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 40 pages.  First published 2003 by Q.Q. (Collections), York House, 15 Argyle Terrace, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, PA20 0BD.  ISBN  1-903203-317, price £5.00.

This collection includes many deeply personal poems which seem to originate in physical or mental suffering; ‘See me through the pain . . . and don’t blame me, if I don’t feel even remotely human, over night.’  At the same time, the author looks beyond immediate suffering and sees that  ‘although, things do go terribly wrong,’ the need to carry on is all-important. Her frankness and sincerity is tinged with wry humour in ‘My Extra Head,’ where the doctor’s trite response to this ‘side-effect’ is to claim it as a success for her treatment, while totally dismissing the patient’s dismay, ‘but I have to learn to live with it.  That’s what my doctor said.’

In all the poems the approach is direct and the language deceptively simple.  The ultimate message, too, is simple:

‘There is an inner strength inside of us, my friends: a flame that, once ignited, sometimes flickers – never quite expires.

This is a fascinating collection that leaves us looking forward to more.    Ingrid Riley

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The Picture From Here, poems by Tom Kelly.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 36 pages.  Published 2004 by: Sand Chapbooks, P.O. Box 1091, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, SR2 8WD.  ISBN 0-9545241-2-8, www.sandwriting.co.uk  price£4.00 

Poignant is a word I would choose for this collection; such as in "I Never Thought" or "Street." I never thought I'd be driving through the gates/ and down the slow path to your graveside. Poems about watching children grow up are always heart pluckers and these do so with, (well there's another word I would choose), panache. The poet has a wonderful sense of using words simply,  to create just exactly the right  feeling  as in "The Story of My Life" with its perfect opening lines; You can squeeze the atmosphere/ produce samples that would eat metal. If I had a criticism, and it would be a minor one, I would suggest that the rhythm often catches you out... like a break step that makes it hard to read on the page. I managed to work around this in some of the poems by reciting them aloud. However, overall I have no hesitation in recommending this work.                                                                                    Lachlan Robertson

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Vanishing Point, poems by Tony Petch, (Ragged Raven Poetry); an A5 size perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and 84 pages.  Published during year 2003 by Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR. E-mail: raggedravenpress@aol.com ISBN 0 9542397 3 3, £6.50. 

Tony Petch's Vanishing Point has much to recommend both to the casual and observant reader.  This latest collection draws together some disparate themes that might jar in the hands of another, yet gain coherence through some delicately poignant touches.  The metaphysical 'Traffic’ opens up the paradigmatic nature of our everyday experience of car journeys and their relationship with the infinite.  A few pages later we are given a view of 'Cider-Making in Herefordshire' that is faintly disturbing in its association with blood: "At the festival of pressing/ a noisy horse makes the cogs go/ jerking the teeth on the axle so the orchard is crushed...In a bad year cider is made out of stones."  I find myself curiously in sympathy with that line, not merely from a rural up-bringing but because it fixes ones attention on the perennial violence churning in the traditions of our nation.  The deft touch in 'And now here's another' of "MacDonald's Guide to the Emotions" encapsulates the haphazard approach we all face in the relationship stakes;  'We collide at junction twenty six/ and stay together but I'm thinking/ this can't really be love and I do all the grief stuff internally in advance/ so that by the time she turns me off by turning off at the next slip road/ to announce she only wants to stay good friends/ I'm able to swing across a huge spectrum of previously worked through feelings."  Apologies for that verbatim quote but I think it illustrates the strength of Tony Petch's skill and I can highly recommend this slim but appealing volume for further consideration.    Myles Bigland                                                                                                                                                                                       

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Iota 65, poems and reviews from various contributors; an A5 size perfect-bound book with a two colour cover and 60 pages. Edited by Bob Mee and Janet Murch, Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  E-mail: iotapoetry@aol.com  Web address www.iotapoetry.co.uk  £2.50 each or annual subscription £10.00.

This issue of Iota presents a wide range of poems from as far away as the USA, Italy and Ireland, as well as local contributions.  Generally the poets offer either gentle observations, such as Joanna Ezekiel in ‘The Cocoon of the Brighton Train,’ where she “drinks in the sun at the window,” or quirky, oblique snapshots of life, as Matthew Lloyd’s choice of a “crap haircut,” to symbolize the hopelessness of the unemployed.

Howard Wright’s ‘The China Cabinet,’ offers an almost surreal approach to the idea that you can’t take it with you.  Michael Newman’s, ‘The Journey,’ links the simple act of using the M25 with the fascination of Concorde’s last flight. 

In ‘Vacant Possession,’ Jenny Hockey paints a poignant picture of lost love which is Dylan Willoughby’s theme in 'Arrabbiata,’ but in his case given a humorous slant.  We also find some interesting characters here like the woman the children believe to be a witch in Gillian Stoneham’s poem, and the gardening fanatic in 'Hedgings,’ by Roger Elkin, “Ever since he'd nicked those cuttings from the local park, he lived for privet."

The collection ends with reviews, (some of them merciless), of recent poetry collections as well as a useful section listing poetry festivals and  competitions. IngridRiley                                                                          

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Turpentine, poems by Pat Jourdan; an A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 72 pages. Published during year 2004 by Motet Press, 17 Sea Road, Galway, County Galway, Ireland.  ISBN 0-9542399-1-1, price 6.99, (presume €?).

First impressions are all important with a book.  You need a cover that will attract the eye and make potential readers select the book from a rack of many others.  The vibrant painting on the cover of Pat Jourdan’s book grabs your attention and takes you to the next, and all important stage, the poems within.    

The thing that strikes you about Pat Jourdan’s work is that her poems are accessible, (without being shallow), and have something interesting to say; you don’t have to swallow a dictionary or possess intricate knowledge of ancient book-wormery, for example, ‘Sepia,’ – “The emigrants are proud/the emigrants are economical:/ they all crowd together in one photograph. Here is the sepia testimony.”  Most people will, (I think), be able to sympathise with the early morning blues, ‘Six a.m.,’ “How to tell the disc-jockey/that this year has no sound, but is sliding, elusive, into another day/ dragging our school-child self/into another classroom?”  I like, “dragging our school child self,” excellent.

The poems in Pat Jourdan’s book are varied, and well written.  Numerous publications are sent to Pulsar for review, note: I kept this one for myself.  DP.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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The Nature of Things, poems and prose by Alan Marshfield; a slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 589 pages.  Published during year 2003 by Abraxas Press, 13 Copthall Gardens, Mill house, London, NW7 2NG.  ISBN 1-9031-9419-1, £15.00.www.abraxaspress.co.uk  E-mail: am@abraxas.fsnet.co.uk

Poems can be a puzzle.  At first sight do you always fully understand the intent of the poet?  If you’re like me, probably not.  Alan Marshfield believes that poems should be accompanied by a commentary, and that the two together form the ‘essence’ of the poem.  Not everyone would agree, believing that each poem should stand in its own right.  Personally, I like the commentaries, finding satisfaction in the exercise of analysis and understanding.  My only concern is that this may, at times, be at the expense of emotion, with the poem running the risk of losing the hook that enables the reader to relate the poet’s words to some personal experience or deeply held belief.

In ‘The Nature of Things’, Alan Marshfield gives us the best of a lifetime’s work, and the opportunity to sample poems created over a period of some 50 years.  Readers of Pulsar will already be familiar with his work, here is a chance for them to swim in deep water.  If at times you feel in danger of drowning, you can look to the notes for a lifeline.                                                                                                                                                                                                      John Plevin

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Krax Magazine, No. 40, poems, prose, reviews and artwork from various contributors; A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover, no pages numbers, (but numerous pages).  No ISSN.  Editor: Andy Robson, 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR.  Unit price £3.50/€14/$7, or 3 x issue UK price of £10.00.  Cheques payable to: A. Robson.

Krax is a magazine of light-hearted contemporary poetry, which has been going for thirty years.  I started by feeling as if the main collection was from men trying to find ways of not feeling hopelessly out of control in the downward spiral into illness of some egocentric lives; (I don’t know about you, but it seems that USA is taking over our humour as well as our radio and TV programmes and Iraq, which can feel suffocatingly claustrophobic, when wit is lacking.) But nearly being a gimlet-eyed old lady is my problem, obviously, and laughter is a good way to change attitudes and recover magnanimity, and the poems in the mag. are amusing and some are really good.  The mix of writing type also recovers strength for the mag. by the honesty of an interview comment about poetry writing.   Read it and see what you think.                                                                                                                                                                                               Janie Thomas

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A New Way With Time," poems by Jimmy Crighton. An A5 size stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 36 pages. Published during year 2003 by: Poor Tom’s Press, 89a Winchester Avenue, Leicester, LE3 1AY. ISBN 0-9543371-1-5, price £3.00. 

