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Pulsar Book Reviews 2024 

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Pulsar Publication Review Panel:


David Pike, Andrew Barber, Eve Kimber, Will Daunt,  Neil Brooks, Carla Scarano D'Antonio, Dominic James.  Please note, sadly, Carla passed away on 10th March 2023, RIP.


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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, 90 Beechwood Drive, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9NB, 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 #58 (110) March 2024


Index of Reviewed Publications

Pulsar Poetry Webzine #58

(March 2024). Please see below.


Panzer Herz, poems by Kyle Dargan.


Owed, poems by Joshua Bennett.


Once This Forest Belonged To A Storm, poems by

Austen Leah Rose.


Below Zero, poems by Carol V. Davis.




Panzer Herz, A Live Dissection, poems by Kyle Dargan.  A 6” x 9” paperback book with a full colour cover and 98 pages. Published 2023 by TriQuarterly Books, Northwestern University Press. ISBN (paper) 978-0-8101-4568-9 - eBook 978-0-8101-4569-6. US $18.00 UK £17.95.


This is a remarkable collection by a highly-skilled writer whose bold usage of form and content is justified by the tenacious vision that underpins it. The blurb tells us that the “Panzer Herz” of the title is  the “armored heart – a site where desire, violence, family, politics, blackness, and capitalism all intertwine with gender”. That reading is exemplified by the brilliant cover photograph of a “presumed suit of bear-baiting armor”.

            Here is a largely figurative exploration of the male heart: what drives, excites, infects and stalls male impulses and behaviours. The book is shaped by cardially-constructed sections - ‘Diastole’ and ‘Systole’ - introduced and separated by two poems, both called ‘Pericardiectomy’. These draw us abruptly into a perspective which (in the first) links what to “manhood... [may be] just a sack” with the urge for that sack:


                        … to be filled. How tough a never-

            stretched sack can become. How hard.


That nod to the sexual imperative prepares us for more, elsewhere.

            The second eponymous poem brilliantly develops further abstracted images of the empty, even diseased heart, its “pericardium … a corset of calcified or billowing tissue”. Then, with an arresting shift, a ‘Brother’ is addressed in an illustration of how male relationships warm sometimes through sharing the simplest of tasks (here, preparing to bake biscuits):

                                                                                                                                                          You press the curved

     metal along the seams of the packing.  Until it bursts     

(I know you love that part) and the dough releases into forms that the can could never imagine.


            Dargan explores his stated themes with formal dexterity. ‘Man of the Family II’ is a wry depiction of paternal fury, fantastically drawn yet disturbingly grounded. There are many other honed and memorable vignettes of the ironies and embarrassments of the male journey through life. ‘Her’ follows to adulthood the slow kindling of an adolescent relationship:


            I remember feeling hollow…

                               I remember believing

            I had crossed some threshold,

            but it would be a slow march of years

            before she kissed me.


            Dargan is an astute satirist. ‘A Man with Nothing to Lose’ enumerates an exhaustive and sometimes amusing catalogue of indispensable ‘male essentials’, culminating in “ownership/ of this wallet-sized tomb -/ these six crisp walls”. Alternately. ‘The Type of Wife I Have Made’, plays beautifully on the provocations of a ‘wife’ narrator describing the flaws in themselves which men uncover too late:


    I would have done well as a modern woman’s Wife.

    Instead I spend the mending hours pondering why


                                               so many women took me

       but never took me in.


            Panzer Herz surgically examines and develops the many significances of the human heart and Dargan depicts the human condition from an intimate distance: close enough to dissect, objectively enough to engage.


Review by: Will Daunt




Owed, poems by Joshua Bennett. A 5” x 7.75” paperback book with a full colour cover and 97 pages. Published 9th November 2023 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

ISBN paperback: 9781526665270, eBook: 9781526665263.  £9.99.


In this book of accomplished and often beautiful poems, Bennett explores and reflects on the multitude of experiences and relationships that make up a life, an African-American life in particular. His vision is unflinching, analytical, but lyrical too; he celebrates the huge place and influence that everyday things have in a person’s experience of life, notably in the “Owed” series of poems on hairstyles and fashions, sport and the social life of kids on the school bus. In other poems he mourns powerfully over shining lives cut short, institutional injustices and brokenness, and just how damn difficult modern life can be. I suspect most of us can relate to the wry honesty of the opening lines of “Reparation:”

How are you feeling? is always your opening question

& you know me. I invariably take it the wrong way

when you say it like that.”

