Pulsar Poetry Webzine
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                             Publication Reviews

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Pulsar Book Review Panel:

 

David Pike, Andrew Barber, Eve Kimber, Gwilym Williams and Will Daunt.

 

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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. 

 

Note: all reviews contain the written personal thoughts of individual reviewers.  Pulsar Poetry Webzine may not necessarily agree with statements made or personal opinions stated therein.

 

Most recent reviews are at the top, filter downwards for earlier reviews.

 

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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine

 

Edition #30 (82) March 2017

 

 

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #30 (March 2017), please see below.

 

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Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt - poems by John Cooper Clarke.

 

Poems from Guantánamo.  The Detainees Speak.  Poems from various contributors.

 

154 Poems by 154 Contemporary Poets in Response to Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets

Poems from various contributors.

 

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John Cooper Clarke, Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt. An A5 size paperback poetry book with a full colour cover and 112 pages. Cover design by Mercy, www.mercyonline.co.uk   Artwork by Steve Maguire.  Adapted by Ken Goodall, www.byken.com  Published by Vintage, Random House in 2012, www.vintage-books.co.uk  ISBN 978-0-099-58376-9 £7.99.

 

I was very pleased to be given this book for review. I've been an admirer of John Cooper Clarke for many years. How you feel about this book depends largely on how you feel about the author. It's fair to say that he can be a controversial poet. He doesn't write about the things other poets write about, and he swears a lot more.

 

This is a re-release of a collection first published in the 1980s and contains many of his classics (e.g., 'Evidently Chickentown', 'Psycle Sluts' and 'A Love Story In Reverse'). It is worth bearing in mind that most of these were originally written for the stage rather than the page. Dr Cooper Clarke is primarily a performance poet, described by the Daily Telegraph as 'the godfather of British performance poetry'. This means that some of the pieces in this book can fall a little flat without the delivery. I found that I could enjoy the pieces more if I was already familiar with how they were originally performed.

 

On balance, though, I thought this was a wonderful book, from a period when the author was at his most effective. Like most punks, he was arguably of his time, and it was not a time of universal happiness. The best punk lyrics and poetry come from the boundary between anger and black comedy. John Cooper Clarke proved with this book that he knows that area better than anyone.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

 

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Poems from Guantánamo.  The Detainees Speak. Edited by Marc Falkoff.  Slightly larger than A5 size hardback book with a full colour cover and 72 pages. Cover art by Paul J. Richards /AFP/Getty Images.  Preface by Flagg Miller. Afterword by Ariel Dorfman.  Published by: University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 52242, USA.  Copyright 2007.  www.uiowapress.org  ISBN-10: 1-58729-606-3 & ISBN-13: 1-58729-606-2  $13.95

 

This compelling anthology depicts the multiple deprivations experienced by Guantánamo Bay internees. Its contributors – many facing no charges - capture the loneliness, humiliation, injustice and spiritual starvation endured there.

            Much of this unsettling but engaging poetry has been extricated only by the unstinting efforts of volunteer lawyers. The sense of negotiating each word’s safe passage is vivid.

            Yet, these are poems of sadness rather than bitterness, hope rather than hatred. ‘Cup Poem 2’ by Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost is drily ironic:

           

            Handcuffs befit brave young men.

            Bangles are for spinsters or for pretty young ladies.

 

            Writers like Abdullah Thani Faris Al Anazi portray their plight via the powerful backdrop of their immediate environment. ‘Ode To The Sea’ challenges the encircling Leviathan: ‘Gentle, deaf, mute, ignoring, angrily storming,/ You carry graves’. And there’s optimism in ‘O Prison Darkness’ by Abdulaziz:

 

            O prison darkness, pitch your tent.

            We love the darkness.

 

            The tale of a letter sent to the Briton,  Moazzam Begg, captures the scale and absurdity of Guantánamo’s security. He read only: ‘I love you’.  Censors removed the remaining, familiar lines: ‘One, two, three, four, five,/ Once I caught a fish alive...’ (etc.).  Begg’s seven year old daughter wrote them.