When someone has lived for a long time and collected many and various experiences along the way, it forms a rich seam from which to mine poetry. In fact, I have been grateful for being a late starter... think of all the inane, ill-informed and embarrassing rubbish that I could have been producing for the first 39 years of life? Some might say that I should have waited longer. Jimmy Crighton waited until he retired before writing his poetry and this booklet reflects upon that life with deep maturity. With regret I have to say that this is a posthumous collection. I loved every one of the poems within it, but I will quote only from the last: "There are no
poems left/ that are not poems of love/...Save my poems -/ they are all you will have of me."  A poignant and affecting collection that I would hope to match at the end too.                                                             
                                                                                                                                        Lachlan Robertson

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Velocity, the best of Apples and Snakes; anthology by UK contemporary writers - poetry, short-stories, non-fiction, artwork, anecdotes and essays.  A slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with 315 pages and a full colour cover. Published on 15th November 2003 by Black Spring Press Ltd., Burbage House, 83-85 Curtain Street, London, EC2A 3BS.  ISBN 0-948238-28-3, price £9.95.       

Velocity is one of those fiercely trendy “Kickers, dungarees and Circus Skills Workshop,” type of books that could only come from our dear Capital. Positively reeking of  80’s Camden Town, I was beginning to lose the will to live until I got to page 94 and Joolz  Denby’s gripping essay ‘Trouble,’ which deals with a real life story of a child prostitute in Bradford. On the poetry front, Christopher Twigg’sA Vision’ hit the spot, comparing the plight of the poor underground commuter with tinned sardines – “the sardines in their golden oil- like corpses all dishevelled flaking foil” and  “in darksome waters where their friends are found – Their friendship now is tightness new defined –” I also liked Owen O’ Neill’sSchoolbag�� – the poet looking back forty years, the bag becomes a symbol of his childhood – “sour hawthorn black ink woody pencil shavings, rubbers tired of rubbing and all the crumbs of stale bread and education. It was all the real learning I ever had inside that bag.” Fair value for a tenner.                                                                                                                                                  Dick Stewart

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The Shakespeare Memorial Room, literary anthology, items from various contributors; a slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book with a three colour cover and 157 pages.  Published during year 2003 by:  Writers Without Borders, 22 Margaret Grove, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9JH.                     ISBN 0-9539681-4-6, price £8.95.

This anthology was produced by the Birmingham Group, ‘Writers Without Borders,’ and combines poetry and fiction.  The contents vary greatly in style, clarity and complexity; some are sombre, reflecting issues of English language and its interpretation, differences in culture and religion, as well as the ‘exploration of desire.’

A short story, Further Than Beyond,’ by Milorad Krystanovich deals with comprehension of the English language and how it can build both walls and bridges.  In poems, ��Guarding the Botanic Gardens,’ ‘Rescue’ and ‘Advice’ the poet, Roi Ankhara Kwabena, talks about precious memories of a distant life, very different from the one in England.  In the short story ‘Strangers in a Strange Land,’ Alline Yapp-Morris depicts a whole life in a few pages, describing the difficulties encountered by immigrants in Britain and back home.  The story contains sufficient material, in five pages, for a whole novel. 

Each of the authors have experienced great hardship living in Britain between 1961 and the present time.  The introduction states, “memories of the past provide several of these writers with images of transition and loss, which mirrors the depth of their pain.”  This interesting collection makes a useful contribution to our understanding of, and compassion for, these ‘strangers’ among us.                                                                                                                   Ingrid Riley

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At The Edge of Light, poems by Lynne Wycherley; an A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 58 pages.  Published on 21st November 2003 by Shoestring Press, 19 Devonshire Avenue, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 1BS.  ISBN 1 899549 89 7 price £7.95.

If I had to pick a word to describe Lynne Wycherley’s largely free verse poetry, I think I’d go for elegant.  Born at the edge of the Fens with its ‘endless horizons’ and chilled by the ‘long-nosed wolf of wind,’ she shows in her poetry a love of landscape and wildlife; there is a nod to John Clare here.  But there are people in her landscapes: the Earth Man father ‘slow tongued … handling pheasants with barbaric tenderness;’ the non-Fens Mother, ‘still queasy’ in an alien world; the distant lover with fibre optics translating his breath into light.  Perhaps the best way to enjoy Lynne’s lyric poetry is snug before a log fire, the wind outside howling, and ‘no pixel screen, no Web to banish distance.’  A first collection from a gifted poet with a natural feel for words; let us hope there is much more to come.  John Plevin

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Elsewhere, poems by Michael Murphy.  An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 58 pages.  Published on 21st November 2003 by: Shoestring Press, 19 Devonshire Avenue, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 1BS.  ISBN 1 899549 87 0, price £7.95

Michael Murphy was born in 1965, in Liverpool and worked as a theatre director in Britain and Eastern Europe.  His poems and essays are prize-winning and widely published.  Somehow  you know all this, reading his words in a dreamy osmosis of absorption.  I envied even his cold … ‘…flitting from job to job for a year and a half – Hauling baskets in the marketplace at dawn’ … for the treasure of the descriptive image, feeling a depth of erudition and loving the man who weaves words, warm for their sensitivity, sharp for their sadness, and innocent in their knowing.  Elsewhere is about now and here, for everyone.  It’s an exploration of another dimension, bringing a world of observation into wisdom: finding the beauty of the occasion just caught in reflection, glancing backwards, caught in the rhythm of light or humour before it’s lost.  Life and passion are held here, balanced.   Janie Thomas

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Adam Thorpe “Nine Lessons from the Dark,” poems. An A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 79 pages.  Published on 20th November 2003 by Jonathan Cape, (Cape Poetry), Random House,  20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA.  ISBN 0 224 06385 5 price £8.00.  Available from high street book stores.

The author is a well-established author and poet whose offerings here are well crafted, thoughtful and substantial. By the first I need only refer to what I consider to be a most beautifully written concise description in Blueberry Picking in Michigan;

“Sorcerer lipped, indigo-woaded, we grin like clowns.” By the second, the majority of the poems are descriptions and reflections, often triggered by small events. I can almost picture the author standing still in a contemplative pause at what he observes, e.g. ; the fossils in Market Day. By the third I could mean either the fact that there are 38 poems across 77 pages or I might suggest that each poem is dense with words that need to be spoken and relished, with ideas that leave you thinking about them long after the reading has ended. I feel this is the best poetry book I have read in a very long time, and I shall search out more of this author’s work.                                                                                                                                                                                          Lachlan Robertson

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Orbis Quarterly International Literary Journal, No. 127, winter 2003, news, views, letters, features, prose and poetry.  An A5 size, perfect-bound book with a 3-colour cover and 81 pages.  ISSN 0300-4425,  subs £15 per annum, (overseas £20/€32; $32).  Editor: Carole Baldock, 17 Greenhow Avenue, West Kirby, Wirral, Cheshire, CH48 5EL.  E-mail: carolebaldock@hotmail.com

I found this journal to be a diverse selection of writing.  I have not read Orbis before so had no preconceptions. Personally, I wasn’t impressed with the featured writer Ramsey Campbell, who offered a slightly confusing scenario; a street was chosen, using the alphabet to present an almost statistical survey of the inhabitants, something I found mundane. However, the journal became  more enjoyable with further reading. As ever, there is always something that grabs you, reaching out to your own taste. Kathleen Kenny’s poem, (Smitten), did this for me:                                                                                                                                               

You have on your recital shirt,
your sonneteering waistcoat
Our cigarettes kiss
as your fists jut
like knuckle dusters over my thumbs.

 

I also liked the work of Ann Leahy (Bolstered), Michael Kriesel (Zen Strawberries), and Peter De Ville (Vicars Things, Council Estate, Southampton). Oz Hardwick’s prose offering, Ms Popnjay was enjoyable.  After initial hesitation this collection grew on me.                                                             Neil Brooks

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Paula Tree, A First Collection of Poetry by Paula Puddephatt.  An A5 size, 40 page stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover.  Published in 2003 by Q.Q. Press (COLLECTIONS), York House, 15 Argyle Terrace, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, PA20 0BD, Scotland.  ISBN 1-903203-252,  price £5.00

Poetry just happens, sometimes - the right words in the right order, as Coleridge put it – to fill the right gap.   I must thank Paula Puddephatt.  One of her poems – Angels – ‘A dark angel swam across the moat, And scaled the walls of your castle, Just to gain admission … You hear his anguished Cries, from outside: like those of Cathy’s ghost. … The Angel of light, meanwhile, Asks only your permission … to come inside, and allow her to Defrost your heart’, illustrating a postcard with a photograph of a beautiful little girl-angel for the final stanza said exactly what I needed to say to resolve an argument, so I sent it.  Sometimes the right words are the hardest sought-after and most anguished result of a life of struggle.  

These poems are worth the effort. The light shining through the darkness is illuminating, for the happier poems are the best. That is the perfect message.  Send for the postcards.  Janie Thomas.

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Lancashire Working, Kite Modern Series, poems by Will Daunt: an A5 size perfect-bound book with 40 pages and a full colour cover.  Published during year 2003 by: K.T. Publications, 16 Fane Close, Stamford, Lincs., PE9 1HG.  ISBN 0 907759 98 X, price £4.95 (£5.50 by post - £8.00 overseas).

