Link: Return to Home Page
Pulsar Book Review Panel:
David Pike, Andrew Barber, Eve Kimber, Will Daunt and Neil Brooks.
* * *
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.
* * *
Book & Booklet Reviews
Pulsar Poetry Webzine
Edition #38 (90) March 2019
Finally, The Moon, poems by Kimberley K. Williams. Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 97 pages. Published 2017 by Stephen F. Austin State University Press, Nacogdoches, Texas 75962, USA. Book design: Thomas Sims. Cover design: Allyson Williams-Yee. www.sfasu.edu/sfapress ISBN 9781622881567 £16.50.
Kimberly K. Williams’ first collection has a captivating spirit of its own, shaped by the book’s native Texas and numerous other settings. This is an extensive and exhilarating read, with a poetic confidence that is as fresh as it is mature and as accessible as it is provocative.
About halfway through, the title poem depicts the poet’s work through a brilliantly re-enacted nocturnal car journey:
This moment becomes the sky
ahead, expanding bloody reds and fuchsia with yellow
outlining the horizon. She cups this bounty.
Simultaneously, Williams isolates craftily the relationship between a poet’s experience and chosen form:
After she arrives,
she will transcribe the lines of the road into lines
of a poem and see letters coalesce into words.
She will seek stanzas, experiment with enjambment,
Seventy-five miles per hour reveals ideas born
in places: canyon, volcanic rock bed ...
... and finally, the moon, blossoming into crescent.
Here’s a book that explores ‘otherness’ boldly with wit and finely-drawn evocations of the ordinary. Searches for and encounters with angels punctuate the poems. Do these numinous moments have more than a figurative significance? Well, Williams at least teases us into wondering whether they might have. The title of ‘Sometime An Angel’ recurs through the poem, ultimately as a paradoxical, humorous prompt:
he arrives, standing
like a column beside
you, and he realizes he’s
been abstracted into metaphor,
he’ll likely guffaw.
‘On The Metro’ winds something darker into the reader’s consciousness, aligning the angelic with the kinds of human contact that disturb us in to writing:
enters the train wailing
like a siren, cracking
morning like a fallen
egg, demanding bread.
This compelling read is divided into four sections that reflect the phases of the moon. In ‘Waning’ - and through several poems - Williams writes about her father’s death with a searing integrity. Other sections allow meditations on baseball, (more) angels and the poet’s many journeys to colour a particular phase of the creative process.
But the book never takes itself too seriously. ‘Pocket Poem’ manages to create (rather than find) some verse by simply trying to sort through the various contents of the persona’s Tardis-shaped purse. It’s another creative flourish from an enlightened and gratifying new voice.
Review by: Will Daunt
Writing on Rock, the poetry of Tim Noble. Edited by Will Daunt. Preface by Joanne Clarke. An A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 93 pages. Published 2019 by The Ormskirk Imprint. ISBN 9780244717513 £7.50.
I have a new life goal. When I die, I’d like to know a lot
of articulate people who appreciate poetry, like Tim Noble did. This is a wonderful tribute to what seems to have been a full and accomplished life.
The late Mr Noble was a teacher and rock climber, and this book is half poetry, half eulogy (which takes the form of both prose and poem). Both are touching and well written. If the test of a man’s life is what people say about him when it ends, Tim Noble clearly made quite an impression.
The poetry itself is very good. There’s even a villanelle, which I think is one of the hardest forms to pull off successfully. There are just so few lines that don’t lose something with the repetition. In this case, the changes of context and punctuation make the repetition almost invisible. E.g., “Suffer little children who come to me” never appears in the same form twice.
The poet’s love of Shakespeare comes through strongly (proceeds from this book even go to the Royal Shakespeare’s Company’s education department). There are Shakespearean references peppered throughout, and one on how the challenges of teaching the bard is made easier by having a class which loved murder stories. It ended on a hopeful tone:
The lesson ends ambiguously:
life shocks more than art (seriously)
but the boy in front takes the play
home and doesn’t grin. I dare say
he’s now somewhere he’s never been.
There seems to be no ambiguity to the ending of Mr Noble’s lessons. Life shocked those around him (his death in 2014 was sudden) and this book was what resulted. I have no doubts he would have been pleased by it. Even though ‘he’s now somewhere he’s never been,’ he’s still encouraging people to write. That may be the biggest tribute of all.
Review by: Andrew Barber
Pleading at The Bar of Truth, poems by Eddie Wainwright. Edited by Will Daunt. Cover painting, Someone at Home by Edgar Wainwright, 2018. An A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 132 pages. First published 2018 by Lapwing Publications,
Edited by Will Daunt, this is a collection drawn from across Wainwright’s life’s work of some four hundred poems, 115 presented here. Alongside Wainwright’s poetry, Daunt has included illuminating writing by his daughter Sonja recalling childhood memories, and affectionate but shrewd perspectives by fellow poets, one in the form of a poem by Roger Elkin.
A comment is made that Wainwright was more interested in writing the next poem than revising the last one, which may explain why the quality is uneven. It ranges from the piercingly poignant and economical “Graham from Nailsea,” capturing the courage and dignity of the ordinary man in the face of death, with the pitch perfect detail of a dropped crumb ground into the carpet representing him after he’s gone, to “Lying in Wait,” which does feel as if it is still waiting for him to glance over the punctuation. This is about his Army days and how it felt to go on leave, leading on to reflect on the different nature of uncertainty in the present day; but one convoluted sentence stretches over three verses. It is an interesting insight, though – Wainwright’s poetry is full of original viewpoints, fearlessly expressed. He throws his politics down like a challenge: “Commemoration of D-Day, June 2004” will either delight or infuriate the reader. His wide-ranging work sparks with unexpected sympathies – “The Invasion of Lower Austria, 1945” is a dramatic monologue taking an Austrian villager’s viewpoint and compares favorably with Browning. Poetry to savour and return to.
Review by: Eve Kimber
The Human Ape, poems by Mark Cox. Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 105 pages. Published on 28th May 2017 by The Book Guild Ltd. www.bookguild.co.uk Email: email@example.com ISBN 9781911320982 £7.99.
In this debut collection of poetry inspired by the scientific explanation of the universe, Mark Cox considers humankind's place in the modern world and how we have lived during our time on Earth. "The Human Ape" covers themes such as nature, knowledge, science, conflict and mortality.
I really found this book interesting and engaging in the way it read and was perfectly categorised. The poems cover a wide range of subjects and topics which are, by-and-large, informed by the philosophical view of Cox.
Sleeplessness, homeless children, the exact meaning of the term atheist, the philosophical basis for keeping pets, natural phenomena such as rivers, sunsets and a speck of dust, children, evolution, recycling and even more besides.
The style is sparse, yet compelling and the thoughts behind the poems are lucid and clear and sort of scientific.
It’s a very inspiring, questioning, life examining and life affirming debut from Mark Cox, a Haulage driver from Taunton.
The red cloud deepens
As the sun dips lower
And the sky blackens
With its starlit cover
The refracted light
Has gone from view
The world keeps rotating
So the day can renew
The Human Ape
I am an ape
An ape of the human kind,
I am not a baboon,
Gorilla or Chimpanzee
But a man
A man with my own thoughts and mind
Review by: Neil Brooks