            These writers often lacked pen and paper and shocking accounts of how each one arrived at Guantánamo contextualize their  triumphs over hardship. All of this, some excellent commentaries and the book’s dignified appearance reverse some of the profound injustices exposed by these poems.

 

Review by: Will Daunt

 

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154 Poems by 154 Contemporary Poets in Response to Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 319 pages.   Edited by Helen Eastman. Published 2016 by Live Canon Ltd. www.livecanon.co.uk

ISBN 978-1-909703-18-6  £5.00

 

The interplay between the Elizabethan originals and their young rivals, set in pairs on facing pages, is fascinating. A great many of the contemporary poets have chosen to answer a sonnet with a sonnet:  not always a wise decision, but there are some that really catch fire, such as Antony Dunn’s “Son,” blazing with fear for his child and the pain and hope of mortality, - a fine classic of the Shakespearean sonnet form, too, - or Mark D. Cooper’s tender and bleak meditation on loss, “Perseids.” 

 

Often the modern poet updates the concept of the original, as in Kostandinos Mahoney’s “Ladyboy,” though this made me appreciate that “the master mistress of my passion,” is actually equally frank. Some criticize and some rage against Shakespeare’s sentiments; some take a line as a starting point to set off on a totally different voyage, such as Sue Rose’s “The Injuries I do,” the thoughts of a suicide bomber, but tracking key words of Shakespeare’s lines to discover elements of a moral parallel, a self-destructive thirst, talk of duty and glory.

 

 Some poems are confidently modern in form. Sean Hewitt’s “Alder,” is delicate, unpredictable. It encapsulates a beautiful ability of the best poems to circle around a mystery, not telling the reader what to think. Amy Nielson Smith’s prose poem “Case Study,” blatantly gropes the mystery, but still leaves it unsolved. Weirdly resonant is leoemercer’s anagram poem on Sonnet 107, which concludes:

 

         “Whateer happens, we happened. Un-us.done “Us”

 

Undeniably true. Shakespeare happened. We happened.

 

Review by:  Eve Kimber

 

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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine

 

Edition #29 (81) December 2016

 

 

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #29 (December 2016), please see below.

 

Swimming Through Marble - poems by Gillie Robic

 

Ezra Pound Land, poems by Simon Robson

 

Town Criers / Fliers, poems by Will Daunt.

 

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Swimming Through Marble, poems by Gillie Robie. Slightly larger than A5 sized paperback book with a full colour cover and 106 pages.  Published during year 2016 by: Live Cannon Ltd. Edited by Helen Eastman.  Cover image: New York State fossils, Sea Scorpions, (jaekelopterus rhenaniae), a series of extinct arthropod group, Eurypterid.  www.livecannon.co.uk  ISBN: 978-1-909703-17-9

 

Ms Robie is well-travelled, and it shows. Parts of this read as a travelogue, postcards from her journey around the world, Bombay to London to Paris and many more. I tend to think that the magic of a new place is best shown by a visitor to it – it's a device I use in my own writing. Those who are used to something can miss its magic to new eyes. It's a device that Ms Robie uses very successfully throughout this book.

 

It starts brilliantly, with a backwards-forwards poem called 'Shifting Time Zones' (the second stanza is the first stanza with the line order reversed), full of lovely imagery (I loved 'routines, unhooked from their outlined histories').

 

Some of the longer poems are prose-like, with dialogue. Parts remind me of Elizabeth Smart's collection 'By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept,’ with its theme of travel, and some lines I will never forget. There are some wonderful lines in 'Swimming Through Marble.’