Beneath the surface of Daunt’s poems there are constant reminders of the changes which have taken place. Lancashire, as the cover photographs show, is no longer a grim industrial landscape, but an area of mixed affluence, where people are concerned with their cars, homes and leisure pursuits.

Daunt takes the familiar, even banal details of life and uses indirect imagery to present an original interpretation.  ‘A dog chases a car, ‘bounces, then rolls, rubber burning.’  A burglar roams the streets, ‘that breaker of our house, the tumour, briefly made at home.’  Decorators apply an artex ceiling, ‘making skies of alabaster . . . , icing past mistakes.

Nowhere does Daunt describe the beauty of the landscape, although his photographs show that he appreciates it.  His theme is his reaction to a close-knit society and the way it has made him a part of it.   Unfortunately, however, Daunt tends, perhaps deliberately, to obscure the meaning in many of his poems by his oblique approach which is often difficult to follow, ‘. . . but more than neutral . . . at home . . . and less foreign, through novelty? . . . solidly . . . feed resistance to elsewhere . . .’ This distracts from what is otherwise an interesting collection. Ingrid Riley

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Clark Gable in Mansfield, selected poems by Deborah Tyler-Bennett; an A5 size perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 64 pages.  Published during year 2003 by:  The Kings England Press, Cambertown House, Commercial Road, Goldthorpe, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, S63 9BL.  ISBN 1 872438 85 7 price £4.95.  E-mail: sales@kingsengland.com

 A first collection, selected from the two hundred or so of Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s poems published in Britain and abroad.  Her poetry is all about people and the places they inhabit ranging from Kirk Alloway, where Robert Burns’s parents are buried, to Calgary in Canada with its Chinese taxi drivers and Native American girls bagging moccasins for the tourists.  The verse form she chooses is eclectic, free verse lying alongside ballads and lyric poems, and a striking sonnet sequence about the stores, cafés and nightclubs of Paris.  Her poetry shows great sensitivity with a real feel for people, past and present.  Once again we should raise a cheer for those Comprehensive kids in ‘Geography Lessons’ lifting strong voices high above the crowd.  In her poem ‘Love, Chanel’ Deborah regrets that many affairs are simply cheap lips, tart Asti in a champagne flute.  No sour Asti bubbles here, her poetry is real Dom Pérignon.

Final question: was Clark Gable ever in Mansfield? Yes, in 1943 to visit the American Hospital with fire-lipped typists keeping him like a picture in a locket.  John Plevin.

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Hard Water, poems by Jean Sprackland, (Cape Poetry); an A5 size, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover and 53 pages.  Published on 14th August 2003 by: Jonathan Cape, The Random House Group.  ISBN 0-224-6959-4.  UK price £8.00.  Available from high street book stores.

I confess up until now I haven't read any of Jean Sprackland's work but this collection is a great introduction to a unique talent.  Sprackland’s work has strong narrative coupled with vivid imagery and displays the vulnerability of human experience in language that is accessible, compelling and mysterious.  I laughed out loud after reading Barbie on the Roof.  The poet taps into childhood memories in an incisive manner. This particular poem stirred my own childhood memories about my sister’s Barbie doll, (and how I used to enjoy throwing the thing as far as I could!). Throughout this collection I was shocked and delighted with the array of different poems shedding domestic truths and innocence, defining everyday life in a perceptive way. Her work reminds me of Carol Ann Duffy but has a different tone and a sense of belonging is seeping out in poems like,

Shocks/
Remember those first thrills, the charge that went cracking through you?
Sunday afternoons we went out on our bikes,
me and next-door Julie.
She had black ringlets and a wicked smile.

Other poems are quirky observations of people in Sprackland's neighbourhood like the poem   MR SMILEY


This man catches a train twice a day.
It's easy, like water running when you turn on a tap,
like the six o' clock news.

This book left me wanting more; with this in mind I will endeavour to read her first collection, ‘Tattoos for Mother's Day.’  Jean Sprackland has a strong voice I would recommend this publication to anyone who enjoys contemporary poetry.  Neil Brooks.

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The Lantern Review, Summer 2003, poetry from various contributors, edited by Pat Jourdan: an A5 size stapled booklet with 48 pages and a 2-colour cover.  Editorial address: 17 Sea Road, Galway, County Galway, Ireland.  Price £3.00 (or €3.00).

 With contributions from Ireland and Canada, this is an eclectic mix of poetry and extracts from prose works. The prose is best left without comment, but in compensation the booklet was packed full of delightful character sketches – “but thanks so much for validating my library card; it shows/ you were thinking of me when you hands were idle.” – and sub-Jorie Graham obscurity. I particularly liked the simpler poems of cutting humour such as to be found in Terrorist – “That mountie could not hide/ disappointment … to tell him/ I was burying my aunt.”  I considered this to be an entertaining collection and would recommend it in the future. The next edition comes out in January.  Lachlan Robertson

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Outliving, poems by Bernard O’Donoghue, a slightly larger than A5 size, 56 page, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover.  Published during April 2003 by Chatto & Windus, London.  ISBN 0 701 17481 1, price £8.99.  Available from high street book stores.

"The Names of the Hare" by Seamus Heaney provides the subtext for the hunter hare visual on the cover of Outliving.  If the mythological enemy that hunts man can name him, how safe can man be in a fragile world? If you imagine poetry as the experience you have not had or the place that you have not been and perhaps cannot go in reality, Outliving will be a comfortable mostly narrative read of interesting observations on man's evolving mental states, as they are centred in British Isles geography.  Moving between dinnseanchas/the poems of lore of places, immrams/voyage poems and free verse,  (like more contemporary Irish writing),  the poet discovers the plausibility of awakening to live in the "now" moment.  As a startling journey, it sets the tone of the epiphany in the poems - startling not unusual or weird: but strangely familiar syntactically with the whimsy of a blues logic fraught with the irreconcilable, as in the poems "The Druid's Fostersons Debate at Teamhair" or "Serauns."

Outliving is a journey for the patient attentive reader, who ascribes to the ancient view of Irish poets as repositories of traditional knowledge and seers/prophets who teach us life's big and little mysteries. Chezia Thompson Cager

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And A Bird Sang, 20 poems by Alan P. Barrett, an A5 size, 24 page, stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover.  Published by: Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY. ISBN 1 903031 17 6, price £1.50.

A very diverse collection, some historical, some contemporary and some nice War and Post War memories. Alan P. Barrett has a knack of neatly capturing the scene …

 The Harrowing of the North ..

Seven stubble-fires up on the Wolds, outlawed these days,

Were the ember ending to a harvest month,

And then it was October, with the sun like a refugee

Trudging on a southing trail, sloughing warmth.

 

On  personal relationships , Eighteen Lines , for Emma …

 

When I was a minor god, in your eyes,

We discovered ponds, found a hopeful duck

And us throwing crusts seemed to be one way

To make you safe, to blue your childhood’s skies.

 

 Well, it's probably a generation thing, but this booklet struck a deep chord with me, out of twenty poems I got a big bang out of about eighteen of them and they are all well written and accessible. If you know what thirty bob is, you won’t have wasted your money.   Dick Stewart

 

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Small Press Verse and Poeticonjectures, poems by Alessio Zanelli, a slightly larger than A5 size, 156 page, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover. ISBN 1 4010 6830 8.  Published during year 2002 by: Xlibris, 436 Walnut Street, 11th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3703, USA.  UK price £?  Available online via Amazon.co.uk. 

Alessio Zanelli is Italian, born in Lombardy.  His native language is Italian, yet he writes poetry in English - a self-taught language.  As someone who has lived and worked abroad for many years, and knows just how difficult it is to be really fluent in a foreign language, yet alone comfortable in a foreign culture, I’m impressed.  ‘Small Press Verse and Poeticonjectures’ is his second book of poetry.  Many of the poems included were first published in the small presses and web magazines around the English-speaking world.

A writer of lyrical free verse poetry, often about the people and places he has come across in his life and travels, he is a self-confessed admirer of the work of Emily Dickenson.  In ‘Dineh Ritual of Recall,' he explores the deportation, The Long Walk, of the Navajo from their lands in Arizona to resettlement in New Mexico; from North America he takes us back to Italy with his 'Sketch for my Hometown, Cremona’.  We can learn a lot about ourselves from how others use our language.  Alessio Zanelli has paid our language, Edward Thomas’ English words, a rare compliment, in turn we should take the time to read what he has to say.                                                                                                                                                              John Plevin

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Smoke 51, poems and illustrations from various contributors, A5 size, 21 page, stapled booklet with a black and white cover.  Published by: Windows,  Liver House, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY.  £3.00 for four issues.  ISSN 0262852X.