Although most of the experiences explored with such attention are specifically African-American, Bennett’s analysis of how everyday fashions, objects and relationships shape a life is universal. Nothing is insignificant or unworthy of consideration, as effects can ripple down the years. He shows, for instance, how his father’s psyche was affected by being sent to Vietnam and wounded there, but also by having to eat lunch alone at school; and yet he dared to dance and find love, to harbour the “quiet

power of Sam Cooke singing,” and


                   “….still votes still prays that his children might

                 make a life unlike any he has ever seen. He looks

                at me like the promise of another cosmos & I never

                know what to tell him. All of the books in my head

                have made me cynical & distant, but there’s a choir

                in him that calls me forward…”


Bennett’s poetry is complex and multifaceted, making use of a range of poetic forms to express his reflections, from elegies on lost friends to the tight tercets of “owed to the 99 cent store,” celebrating item by item “Your tenacious meditation

                                     on excess….”  He shows how, in spite of being shaped at every point by this history, the human spirit harbours a capacity to break free and reach for new possibilities.



Review by: Eve Kimber




Once This Forest Belonged To A Storm, poems by Austen Leah Rose. A 6” x 9” paperback book with a full colour cover and 95 pages. Winner of the Juniper Prize for poetry.   Published 2023 by University of Massachusetts Press. www.umasspress.com

ISBN: (paper) 978-1-62534-727-5 £14.95.


The poems of Austen Leah Rose’s first collection are eery and compelling. In the immersive fall line of modern style, where half-rhymes avoid old tendencies of form, whether spare or expansive her writing richly deserves our close attention.


The work is laid out in sections interleaved with prose passages that set the tone and mental area of the verse. They are useful introductions to such personal poems: as wide-embracing and articulate as they are intimate and revealing. It seems a privilege to watch the narrative unfold.


In the acknowledgements, Rose credits Mark Strand, his voice: ‘indelible in her mind’. Rose’s poems too are conversational. There are conversations with her sister, a husband perhaps, certainly herself with images returned from her past in mirrors or window glass, a medium in view from the start.


Introducing Memory: “Always this divide, this sheet of glass convincing me that what is is only in my mind.”


One recognises the poet following her sister when, ‘inviting a boy over’ in  A Difficult Situation she conjures up:


… I am often shocked to look in the mirror
and see a beautiful woman.


I am frightened by enlightenment.
I don’t want to forget what unknowing is like.


Then, in one of several addresses to her husband:


…yesterday, I unzipped the translucent skin of my tent to watch the mountains glow pink somewhere
in Arizona. I swear


I saw a spark
ignite between two mirrors that faced each other in a field.


Separation looms over the work as it draws from childhood and early marriage, sometimes reminiscent of Sylvia Path, behind The Bell Jar or Ted Hughes’s Crow in the tall grass of its catechisms. Introducing Conversations with Angels: “… she wanted to name the child Lavender. Is naming an act of tenderness or aggression?
Would it make you uncomfortable if the answer was both?


Every poem in Once, This Forest Belonged to a Storm is carefully composed, combed-through for meaning, complete in itself and part of the whole. In acknowledgements, Rose gives much credit to her mentors; all can take pride in this first rate debut.


Review by: Dominic James




Below Zero, poems by Carol V. Davis. A 6” x 9” paperback book with a full colour cover and 83 pages.  Published 2023 by Stephen F. Austin State University Press.  sfapress@sfasu.edu  www.sfasu.edu/sfapress ISBN: 978-1-92288-946-4 £17.95


This collection would best be read in the warmer months, when the sun is shining. It’s very evocative, and a reader may find themselves shivering involuntarily and empathetically. 


In essence, this is a book of travel poetry, the author documenting her experiences of exploring Russia, during winter. It gets cold there. One poem, ‘It Is Even Colder In Irkutsk,’ makes this clear from the start. ‘I no longer understand numbers. / -22 °C, -33 °C, what’s the difference?’


The fact that Ms Davis is American gives this collection the ‘fish out of water’ perspective I enjoy in writers such as Bill Bryson. It’s only really an outsider that can see the full picture. Perspective comes with distance.


Another poem that brought this across talked of how an official could tell Ms Davis was not Russian because ‘her face was too open,’ even when dressed in Russian clothing. It’s observations like this that give the collection the stamp of authenticity. It really feels like a glimpse into someone’s lived experience.


This book tells a story of nature at its most extreme, but it still tells a story of hope. ‘I cannot imagine such temperatures,’ says the author in ‘Below Zero, The Temperature Falling,’ after reeling off an increasingly disturbing list of negative numbers, and yet she survived them. It’s a testament to the indomitable human spirit, and our capacity to adapt. As another poem suggests, it’s not that Siberians don’t feel the cold, it’s that they know how to dress.


Review by:  Andrew Barber


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