 

Throughout this collection, there is a sharp eye for a memorable image. 'Venetian Roofscape,’ with its light-hearted pigeon's eye view of humanity and the world, is a delight. 'Every chimney is a work of art. / The pigeons know this', 'snuggling into warm terracotta gullies' as they 'congregate where people call for them to be culled, netted, killed' and 'huddle together on the rooftops, murmuring / about the consolation of the view.’

 

This is a great collection, full of interesting insights and unexpected delights. I can recommend it highly.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

 

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Ezra Pound Land, poems by Simon Robson.  A5 Size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 16 pages.  Illustrations by: neil-wc.   Published during year 2015 by: Grovsenor Road Books, 172 Grovsenor Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3EJ.  No ISBN.  £1.50.

 

I like everything except the title – and yes, I get the joke, conflating Poundland stores with the exquisite poet, cartoon portrait of Pound looking shocked on the cover. Robson’s poems are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Pound’s subtly crafted work. Robson gives us a cheerfully incontinent torrent of images, contemporary dilemmas, complex pains and pleasures, jostling for our attention, but building through the poem to a multi-faceted and nuanced picture.

 

He uses the list poem as masterfully as Leonard Cohen, building portraits of 21st century characters and preoccupations. “The Best Dreams Ever” creates a remarkable portrayal of a fourteen year old girl in her own words, through her dreams, showing her teetering on the brink of schizophrenia, on the brink of individuality, looking for self in all sorts of settings, some childish (sherbert fountains), some cruelly accurate observations of adult failure, fantasies of power, poking curious fingers into death and political incorrectness, forbidden corners, dissing the establishment – dreams!

 

Several other portraits are equally insightful, demonstrating an acute eye for present day manners and voices. Where there are relationships, as in “Heavy Boyfriend,” there is

    “a chemical reaction between us,”

no mention of love, and the girl speculates that she could

                       “...bin him if I wanted, maybe Tuesday,

                           garbage day.”

 

The cover drawing, and the cartoon illustrations by neil-wc, are witty and accomplished, and fit well with a satirical note in the poems. There is a critique of modern ways, though so well understood and sympathetically drawn.

 

Review by:  Eve Kimber

 

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Town Criers / Fliers, poems by Will Daunt.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 22 pages. Published during year 2015.  ISBN 978-1-329-66546-0

will.daunt@btinternet.com   £4.00.

 

Will Daunt’s book has two titles and was initially designed for airing at Christmas 2015.  Town Criers/Town Fliers is a book about urban birds, their song, and habits.  The outer cover has no accompanying blurb but on reading a few pages the ornithological purpose becomes clear.  The photograph of a robin on the front cover is a bit of a give-away. All-in-all I found the contents of this short book to be charming and gentle – perhaps a twitcher’s eye-view? 

 

A couple of examples:

 

14:

 

Our sparrows

have given up gutters

of love and nurture,

 

quarrels at dawn

and scruffy rustling,

 

nestling instead

in other crannies,

 

flushed there

by rain, run awry.

 

16:

 

He stared out his patch

through summer hunts:

 

short nights, long lunges,

missing most,

 

showing off

and showing up himself –

 

this scrawny owl

of outcries,

 

learning to woe.

 

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I can’t like every book I receive – but I do like this one.

 

Review by:  David Pike

 

 

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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine

 

Edition #28 (80) September 2016

 

 

Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #28 (September 2016), please see below.

 

Dragonsong: epic fantasy poem by Michael Forester

 

Chuckle Verse: humorous rhymes, limericks and parodies by Lizzy Wade

 

Baby Elephant in Bucharest: poems and artwork by Simon Robson

 

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Dragonsong  by Michael Forester. Epic fantasy poem of good and evil in the Arthurian tradition.  Slightly larger than A5 paperback book with a full colour cover and 253 pages.  Published in year 2016 by Matador, 9 Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth, Leicestershire, LE8 0RX       www.troubador.co.uk/matador  and www.michaelforester.co.uk  ISBN: 978 1785891 274 £8.99

 

I like poets with ambition, and this is a very ambitious undertaking. It is effectively an allegorical fantasy novel written as a series of poems, which means this is the first poetry book I've reviewed where I'm concerned about giving away spoilers.