This collection ranges from the overtly humorous, such as ‘Charlotte Bronte Gets a Laptop,’ by Carole Bromley, with its original take on various aspects of the writer’s life, to the dark portrayal of an old lady’s existence, seen through the eyes of children in ‘Revisiting No. 33.’

Kershti Hall's ‘Cow Girl’ offers an ironic view of animal welfare, while Neil Campbell’s ‘Shoelaces' is a bitter-sweet evocation of changing perspectives as we grow up.

Cliff Yates’ ‘The Band’ is a reminder of the sixties, when most young men were dreaming of future success in music, with the hint of disillusion already present in the last two lines: ‘Singer-songwriters don’t need a bass-player / I give it twenty minutes then go home.

Irony is once again characteristic of ‘Sealed with a Loving Kiss,’ 1944, where Derrick Buttress’s real message is hidden beneath the surface. The poems are complemented by Keren E. Lawless’s unusual line drawings which have a Japanese feel to them.  Ingrid Riley

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Slingshot, poems by Giovanni Malito, a slightly smaller than A5 size stapled booklet with 13 pages and a 2-colour cover.  Published during January 2003 by Donut Press, 118 Napier Road, London, E11 3JZ.  E-mail:  donutchops@yahoo.co.uk   ISBN 095419831X.  Price £4.00.

If you have preconceived ideas of what poetry should be like, forget “Slingshot.”  You will meet Giovanni Malito’s blunt opinions on a variety of themes.  There is honesty and above all stringent humour – a tongue-in-cheek approach to everyday basic considerations, expressed in direct, practical and sometimes poignant imagery.  For instance, considering the benefit his teaching is likely to have on his pupils, he confesses, “I knew I couldn’t deliver / what they had come for.”  In “Devolution,” there is a cynical realism as he assesses them as “kids – that would kill ultimately for money in a war.”  Similar treatment is given to the ever-present theme of relationships, often to his own detriment: “my first real romantic love left me / after I said something I shouldn’t have,” finally admitting that if they had married, “my wife would have been turning 43 next month / instead of only turning 33 today.”

So don’t look for a wealth of clever imagery in Malito’s poems.  What you get is honesty, wit, and a pungent assessment of everyday situations.  I enjoyed it.                                                                                                                                                   John H. Hope

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The Divine Peter, (John Wolcot, alias “Peter Pindar”), selected verse by Eric Ratcliffe, an A5 size, 62 page perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover.  Published during year 2002 by Four Quarters Press, 7 The Towers, Stevenage, Herts., SG1 1HE.  ISBN 0 9535113 5 9, price £3.50 + 0.69p p&p.

Not so much a book of poems but a homily to John Wolcot, the18th Century satirist and general pain in the neck to the Royals of the day.  I had very vaguely heard of the subject under the alias, “Peter Pindar” but it surprised me how much he had in common with modern day journalists in his often very modern concept of ridicule. This is a point repeatedly made by the author… perhaps too any times as I grew tired of the polemic. I did not set out to enjoy this booklet and the individual style of the author rankled a little. However, when I read the verse concerning George III’s visit to a brewery, I was hooked. “Now majesty into a pump so deep/ Did with an opera glass so curious peep/ Examining with care each wondrous matter/ That brought up water.” The poet did correspond with Robert Burns and both it appears have used the louse as a means of satirising the rich. A discovery I might explore in more detail! I enjoyed the booklet well enough to search out more material, and there is a wealth of such available. If this is not your first introduction to this Satirist, go elsewhere. Otherwise, it is a pleasant afternoon’s reading.                                                                                                      Lachlan Robertson

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Certain Fictions, poems and pieces by Alan P. Barrett, A5 size, 28 page stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover.  Published during 2002 by: Poetry Monthly Press, 39 Cavendish Road, Long Eaton, Nottingham, NG10 4HY.  ISBN 1 903031 45 1, price £2.00.

These poems are based on explorations of gender improbability: men trying to understand women and women wondering why they cannot understand them, usually within a partnership-love reference.  There are those poems which take us outside the author’s personal quandary into the universality of Solomon, (wondering why he was wise? Because he could understand women, parents and children – and rule a kingdom! See), Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and forward into Tarot and Space Age metaphor. ‘Certain Fictions’ poems wander through interesting as well as well-trodden paths.  It’s good to read others’ questioning investigations: ‘…stepping out of time/in second-hand moonlight, third-hand sun/under the subtly under-lit clouds’  but disappointing, I felt, to always seem to come back to the  ‘Quondam’ answer to the frustration. : ‘I think sometimes: it might be the beer’.                        Janie Thomas

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Joined Up Thinking And The Importance Of Hair, poems and prose by Keith Morton; an A5 size, 477 page, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover. First published during year 2002, ISBN 0 9540628 1 7. Published by: Linear B Publishing, PO Box 17162, Edinburgh, E11 2WT.  Price £12.00.

When first glancing at this book I thought here's an interesting title, but the image on the cover led me to believe it was a kind of music
manual. The title of this book reminded me of the 60s classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; an interesting title but the author in this case did not back-it-up, throwing the reader off balance with French phrases and songs like
Deep in thought with a chorus, 'She loves him, now she loves him not / He got about as deep as a brier in a plant pot.' Each chapter had more French phrases then Del Boy in an episode of Only Fools and Horses. As a novel it was hard work to feel empathy for the characters with names like Dolores Darkling and Prescott Darkling – and with a celebrity suicide in tow, plus pretentious dialogue - almost trying to be rock ‘n roll with the opening chapter spouting f words. There were some interesting descriptions like 'concrete telephonic thunderbolt' when describing being woken up by the telephone, but overall the read was more graft than enjoyment.

I don't know if this book would appeal to readers in the 30-something / 40-something age bracket? You get the feeling it has been written for a certain audience, which in this case was not me. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry on finishing.    Neil Brooks

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Cherrybytes, haiku by Doreen King, pocket size (A6), 76 page, perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover.  Published during year 2002 by Hub Editions, Longholm, East Bank, Wingland, Sutton Bridge, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE12 9YS.  ISBN 1-90374-24-8. Price £5.00.

This collection claims to, “firmly set haiku in the 21st Century.” There has been much debate on the extent to which it is safe to vary the shape of traditional forms without losing all claim to an accepted category.

I have always understood that Oriental forms – haiku, kenyu, tanka – are strictly defined.  Not only is the line and syllable content firmly established; the elements of a season must be encapsulated, a mood evoked, the final line providing some reflection on the first two, and continuity of thought implied.  On the strength of these requirements it would appear that not a single haiku in this collection meets the criteria.  John H. Hope.

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The Tip of My Tongue, Cape Poetry, poems by Robert Crawford, A5 size perfect-bound, 51 page book with a 2-colour cover. Published on 10th April 2003 by Jonathan Cape, Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1 2SA.  ISBN 0-224-06968-3, Price £8.00; available from high street book stores.

 ‘The Tip of My Tongue’ is the fifth book of poetry by Robert Crawford.  Anthology addicts will already be familiar with his name from the Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 that he edited with Simon Armitage.  What do we make of his poetry?  Erudite certainly, and steeped in his Scottish background and heritage.  But happily, as with his other days the tip of my tongue / is further off than Ayres Rock, he admits to the difficulties we all face in our search for that elusive word that lifts a poem or a truth to a special place. And he is not always the academic as the student poser shows in ‘Ferrari’ with his Existential Choice of pie over couscous, and kissing his new love like a cashless king.  If you like poems that are crafted with a love of language, sprinkled liberally with place names and the dialect of the poet’s ‘chip of a nation’, then this could well be for you.  John Plevin.

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Poetry Express, quarterly, from Survivors Poetry, Winter 2002/03, No.16; A4 size, 15 page, stapled magazine with a 2-colour cover.  Free of charge.  Editors: Alison Combes, James Ferguson, and Roy Holland. Editorial postal address:  Survivors Poetry, Diorama Arts Centre, 34 Osnaburgh Street, London, NW1 3ND.  Registered Charity No. 1040177.

This Arts Council backed publication promotes the poetry of ‘survivors of mental distress.’  Books, plays and poetry events are given lengthy reviews and there is a wealth of information on festivals and competitions. The poems certainly give an insight into life in hospital, for example Ben Burr’s    Crash

 

Crash!   Stars of light

             Burned above every bed,

             The only sound

             The rotary fan

Crash!  The morphine came on again

             The stars blurred and

             The waves intensified …

 

The magazine also provides a forum for mental health issues. In this ‘Spirituality Issue’ co-editor Roy Holland examines the Mental Health Foundation report that argues that mental health services should recognise the role of spirituality in peoples lives – “… in the arid and disempowering atmosphere of a hospital it seems a good idea to set aside a space for meditation …”

 A very well presented London based free newsletter that strives to be inclusive.   Subscriptions via survivor@survivorspoetry.org.uk   Dick Stewart

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Iota 61, 2003/1, quarterly, A5 perfect bound, 60 page booklet with a 2-colour cover; poems and reviews from numerous contributors,  Editors: Bob Mee and Janet Murch;  ISSN 0266-2922.  Price £2.50 or £10 year subscription.  Editorial address: Ragged Raven Press, 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, CV37 0LR.  E-mail: iotapoetry@ad.com  web: www.iotapoetry.co.uk

“Free Range Poetry” contains a good description of the contributions here:  Free range poetry struts the yard / picking here and scratching there / for seeds of ideas, grains of truth...   Free range poetry makes a nest,/ then lays a verse or two,/ and sings aloud in pleasure, pride.   Free range poetry likes wholesome food / juicy bits, good oats and grit, / not GM stuff that stultifies.  Free range poetry enjoys freedom / to be as it shall choose,/ to cackle, crow, or softly cheep.  

…. witty word-rhythms in the verse and some structure in the bird-like idea are not enough to relieve oxymoronic juxtaposition of questionable truth in verses three and four which leads to a downward-sinking tone of voice in conclusion that misses the heart of altruistic search found from classic study, real pleasure from sensuality, or simple truth found in higher level searches for wisdom.  It’s a mixed bag with quite a deal of GM (Genitally Modified) stuff in it.    Janie Thomas.

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Corporate Image, a second collection of poems by Michael Johns, presented as an A5 size, 32 page, stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover.  Published January 2003.  Available from the originator at: 16 Winton Crescent, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 3QX.  ISBN 1-903031-41-9, price £2.50.

It occurs to me that the trouble with collecting one’s poems into a slim volume is that whilst individual poems may glitter in a compendium of other work, they could appear dull and overly similar when placed with their siblings. In this oeuvre each poem has a hook into a personal observation that, yes works, but can appear overly simplistic, repetitive and banal as each page is turned. The poem “In Memphis” begins Nighttime in Huddersfield/ Rain falls unceasingly/ in Bradford East provides a link to the civil rights movement in America, but I found this and work like it un-engaging. I was irritated by poor spelling and basic errors in common names. It made me believe more strongly that poems should have a reason to “be here”. Still, a useful one to have on my shelf if I am ever tempted by late night thoughts of publishing my own work.  Lachlan Robertson.

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Into The Ruins, poems by Frederick Glaysher. A slightly larger than A5 size hardback book with a full colour sleeve and 73 pages.  Published during year 1999 by Earthrise Press, P.O. Box 81842, Rochester, MI 48380 – 1842, USA.  ISBN 0-9670421-2-7, price $19.95.  Also visit:  www.fglaysher.com

Glaysher’s book reads like a list of every conflict and atrocity in modern history:

Vignette

The ovens burned twenty four hours a day for so long the bricks glowed; more than smoke went up those chimneys

 

Hibakusha Nightmare

O image I cannot forget,

Scar-fried corpse in the midst of flight

Cradling a charred infant

From the horrible, hot light.

 

Into The Ruins

Smoke curls above the ruins of Lebanon

That smother the bodies of those

Who had hoped for peace. . .

 

Reading all forty seven of these rather artless, depressing poems left me wondering what point Glaysher is trying to make? Are we supposed to be shocked by this history lesson? If the message is that The World can be a dangerous place then he need not have bothered.  We know; it’s why our children are reluctant to venture past the front doors of our homes.   Dick Stewart 

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The Bower of Nil, a narrative poem by Frederick Glaysher. Slightly larger than A5 size, 65 page, hardback book with a full colour sleeve.  Published in year 2002 by: Earthrise Press, P.O. Box 81842, Rochester, MI 48308-1842, USA.  Price $21.95, ISBN 0-9670421-7-8.

“O Guyon, break down this bower of nil, lead this enchantress away in chains,” says Glaysher in real and historic voices. The bower of nil is where we all live. “Both East and West worship materialism.” ” . . . philosophers and scholars . . . have no god but discourse.”  “Man is a contemptible insect.”  The narrator and academic, Peter would appear to hate academics but the 65 page poem is a masterfully executed academic exercise, using the history of western philosophical thought as a metaphorical tool. The invading enchantress – Peter’s wife for 30 years- (the reader may interpret), has been “. . . stripped of her shoes and socks, spine-sliced at the back of her neck and left on top of a garbage heap.”   Glaysher may have meant the enchantress to be more muse-like but anarchist, hedonist Mary Marsh as an idea, appears ever his foil. Peter’s children have had “. . . every advantage of the modern world . . . ,” but grew up with many human failings.  The narrator says one needs to learn “. . . to be content to dominate oneself, not others.” If all of the great minds in history were men, (as he quotes them), perhaps the “Five thousand years of recorded history, displaying the same barbarous qualities,” have something to do with men having exclusive power over the development of human civilization. A thought provoking read for these times!   Chezia Cager Thompson.

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On Baker’s Level.  Travels of Rocket Harbinger from the Chair of his Ancestors and Reports from the Cosmos: by Eric Ratcliffe.  An A5 sized stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover and 24 pages.  Published during year 2002 by Four Quarters Press, 7 The Towers, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, SG1 1HE.  ISBN 0-9535113-6-7, price £3.00.

There is mist here, floating in drifts and circling stars, trying to capture them before they explode.  Some words are fascinating, some concepts interesting, some rhythm comforting, often mis-matched.   This does not lessen the journey.  It questions the appropriateness of the vehicle for the route.  Sometimes fixing the engine is more interesting than walking or examining the landscape travelled through.  This is half science fiction, half poetry.  It covers astrological and Vedantic concepts and a personal problem-solving experience: trying to understand.  For me it is a wandering mind without proper scientific definition of terms, looking for the light in the rhythm of poetry and not quite finding it.   But then, I am not a Science Fiction freak.  Please forgive me.  Sometimes we can enjoy getting lost on the way more than the journey's path or purpose.  Fixing the engine, then, can be useful.  Janie Thomas.

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Touching on Love, poems by David Clarke.  A slightly larger than A5 size, 49 page, paperback perfect-bound, (or cloth-covered), book with a full colour cover.  Published during year 2002 by Hippopotamus Press, 22 Whitewell Road, Frome, Somerset, BA11 4EL.  Price: £6.95 paperback or £14.95 for the cloth covered version. Paperback ISBN 0-904179-67-2, cloth cover ISBN 0-904179-66-4.

David Clarke’s ‘Touching on Love��� is about marriage, the family, love and loss, and the struggle to find consolation.  We hear in the poetry a very human voice that cares for those close to him.  Many of the poems look back in time, remembering lost love and, through the poetry, keeping love alive.  His poems of loss are moving:  what parent could not be moved by ‘His Baby Girl’ leaving Only her name on a stone; or be jolted by the father finding in ‘Sarah, Travelling’ heroin’s persistent point staring back from a young girl’s eyes,.  The book is dedicated to his wife Susan and many of the poems touch on their life together.  In ‘Elegy’ the widower poet becomes her residue of pain, left alone in rooms with her laughter stilled, filled with unanswerable silence.  Poetry can be cathartic, and there is much here to help us understand and purge the pain of loss as those we love slowly edge into the darkJohn Plevin.

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Poor Tom’s Revenge, poems by Brian Fewster.  An A5 size, 36 page, stapled booklet with a full colour cover.  Published in November of year 2002 by: Poor Tom’s Press, 89a Winchester Avenue, Leicester, LE3 1AY.  Price £3.00, ISBN 0-9543371-0-7.

tick..tick..tick. If you consider this booklet as an intricate pocket watch fashioned from meticulous metal you have the idea of it. Beautifully fashioned metre and rhythm encapsulates fine workmanship on the subjects of death, marriage, love, poverty, literary references and people watching. “The Committee” is a poem I laughed out loud to, recognising the people therein from my own experience; “It isn’t hard to eavesdrop/ on their deliberation/ where measured praise is condiment/ to overall damnation.”  tick..tick..tick. These are crafted poems but often surprising and not (as often rhyming poetry can be) at all contrived. Hold them to your ear for pleasure as sometimes old-fashioned pocket watches can be comforting and enjoyable just to listen to.  Lachlan Robertson.

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52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, or how reading modern poetry can change your life, by Ruth Padel.  A slightly larger than A5 size, perfect-bound book, with 272 pages and a full-colour cover.  Published during year 2002 by Chatto & Windus, London; ISBN 0-701-17318-1.  Price £12.99.  Available from high street book stores.

Ruth Padel’s newspaper column sets out to make poetry accessible to the people.  The present volume presents a historical overview of techniques and approaches, including the political dimension of modern British poetry with its obligatory reference to Thatcher.  She stresses that poetry is primarily there to be read, then presents a detailed analysis of themes, language, rhythms and structures.

Padel, herself an established poet, is never afraid to state her view of the meaning of a poem.  Some of the discussions of individual poems contain so much detail that readers might be overwhelmed and unable to formulate their own response.  The book is also an interesting anthology of modern poets, some well-known, some less so.  It is to be dipped into rather than to be read in one go, but taken over a period of months it will leave you better informed and better able to analyse new poems.  Ingrid Riley.