 

The blurb describes this as 'an epic fantasy of good and evil in the Arthurian tradition', and it certainly is. I would compare it also to Milton's 'Paradise Lost', as it's a very long poem written in a form of English that is no longer current – 'thee's and 'thou's abound. And like Edmund Spencer's later epic 'The Faerie Queene', which introduced the nine line 'Spenserian stanza', this uses an unconventional form – there are two ten-line stanzas to the page, in an 'ababc dedec' rhyme scheme, with a consistent change of meter. Four lines of iambic tetrameter are followed by one of iambic pentameter. For example, this stanza:

 

With flesh full-formed, the dragon stirred - a reflex moment to its wing. Then faintest noise, it could be heard and in the throats there did begin A sound familiar to the astral plane. The dragon moved and rais-ed up its scaly muscles, twitching now and from the air it sought to sup and sucking breath it did allow the scream of dragonsong to sound again.

 

Novels in the form of poems can suffer from a conflict of interests. The pacing requirements of the story can be at odds with the form demanded by the poetry. Even Vikram Seth's modern classic 'The Golden Gate' suffered from this on occasion, and Dragonsong is not immune, but the formal, courtly voice used for the writing does help to justify it.

 

The story itself is an entertaining one, and because it is pitched as a symbolic and allegorical fantasy novel, there's nothing really amiss about the mash-up of various myths into a new one.

 

I think Michael Forester has achieved something impressive here. The constraints of the form have largely been overcome by the strength of the writing, and while good vs evil as a story line has been done often, he has put his own unique spin on it, with a cast of characters that includes Shakespearean elves (Oberon is a main character), dragons, Norse gods and Merlin's daughter.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

 

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Chuckle Verse, a mixed bag of humorous rhymes, limericks and parodies, by Lizzy Wade.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 158 pages.  Published on 28th January 2016 by Matador.  ISBN: 978 1784625 061 £7.99

 

This is a coffee-table book rather than poetry. It would be unfair to judge it as poetry: the subtitle sets out its terms fairly and frankly – “a mixed bag of humorous rhymes, limericks and parodies.” The production values of the book are its strength, almost every double-page spread illustrated with expressive, witty line drawings with blocks of colour – a format which adds a lot of verve and flair.

 

The verses are mostly in a ballad form, four lines with the second rhyming with the fourth. The use of rhythm is clumsy, especially in last lines of verses where Wade often tries to fit in too many words to clodhopping effect. This is a pity; a good editor could have helped sort this out and the verses could easily have been made to flow better.

 

But the overall effect is funny, likeable and full of sketches of everyday situations which tip into the absurd – a pig swallowing a diamond ring, a driving lesson which ends in a collision. Wade has a line in self-deprecating humour and a keen eye for the telling detail in an everyday situation; most women will recognise her description of the tyrannical power of “The Hairdresser’s,” and the dismay of the unwanted cut. The book is aimed at women and features some unkind male stereotypes from which Wade escapes –“Though my best plans are often realised

                           When I am nonchalantly peeing!”

If you enjoy social comedy and a touch of satire, you may well enjoy this book.

 

Review by: Eve Kimber

 

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Baby Elephant in Bucharest, poems, artwork and photos by Simon Robson.  An A5 size stapled booklet with a two colour cover and 16 pages.  Published in year 2015 by Grovsenor Road Books, 172 Grovsenor Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3EJ.  No ISBN.  £1.50

 

Simon Robson publishes A5 stapled booklets in what appears to be bursts of spontaneity; sometimes after experiencing specific events.  The “Baby Elephant,” he refers to is himself, possibly by way of feeling out of place, or as a non-conformist?  Not sure why he refers to himself as “baby,” other than, (possibly), he views himself as an innocent/awkward bystander?  The poems are observations of persons and places he has seen/heard during his sojourn to Bucharest.  Robson’s observations are sharp, bitingly humorous and on occasion caustic, but are nevertheless interesting - in spite of a slightly hangdog point of view.  For example:

 

No One Impresses Baby Elephant (part sample of)

 

English language students from Denver, Colorado,

well versed in in Harold Pinter and Shakespeare,

all the verbal subtleties, metaphors, similes,

San Diego big surfer-types with five day growth

beards, clever, clean, circumcised,

roundheads, bastards,

as described in the Bible. . .

 

Final Stanza

 

No one impresses baby elephant,

clowns and losers –

electronic Steve Jobs, iphones he can’t afford,

rattlesnakes and butterflies preferably. . .

 

The general feeling I personally received from this poem was the opposite from the stated verse i.e. that deep down the poet possibly was impressed, but felt inferior.  Oh well, that’s just my take on it.

 

I personally got the impression that Robson enjoyed his visit to Bucharest, but in an insular way.  Here’s another poem, (part sample of):

 

A Pint of Stella and a Camel Cigarette

 

Fragrant rich bastards, flowers, petals,

a sophisticated, elegant woman, Peggy Guggenheim –

a supposed takeaway, tossed Greek salad of

black olives and basil,

a tin of hideous tinned sardines, garlic

and cubes of

soft, gritty cheese, cat litter, cheese,

no accounting for taste –

some upside down glasses to amuse her further. . .

 

The booklet itself is roughly produced as a series of photocopied pages of type written script with photocopies of photos, tickets, etc.  The images and text are in sharp focus and easy to read. All in all good value at £1.50.

 

Review by: David Pike

 

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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine

 

Edition #27 (79) June 2016

 

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #27 (June 2016), please see below.

 

La Petite Mort - Gothic Poetry by Eli Wilde

Collected Poems - Revised, by Mary Christina St John

The Dwelling - poems by Eleanor  Zuercher

 

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La Petit Mort - Gothic Poetry by Eli Wilde.  An A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and ? number of pages, (no page numbers).  Cover and internal images illustrated by Anton Semenov. Published 28th March 2016 By Matador.  ISBN: 978-1-78589-101-4 £7.99

 

Maybe it's because I used to be a Goth, but I liked this book very much. It's always nice to see a poetry book with a theme, and the theme here is an unusual one – all of the poems are written from the perspective of a vampire called Rufus Hobster.

 

It reminds me of Ted Hughes' marvellous Crow collection. They don't write in a similar style – Wilde's Hobster character has a conscience, unlike Crow – but each piece is an extension of the same central theme – the life of a vampire.

 

There are some lovely insights here, and not just into vampires – the vampire has always been an outsider, and an outsider's perspective on humanity can be enlightening. There are philosophical diversions as well, for example in the poem 'I Am':

 

            I dream, therefore

            I am more

            than just a thought.

 

            Creator of worlds

            in a single night

            I am more than a god.

 

            I am every possibility

            imagined:

            limitless and meaningless.

 

That's the sort of ambition I can respect in a vampire. I can heartily recommend this book.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

 

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Collected Poems – Revised, by Mary Christina St John.  Slightly larger than an A5 size paperback book with a 4 colour cover and 127 pages.  Published 2016 by The Book Guild Ltd.

ISBN 978 1 910508 770 £7.99

 

I confess I don't know what to say. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the poetry of Mary Christina St John, maybe it's a little bit of both, but all I can say is that I tried. I really tried. And all the time I was thinking of R S Thomas and his glorious religious poetry. His uncertain 'gravel thrown at the sky's window'. His longing for the supreme being to make contact. His painting his church interior black.

 

And I was all the time confronted, perhaps that's too strong a word, by the poetry of St John who writes love letters to Jesus and speaks of being 'tickled pink' or not leaving Jesus 'in the lurch'. 