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That Time of Life, poems by Tom Kelly with illustrations by Jack Rickard.  An A5 size, 34 page, perfect-bound book with a 2-colour cover.  Published during August year 2002 by K.T. Publications, 16 Fane Close, Stamford, Lincolnshire, PE9 1HG.  ISBN 0-907759-63-7.  Price £1.75, (£2 by post; overseas £3).  Part of the Kite Modern Poetry series.

Tom Kelly paints a bleak picture of Tyneside life in this hard-hitting, gritty collection. His poems are brutally short and sparing in their imagery. You have to turn up your collar as the wind whips around the verses, straight off the North Sea. There is a large dose of 1950’s Sillitoe in Kelly’s work. Debt collectors, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and redundancy partner recurring thoughts of suicide. Cheery stuff, but, before we ring Tyneside Social Services, there is something more subtle here, a bitterness tinged with love for his stage and players. The writing is solid and good and as a social history it works very well but one has to query whether this is a contemporary view of life in The North East?

When I last visited Newcastle, the placing of tables and chairs on the sunlit pavements signalled Champagne lunches, not evictions. Dick Stewart.      

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The Bedsit, poems by Pat Jourdan.  An A5 size, 35 page, stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover: ISBN 0-9542399-0-3 . Published during year 2002 by Motet Press, 17 Sea Road, Galway, Ireland.  Price £3 / €3.

With Pat Jourdan’s poetry we are back in the sixties living in Bedsitland with the ‘nothing people’ – mixed memories for this reviewer.   Life in the margins, living ‘hand to mouth’ come into focus in her terse, sharply observed poetry.  Although many of the poems are set in the sixties, I suspect not much has changed, her bedsitters may have moved to the suburbs but only to make room for newcomers desperate in turn to make their mark.  For a moment we can share their life, join them at the Greek Café for ‘a slice of grease and steam’, observe the Hampstead laundry girls with their hands deep in the ‘discarded signs of peoples’ lives’, or ‘wander off in fancy dress’ from the local Oxfam Shop.  If you still look back with longing to the sixties, if you like poetry that is about people, the tos and fros of relationships, spiced with a little self-mocking irony, then ‘The Bedsit’ is worth a visit.  John Plevin.

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In The Spirit of Wilfred Owen, a new anthology of poems from The Wilfred Owen Association, 2002.  An A5 size, 76 page, perfect-bound book with a full colour cover, ISBN 0-9542302-0-5, edited by Merryn Williams, production by Michael Grayer. Price ?  Further information may be obtained from: Michael Grayer, Wilfred Owen Association, c/o 17 Belmont, Shrewsbury, SY1 1TE.  www.1914-18.co.uk/owen

Published by The Wilfred Owen Association to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Wilfred Owen, 18th March 1893, this collection of poems contains works of quality from many poets: famous, known, and anonymous.  It reminded me to look again at the works of Wilfred Owen and recapture the humility of comparison –

“Courage was mine and I had mystery,

Wisdom was mine and I had mastery;

To miss the march of this retreating world

Into vain citadels that are not walled.”

These forty six poets each remember, and recall something of their own, by comparison.  Each gives something of worth, valid to the remembrance of Wilfred Owen’s experience of compassion and sacrifice.   They touch depths, some of them; others re-live places or pieces of life or time, but all sing a song of meaning, unique to poetry.  The book is a widening of experience, and relevant in many ways.   Janie Thomas.

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Quiggins At The Conference, poems by Colin Robinson.  An A5 size, 37 page booklet with a stapled 2-colour cover, ISBN 0-903610-29-9. Published during year 2002 by New Hope International, 20 Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 5NL. Price £6; €10; US $9

I confess that I didn’t take to this collection. Perhaps there were too many poems that had no hidden depths. I liked the cleverness of the rhyme as in “One-Way System” (just count the number of –ack endings), the structure of  “Con-Man” or the humour of;  “An Empiricist Speaks” (The world, in short, is awash with epistemological – Hoo-hah in which phenomena flutter away). And yet, I found many of the poems trite and sometimes clunky as if he had expelled his inspiration at the beginning of the poem but couldn’t sustain either our interest or his to the end. Good ideas have been beaten to death and by the time you reach pages 16 to 19, the long lines of dense text require a gritting of the teeth and a determination to finish not normally associated with pleasure. Undoubtedly the writing is assured and confident. However, the work left me cold and untroubled by the need to read it again.   Lachlan Robertson.

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Poetry Today, the literary quarterly of Poets Foundation, Vol. V No. 3, July – September 2001.  A 61 page, A5 size booklet with a 2-colour cover. Reg. No. S/85496 of 1996-97, RNI Reg. No. 66106/96.  Editor: Pradipkumar Chaudhuri.  Editorial address: 8/20 Fern Road, Kolkata 700 019, India.  E-mail: poets_foundation@yahoo.co.in. Publication purchase price, Rs 25.00, US $3.00.

This Indian based English language quarterly is the voice of the Poets Foundation and contains poems, essays and letters from around the globe but mainly from the Indian sub continent. From a cynical English perspective these rather formally written poems come across as incurably romantic, full of colour, life, high ideals and beautiful abstract thoughts. I loved them all. Narsingh Dev Jamwal’s Brainwash speaks literally of life and death.  ��When he saw his innocent family’s/ Dead bodies /Soaked in blood / He sank in fear but mustered /All his courage to ask /Are you a man or a Satan? / And prompt came another bullet / That pierced the inquirer’s breast.” Kederath Singh Words Do Not Die Of Cold… “By and by/I started enjoying/This game/One day/For no reason/I stoned/A beautiful word.” Special mention goes to Braja Chattopadhyay’s essay The Uprooted, a devastating and thought provoking account of life after partition.

A revelation, highly recommended .     Dick Stewart.

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John Fuller, collected poems, slightly larger than A5 size perfect-bound book, with 469 pages and full colour cover. Published by Chatto & Windus, London on 4th July 2002, ISBN 0-701-16328-3, price £15.00, available from high street booksellers. 

John Fuller has published 14 volumes of poetry.  His 1996 collection ‘Stones and Fires’ won the Forward Poetry Prize.  The 480 pages of his ����Collected Poems’ map the output and development of a master craftsman over a period of some 50 years.  His poetry embraces an impressive width of form and subject, showing a lasting affection for sonnets which are often the stanzas in his longer poems.  Through his poetry we come to recognise a learned man concerned with morality and truth, but also a man of humour not averse to mocking the pompous.

Look at this: after one glance,

A guarded pair standing akimbo

Are just about to dance!

Here indeed is an invitation.  This opening stanza from his dedication poem could also apply to us, the guarded readers.  All those with a love of poetry should accept.  But make it a slow dance, there is much here to be savoured.   John Plevin.

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Now and for a Time, poems by John Fuller, A5 size, perfect-bound 65 page book, with full colour cover.  Published by Chatto & Windus, London on 4th July 2002, ISBN 0-701-17351-3, price £8.99, available from high street booksellers.

A well-known academic poet weaves music, dreams and dancing into this new collection. It begins with “Birth Bells for Louisa” in a well-crafted style: an incantation as well as a dance of the circle of life.  The poems are about permanence contrasting with the rightness of change. There are wonderful metaphors; “strokes of tennis like chalk breaking” and formal dance like poems. Some to me are the closest a poem has come to the making of musical sounds. There are personal poems of the physical inevitability of aging and observations of how newborns see with no preconceptions. Poems about universal music that grounds us at our own beginnings and the mixing of senses as in a dream.  Sometimes I am lost in the personal reminisces and often too many literary references for my taste. However, it is a book that I will spend more time on in a determination to squeeze out every clever structure, rhyme and reference that I can. Lachlan Robertson

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We Do Not Want Your Civilization, poems by Con McCloskey, A5 size, perfect-bound, 66 page book with a two colour cover.  Published in year 2001 by Dog Day Books, P.O. Box 4, Hounslow, TW3 1DX, ISBN number 0-9540837-0-9, price £4.99.

I think I must have skipped over the negativity of the title to this book initially, and been more impressed by Walt Whitman's introductory quotation to the author's intention in his poetry:

This is what you shall do.  Love the earth and the sun and the animals. Despise riches. Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book and dismiss whatever insults your soul.

Then e e cummins came to mind because of the small i denoting one person's example in re-examining his inherited linguistic authority.  This book is another person's attempt to follow that crusade, and the poetry describes the pains and penalties of his progress. But it does so on a rather shallow subject level. Con McCloskey spends more time despising riches than in exploring, first, what he is despising; for there are riches on many levels.  It's too much to say that his poetry insults my soul, but I feel that the contradiction between the negativity of the title and the humility of the diminished ego suggested by lower case "I" is never resolved in his words. . .    Janie Thomas.

 

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Poetry Express, a quarterly newsletter from Survivor’s Poetry, Summer 2002, Number 14, an A4 size, 15 page stapled booklet with a 3-colour cover; editor(s) Joanna Cupano, James Ferguson, Roy Holland.    Alison Combes is the director of  Survivors’ Poetry.  Poetry Express is distributed free around the UK and is sponsored by London Arts, Lloyds TSB Foundations and The Arts Council of England. Registered charity number 1040177. Editorial address: Survivors’ Poetry, Diorama Arts Centre, 34 Osnaburgh Street, London, NW1 3ND.   E-mail address: survivor@survivorspoetry.org.uk  On joining the mailing list you receive Poetry Express free of charge.

 

The blurb on the on cover states, “Survivors’ Poetry is a national literature and performance organisation dedicated to promoting poetry by survivors of mental distress through workshops, performances, readings and publications to audiences all over the UK . . .”  

I found this publication to be non-pretentious, approachable, readable, and crammed with worthwhile poems, reviews, and information about forthcoming Survivors’ live-mic events.  John Horder’s ‘Ten Days With Stevie Smith,’ was a particularly interesting feature.  JH befriended, (and interviewed), Stevie Smith during the sixties. He states, “Why Survivors? One of Stevie’s main themes, highlighted in her best known poem, ‘Not Waving But Drowning,’ was her madness.   This seemed caused by . . .” The underlying, (obvious), feeling that emanates from JH’s article, is that he is a Stevie Smith fan and through knowing her personally gained a deeper appreciation of the poet than most.  I was amused to read about Stevie’s views regarding Oxbridge dons!

To summarise: stimulating, useful, free.    David Pike

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The Impact of Steel, poems from a lifetime by Ken Kirk, A5, 28 page stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover, ISBN 0 903610 28 0.  Published during year 2001 by New Hope International, 20 Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 5NL.  Price £4.00, or £5.00 (ex-UK).

 Denis Healey said: “This moving collection shows how a sensitive man can use poetry to share in the feelings of others at home and abroad,” and I don’t think I can better that as an appreciation of this poetry.  Ken Kirk writes with passion about political subjects.  The actual subjects might not be political, (in fact they cover a crippled musician, an African student, a radio broadcast on Angola, and his personal reaction to music on February 6th / 7th 1998, as well as the impact of steel, and night shift), but he writes to champion the underclass universally, from Scotland, with fire in his belly. 

It is characterful writing, in a traditional mode, in historic perspective - casting a cynical eye on hypocrisy; and good, for it meets its purpose.   Janie Thomas

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Life Principles: Meanderings of a Dragon, sixteen life principles as viewed by Hank Sohata, A5 ring-bound book with three-colour cover, 33 card pages, some pages have colour illustrations / colour fonts, ISBN number 0-9538321-0-4. Published during year 2002 by Vibe Publications, P.O. Box 187, Ashford Middlesex, TW15 3ZA.  Price UK £10, (US $14).

Hank Sohata has distilled his life's learning into these well-chosen words.  He has arranged sixteen Life Principles – his own clarity distilled from life’s chaos - into beautiful poetry, and graceful calligraphy.  Each principle is thrice illustrated – symbolically visually, philosophically in poetry, and explained simply, linking ideas by footnotes.   The choice is apt, as steps on a ladder - though they are not linear - and he has explained them meaningfully. Somewhere here you will find where you are; the place you have reached on your journey.  For anyone on his own meandering path, whether that of a dragon, a dog or a monkey, Chinese or Cosmic, these principles are practical and the words are wise.  They will be comfort for some; companion friendship for others, poetry and inspiration for more seekers. It is a worthy addition to any literary library, philosopher’s mind or poet’s bookshelf.   Janie Thomas

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Poetry Today, A Literary Quarterly of Poets Foundation, A5 size, 61 page booklet with a glued spine and 3-colour cover, Vol. V. No. 2, April - June 2001.  Editor and editorial address: Pradipkumar Chaudhuri, 8/20 Fern Road, Kolkata 700 019, India.  Subscription price 80 rupees, or $10 US dollars.

Poetry Today is published to under-gird and nurture creative writers in India, (writing within the English tradition).  The journal contains samples of both the vernacular and mainstream traditions in English poetry and critical errors in title and name spellings. 

There are differing styles of poetry from poets of many cultures including, ‘The Black Boy From Brooklyn’ by Krishna Dhar, “. . . my unwed mother has gone to Manhattan to work . . .” or Amrita Ganguly’s, ‘Of Mice and Men,’ . . . “I wonder if his mother/Eventually made it to the warfront -/She would have been a terrorist/par excellence,” to the romantic clichés of ‘Oh Night, My Love! by Pernendu Moitra, “do not take way the life and sun . . .” or K.M Kale’s, ‘The Song of Silence;’ the poem suggests a real attempt to enfold a more classical ontological view into an Indian syntax.  There are western exceptions to this, namely from poets such as Blair Ewing (USA) and Kevin Bailey (UK).  In ‘WASP’,’ Kevin Bailey’s turn of phrase is taunting.

N. Murugaiyan’s article on “Indian English As A Medium Of Creative Expression,” is a brief review of arguments for and against being multi-lingual in developing literature and cultural identity.  The article elucidates the poetry / language context but it does not deter me from seeing the beauty of literature in transition, with fantastic worlds from which to draw new innovation.   Chezia Thompson Cager.

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And To The Republic, poems by Blair Ewing, A5 size, 111 page, perfect-bound book with a three colour cover.  Published during year 2002 by

The Argonne House Press, P.O. Box 21069, Washington DC 20009, USA.  ISBN 1-887641-58-0, price $14.95 USA, $19.95 Canada, UK?

American poet Blair Ewing was a student of ‘Government and Politics’ in the Eighties so it should come as no surprise that the recurring themes in this book are of Politics, The Constitution, Law, Religion and Money. All forbidden territory at the English tea table.  I was more interested in the rather less intellectual poems that lay outside these areas, for example ‘Call It In The Air’ “I once had a notion that I was an ocean and the clouds were merely my fish…” and ‘A Thousand Years From Now. “When the air is weak / trees unknown / nothing remains /but the will of the strong.”

Blair Ewing is a stylish writer and quite capable of ��stirring the soul’ but I found I was frequently neither entertained, moved or inspired by this worthy but rather dry collectionDick Stewart.

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Iota, edition #57, poetry quarterly, poems from contributors; published during year 2002, ISSN 0266-2922, A5, 48 page, stapled booklet with a 2-colour cover, annual subscription £10 or £2.50 each. Editor:  David Holliday, 67 Hady Crescent, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 0EB.   Note: there will be a new editor with effect from edition #59?

Announcing the editors’ retirement (and the new editors arriving)  in this issue causes me to reflect on the passing of the old order and the burgeoning of the new. The booklet is packed full of clear verse with often simple points to make, mythic, timeless, of emperors more forbade than forbidding and modernity driving away the ancient. The presentation is traditional, the content pleasing and the whole package feels at once tired or perhaps comforting, depending on the mood of the reader. Poetry is changing fast. It is now mainstream. Poets become film makers, the internet is the new source of a tidal wave of writing, throwing both the flotsam and the exhilarating onto our mental shores. I can’t help feeling that small pamphlets such as this need to be refreshed from time to time and become more relevant, more integrated with the changes in the world of poetry and more challenging. We should all be grateful that there are still dedicated people out there willing to keep pamphlets such as Iota alive and definitely kicking when the old order passes on the torch

P.S. In that spirit, lets give our own David Pike a big round of applause and encourage more of you to come along to the quarterly get-togethers he organises here in Wiltshire and we’ll keep the fire of versifiers aflame.  Lachlan Robertson.                  (Blushing deeply - Ed)

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Prosodeas, a collection of contemporary poetry that rhymes, by Keith Morton; an A5, 82 page, perfect-bound book with 3-colour cover,

ISBN 0-9540628-0-9, £6.00.   Published during year 2001 by Linear B Publishing, P.O. Box 17162, Edinburgh, EH11 2WT.

Keith Morton is a novelist and a poet.  Prosodeas, his second book of poems, is packed with energetic rhyming poetry that calls out to be read aloud in a smoky cellar where you are sitting pretty with the sounds of the city filtering in from the pavement above.  The opening lines of his ‘Leave her alone to groove’ give us the flavour:

 

‘The milk of human kindness turned slowly to hate…

… soured by being bought, again and again,

then kept on the shelf, well past her sell-by date:

mollycoddled by a man who couldn’t say when.’

 The poems track with effortless ease modern urban life:  lost loves, consumerism, loutish behaviour (union jackass lads), dot.com technology (hackers with backers) -  all themes to remind us of our desires and frailties.  Much of the poetry written today seems all colour and no content.  Keith Morton’s poems aren’t like this – they bite.  My recommendation – buy it.   John Plevin

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Slow Air, poems by Robin Robertson.  A5 size, 62 page, hardback book with a full colour cover, ISBN 0-330-49112-1, £7.99.  Published in February 2002.  Publisher:  Picador / Pan Macmillan Ltd., 20 New Wharf Road, London, N1 9RR, www.picador.com .   Available from high street booksellers.