 

This off the cuff poetry would be passable if it were not for the fact that St John threw the first stone in the first paragraph of her preface. 'Perhaps if more prolific poets, even the greatest, had been less indulgent towards all their offspring, it might not have been such a bad thing'. 

 

The 'greatest poets' are no longer around to defend themselves and it is up to those of us who owe them a deep debt of gratitude to stick up for them when they come before self-proclaimed judges. We can best do that by comparing like with like. And so to do I tried. I really tried. Sometimes I dozed off. But I did try. 

 

I leave the last word to St John. It's from the best part of her 'collected', her Juvenilia. 

 

They led him away to a secret land

where they charmed him into a magic sleep: 

the hawthorn berries his secret keep,

and the wild, wild briars understand. 

 

It's very beautiful and was doubtlessly written before Mary Williams of Wales became Mary Christina St John of Australia. There is a difference. It's always the difference that counts.

 

Review by: Gwilym Williams

 

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The Dwelling, poems by Eleanor Zuercher.  An A5 sized paperback book with a full colour cover and 116 pages.  Published 28th January 2016 by Matador.  Cover photograph by Bertie Zuercher.  ISBN 978 1785890 598 £7.99

 

This is a book of spiritual poetry, and a very fine one. Apart from a handful of poems, mostly towards the end of the collection (“Chronic Fatigue,” “Crispin with the cabbage whites,” (which speak of Zuercher’s everyday experiences), these poems explore the spiritual meanings and implications of everything Zuercher touches. History, places, nature, the sight of a peregrine falcon hovering – everything leads, through fine observation and description, back to a meditation or flash of insight on the nature of God or possibilities of the human relationship with God. It is a tribute to the honesty and depth of Zuercher’s writing that the poems continue to be thought-provoking and not preachy, or at least, I found it so. Nevertheless it is a book for the spiritual searcher; I can’t imagine that someone who was a convinced atheist, and content to remain so, would want to persevere with it for very long.

Zuercher loves the sound of words –“effulgent,” or the onomatopoeic “pools of aqueous light,” (“Churches of the West Buckingham Benefice”), and she loves paradox.

                                     “Lively in death; vibrant in silence,” (“Dark Radiance.”)

There is a sense being expressed here of the striving and fallibility of human communication, of perception straining at its limits. Zuercher sometimes uses an unrhymed ballad form punctuated by repetitions, developing the theme so that the meaning of the repetition deepens each time it appears, as in “Via Dolorosa.” In clear and musical lines she expresses searching and doubt, meditations reaching for hope in a troubling world.

 

Review by: Eve Kimber

 

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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine

 

Edition #26 (78) March 2016

 

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Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #26 (March 2016), please see below. 

 

A Woman by a Well, poetry by Emily Bilman

Resilience, poetry by Emily Bilman

Bodies, poems by Gareth Writer-Davies

 

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A Woman by a Well, poetry by Emily Bilman.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a three colour cover and 97 pages.  Published 2015 by Matador, 9 Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, LE8 0RX.  ISBN: 978 1784623 135 £12.00.

 

It is a pleasure to discover a poet who writes with such beauty and depth of insight. Her language is dense with metaphor, images layered and reflecting on each other to advance the thought, observations piercing and precise. Bilman writes about her experiences of love, death of a lover or lying on a beach, but her meditations always reach towards the shared experience, the universal.

 

“We sat upon the rippled sallow dunes

 

While they toyed and coiled with the wind….