Robertson’s collection offers a wide range of themes, rare in their variety and complexity.  Most poems show a rich and dense interplay of simile, almost always original and effective, ‘. . . the cough of an axe and the lowing roar of distant chainsaws.’  Less frequently he uses metaphor to a similar purpose, ‘The firewood’s sap buzzing like a trapped fly.’

Adaptations from Rilke and Dante also feature, for example, The Panther,’ where the most arresting image, ‘like whisky swilled to the neck of the bottle then back on itself,’ is not adapted from Rilke but original to Robertson.  In the same way he uses Rilke’s ‘Flamingos’ as no more than a springboard, soon developing his own images and ideas.  Here, as elsewhere, the poet uses animals to reflect human experience and emotions.  ‘Anxiety 2, 3 and 5’ are not so much poems as records of dreams, but again, full of the poet’s characteristic dense imagery.

This is a selection to return to regularly.  Each examination reveals new layers of meaning.    Ingrid Riley.

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Thistle & Transformation, a collection of poems by Dr Radhamani Sarma, A5 book with colour cover, 43 pages, ISBN 81 86056 25 4, published during 1998 by Writers’ Forum, The Quest C1, Harmu Housing Colony, Ranchi 834012, India. Price: Rs 80/-

An Indian academic, Dr. Radhamani has produced a book of intriguing verse. Somehow the formality of her English and the cadences of speech (perhaps where English is not a first language) are used (or is this by chance a happy accident) to keep you alert and aware of the otherness of the experience? It is charmingly archaic in places as in; "Whither goest thou independence!" and downright funny in others as in; "On the viewless wings of poesy . . ." and "Day and night vie with each other –– like kids kiddying in the bus over the window seat." I enjoyed this collection. And oddly enough, I also enjoyed its smell, oily and old-fashioned. So two sensory experiences for the price of one.  Lachlan Robertson

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AABYE, issue C, NHI Vol. 21 #6, poems from contributors, A5 stapled two-colour booklet with 48 pages, ISSN 1461-6033, published during year 2002 by New Hope International, 20 Werneth Avenue, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 5NL. Price £4.50 (UK) £6 (ex-UK). Edited by Gerald England. Cover design by Steve Leighton, additional artwork by Charlotta Bergkvist.

If you have a working knowledge of The Classics or blitz The Times Crossword you may enjoy unlocking the highbrow element of this final edition of AABYE . Check out "You Were To Write Than Just Talk" TN Muthee. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, (it’s life Jim, but not as we know it . . . ), there are some poems of great quality including Dock Street by Deborah Tyler–Bennett . . . "Waiting was conversation’s pause for breath or stranger’s wrist mistakenly brushed …" This poem reminded me of Wole Soyinka’s "Telephone Conversation," great stuff . I was also impressed by "If You Could Take Me There" by Clare Shaw, stunning in its imagery, beautiful and simple. "If you could take me there now , I would be clear to you as bright water…" A mixed bag, some real gems and a fitting Last Hurrah for AABYE.  Dick Stewart

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Pendlesong, a collection of poems by John H. Hope.  An A5, 44 page stapled booklet with full colour cover, price £3.99, ISBN 1-903783-02-X, published and printed during year 2001 by Hudson History, Procter House, Kirkgate, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 9DZ.

A first collection in which the poet invites the reader to share his feelings for that area in Lancashire ‘twixt Burnley and Clitheroe’ known as Pendle. Readers should come armed with a map and a dictionary - hands up those who have heard of ‘shawm and ‘krumshorn’. And what are we to make of ‘Tha can’t Put Pockets I’ Shrahds’? Odd words aside what comes through these Pendle poems is a harsh landscape and a dark history. The cut-purse in ‘Annel’s Cross’ hanging rags on bird-picked limbs; the half wit ‘Billy’ with his simian slouch of gantry shoulders, are not sights for the faint hearted. I for one would be scurrying to the other side of the road where no doubt I would be washed away as ‘Pendle Water’ tumbles cars and casks like beer cans.

John Hope’s poetry is sprinkled with striking local images but this is not enough to give the poetry a wider appeal. Although I am tempted to sidle up to a Pendle pub landlord and ask if he has any pockets for my ‘shrahds,’ just to find out what would happen.

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Song Cycle, poems by Jim Mangnall, A5 stapled booklet with full colour cover, 26 pages.  Published during year 2001, ISBN 0-9539217-1-9, £3.00. Published by Driftwood Publications, 5 Timms Lane, Formby, Merseyside, L37 7DW.  Supported by North West Arts Board. 

This collection is original and interesting.  Most of the booklet is taken up by the title work, ‘Song Cycle,’ which consists of 14 poems, varying widely from the amusing and slightly inconsequential to the heartbreaking, in which Mangnall uses clichés, and in each case at least one of the titles of popular songs from the forties and fifties, while subtly changing and adapting them to create something original.  ‘And a song went out of my heart and hit that old wilderness right where it hurts.

This approach of taking something familiar as a basis for something new is also apparent in the ironically titled, ‘Conquistador,’ where the sound of the bottle touching the rim of the glass is enough in the poet's mind to shift the Mexican waitress back into the past of her own culture and its cruel rituals.  In ‘Icarus,’ too, the familiar is given a new slant in the last lines: ‘so many strange, illusive things to find and having found them fall.'

All in all, a collection which is subtler than a first read might suggest.  One to return to and find new gems each time.  Ingrid Riley

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Even The Beggars Have Pearls, poems by Peter Wyton, foreword by Wincey Willis.  Slightly larger than A5, perfect-bound book with full colour cover, 63 pages, ISBN 0-7524-1921-8, £6.99 UK, published during year 2001 by Tempus Publishing Ltd., The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Glos., GL5 2QD.

Peter Wyton, retired from the Air Force and living in the Cotswolds, is no stranger to the pages of Pulsar. In this bumper collection of diverse, sometimes bizarre poems we are transported from anecdotes of Paul McCartney and a “local beauty” in Stroud – 1962, to caravan watching in the Middle East - Regular as Clockwork. Wyton fronts as a man deeply interested in history and the natural world.  Catching the eye:-  Duskfall - “The day lies derelict. Low wattage light of evening permeates flat farming land…” Night Roost - comparing his parent care with guillemots… “Tiredness and teething gel combine to pacify at length, my fledgling boy.”   There are several intriguing poems inspired from his military service including the nostalgic and reflective -Taking The Shine Off and - The Unkindest Defence Cut Of All  …“I’m the last man left in the Air Force…”  Relax and enjoy.  Dick Stewart.

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The Lust For Blueprints, a collection of poems by Jody Azzouni, A5 perfect-bound book with a three colour cover, ninety-six pages, contains two full-colour illustrations by Catherine Weaver, ISBN 0-922558-07-8, originally published during 1999 by The Poet’s Press, 95 Hope Street #6, Providence, RI02906, USA. This edition was re-printed during year 2001.  Price $12.95.

                It's an energetic title: "The Lust for Blueprints".  In a poem called "Meditation"  -

Sex, the helpful grope, the lust for blueprints

exchanged in the heat of the moment.

Then a cigarette, leg dangling over the edge,

something new deep inside

whispering divide and conquer. 

It shows the dichotomy in the phrase itself, and between it and the title: a shallow cynicism symptomatic of a searching, frustrated because of looking, perhaps for the wrong thing in the wrong place.  That doesn't spoil the pleasure found in the poems, which was, for me, a delight in words and phrases and an energetic comment on life through "dark imagery and playful erudition".  But I find in this, and her other poems, an American naivety: a search for deep sea treasure in four foot, rather than full fathom five, of spiritual, emotional and psychological waters.  Janie Thomas.

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Quiet Myth, poems by Susan Hamlyn, A5 stapled booklet with two colour cover, cover design by Olivia Hamlyn, 16 pages, ISBN 1-871397-19-7, published during year 2000 by Mattock Press, 12 Mattock Lane, London, W5 5BQ.  Price £2.50.

Eleven poems from Greece; snippets of memory, the places, people, and the ever present intrusive tourist, make up the poems in ‘Quiet Myth,’ and permeating throughout, albeit with the occasional sour note, the ‘voice’ of the poet.  Susan Hamlyn stands back and observes the life around her.  She is sympathetic to the Greeks, we see this in: Panayotis, a gardener  in ‘Weeding’ at the theatre of Delphi, surrounded by babbling barbarians, with their offerings of an empty can of coke left in the nearest convenient votive shrine; and, Evangelia in ‘Hubris,’ hiding her eyes from a sea that had taken her silent fisherman husband.  The only tourist that gains her admiration is the long lost Englishwoman in ‘Lady with Tomatoes’ who straying from wisdom fell down a ravine and melted into layered leaves and tangling stems, a useful contribution to the local ecology, but a hard act to follow.  Susan Hamlyn’s poems are rooted in the past, the present seems an intrusive visitor.  If you have little time for today these poems will give you solace.  John Plevin.

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