 

Like a handbreadth of sand expanding on the dunes,

 

Like the crystal weft growing within its ore, we grew.”  (“The Lattice”)

 

She loves the beautiful exact word and has no fear of making her readers reach for the dictionary – what does “Pentimento” mean? Perhaps you know, Bilman, who writes on the philosophy of art, certainly does. She likens the painter’s reworking of a picture to the process of poetry-making, alchemy, remorse, memory.   Bilman wears her learning like a comfortable jacket, writing about Renaissance paintings and their biblical subjects and classical allegories as a way in to reflecting on modern experiences. Bilman can be dark, writing about plague, or riots and personal loss in “Ire.” But in her work one feels she is aiming at that miraculous moment when disparate images strike a note of harmony and a multi-layered meaning is revealed. Often she succeeds – “Primal Sight” – sometimes, as in “The Twin-Deeds”, the daring seems strained and less successful. But all her work deserves a second and third reading.

 

Review by: Eve Kimber

 

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Resilience, poetry by Emily Bilman.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a four colour cover and 98 pages.  Published 2015 by Matador.  ISBN 978 1784623 159 £12.00.

 

I have mixed feelings about this book, and I'm wary about letting personal preference get in the way of a balanced review. I am a poet myself – I too have felt the need to luxuriate in the language, to enjoy it as a sensory pursuit, to feel the words roll around my tongue as I savour them. My own preference would be for less description, but that's not to say that 'more' is wrong in some way.

 

For me, there were parts of this book that were so rich in (often-hyphenated) adjective and adverbs that I felt walled in by them. Whole stanzas seemed to pass where every noun or verb had two or three modifiers, and some seemed unnecessary to the point of tautology ('wheel-wagon' being a notable example). It felt that once the poet had established a descriptive 'rhythm', everything would be described for consistency, whether needed or not.

 

As I say, that's just a stylistic opinion, and one not shared by Ms Bilman. For those who do enjoy their descriptions, many of them were original and unexpected. Like this stanza, from Cleanin' Asbestos:

 

Like iron-filaments, asbestos germ-dust clings to our lungs, clogging our breath, constricting our lung-trees like dried-out sea-stars.

 

There are some wonderful lines throughout. One of my favourites was:

 

Deceit, your hands are the tools of impunity. You hold a honey-comb inside one palm, A bitter scorpion-sting inside the other.

 

On balance, this probably is a good collection, and one that many can enjoy. There are nearly 80 poems in the book, collected into themed sections. There is a lot to like, and even if you don't like all the adjectives and adverbs, they are at least interesting adjectives and adverbs, beautifully written and usually apt.

 

I say this as a cake enthusiast of some years' standing. If I compare something to cake, it's a compliment. I feel like I've just tried a richly-layered gateau, pumped with cream, suffused with pleasing essences, artfully-cut pieces of fruit positioned decorously on top to provide an elegant accent colour. I can see it's a good cake, well-crafted and lovingly-made, but it's one that's a little rich for my tastes.

 

Review by: Andrew Barber

 

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Bodies, poems by Gareth Writer-Davies.  Slightly larger than A5 size booklet, with a full colour cover and 35 pages.  Cover design by Ronnie Goodyer.  Author photo by jadefindlater@flickr.com Published 2015 by Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd, 24 Forest Houses, Halwill, Beaworthy, EX21 5UU.  www.indigodreams.co.uk  ISBN 978-1-909357-71-6 £6.00.

 

Make no bones about it here is a poet with an assemblage of
uncommon wisdom, a poet with
whom you would like to chew the fat.

The poems presented themselves almost as meditations. They
live inside us; they are us;

they are everything from teeth, to gut flora, even to the
bowels. We can all relate to them.

There are pearls within oysters:

In the poem 'Dental' for example we learn


there are too many teeth in the world
grinning their way through a steak
chewing on pencils

maybe they are macerating stars
in the inky throat of the night
pearly sentinels to the gums

Bodies is a meditative masterpiece; a zen like voyage
through the human corpus.

Take 'Elbow'

. . . without you
I couldn't cut my bread or itch my nose


Here's my tip. Read it while relaxing in the bath with your
body steaming before you. You'll never see
yourself in the same light again.


A fine body of work.
Thank you, Gareth Writer-Davies.   

 
Review by:
 Gwilym Williams

 

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