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, Will Daunt and Neil Brooks.


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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 #33 (85) December 2017


Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #33 (December 2017), please see below.




The Siege of Monrovia a poem by Mark Huband


Drying Naked, poems by Theophanis Kleanthous


Carpe Amorem in Poetry, poems by Michele Ford


Three Feet Above the Ground poems by Heather Goddin




The Siege of Monrovia, a poem by Mark Huband with photographs by Patrick Robert

A slightly larger that A5 size hardback book with a full colour cover and 67 pages.  Published during 2017 by Livecanon. ISBN: 978-1-909703-15-5  www.livecanon.co.uk or www.markhuband.com Email: markhuband@gmail.com £14.99.


Many risks pay off in Mark Huband’s long poem about the time in 1989-1990 when he was reporting on Liberia’s civil war. With graphic intensity, his reporter’s eye relays across the decades the brutalities committed, as rebel factions fought to control Monrovia: a father dragged away from his children, to be executed; numerous corpses, dumped in the mangrove swamp; women and children slaughtered in a church. The sadism of Prince Johnson - one of the leaders - is seen first-hand, and Huband himself escapes death more than once, prompting uncomfortable self-examination: “Can I kill to live? I saw men killing. //Will I be living when the day is dead..?”

            Such reflections are the book’s next strength. Huband’s decision to describe such a traumatic experience enables an exorcism of memory. As he puts it: “... me and the war are a memory now. / It saw me arrive and watched as I grew, // then it released me, but won’t let me go.”

            The gap of years allows Huband to align what happened with how he felt, providing a particular aesthetic integrity.

            Terza rima is an inspired choice of form, which supports this traumatic narrative. Like discrete stitching, it holds together the sense of a story being told, while guiding both reader and writer through the terror with a calm dignity.

            In a handsomely produced book, Patrick Robert’s black and white photographs capture strikingly the futility of civil – or any - war.


Review by: Will Daunt




Drying Naked, poems by Theophanis Kleanthous.  An A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 108 pages.  Published on 28th July 2016 by Matador.  ISBN: 978-1-78589-136-6, £8.99


I do like poetry books with lofty ambitions. According to the blurb, this one would help me ‘find a deeper meaning in myself and my surroundings’ so I can better ‘determine how I measure my existence in an ever-changing world’.

Alas, after reading it, my levels of self-awareness and related phenomena are pretty much the way they were when I started, but this might say something about my existing understanding of the meaning of my life. To be fair, it’s something I’ve considered before.

The author has a distinctive style, which is usually a good thing. There are some great descriptions. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to over-describe things that would usually be implied. There’s an obviousness to some of the comparisons, e.g., contrasting ‘the brightest whites’ with the ‘palest, dullest greys’. Some of the rhymes feel forced, e.g., ‘Unnerving Australia’s every batting flaw / The opposition’s pride was bruised and sore / Adding one more memory to our folklore’.

This is a shame, because there are some nice ideas fighting to come through.

Review by Andrew Barber


Carpe Amorem in Poetry, poems by Michèle Ford. An A5 size paperback book with a full cover and 45 pages.  Published 2010 by?  ISBN: 9781456324285  Price?


The most striking feature of Ford’s work is her vivid and wide-ranging vocabulary; she clearly loves language and is bold in using Latin and German titles for her poems, such as “Carpe Libertem,” and “Die Winterreise,” (from the Schubert song cycle, presumably.) The poems are short, often nine to twelve lines, often three words to a line. I hesitate to call them minimalist, however, because they are bursting with emotive words and adjectives, movement and colour:



                     “Piercing scarlet satin bloom,

                       Twisting coiling intertwining

                        Silken threads of untold fate….”


The book jacket calls it gothic verse, and there is that element of outpouring of emotion into brief intimations of intense life shot through with tragedy. I have to say, though, I felt the results were mixed. A few worked as poems; others were so abstract that they seemed to be crying out for either illustration or music – they could have made good song lyrics, but were too fragmented to make a satisfying whole on their own.

One that followed a clear thread is “Carpe Mortem” (seize death);


                        “There is no turning back,

                           All the milestones that you pass,

                           Cats eyes rolling by,

                           Every mile getting nearer

                           To that eerie no man’s land,

                            Where you and I et alia

                            Can never see it through.”


    (Quoted in full).


There is good imagery in the poems, but they are generally too abstract and need telling details or touches of story to anchor them to lived experience, to sharpen their impact.


Review by: Eve Kimber




Three Feet Above the Ground, poems by Heather Goddin.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 89 pages.  Published 28th April 2017 by Matador.  ISBN: 978-1788036-405. Email: books@troubador.co.uk £8.99


This is Heather's second collection written over 35-year timeline, recalling themes of memories and travels. Her poems are deeply heartfelt, written with a warm hand, confronting love and loss with humour, as well as quirky touch. I really delved deep into this collection and enjoyed the range of Heather's words and the beautiful way she writes and creates emotional imagery. The collection starts with the title poem Three Feet Above the Ground, which is a poem Heather first wrote in 1980.

The day we met my life began.
What went before is void.
The world became more beautiful.
A wild enchanted place.
There was a brightness in the air
I had not known before.
You opened your heart to me.
Showed me the treasures of your mind.
My heart leapt at the sight of you.
I walked three feet above the ground.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the way the poet paints her pictures, to reveal the destinations of a sometimes haunting past. I liked many of these poems after re-reading, and letting the words sink in slowly. This a poignant collection of life affirming poems with the poet sharing her journeys with the reader in a very gentle, warm atmosphere of feeling. I really enjoyed and will read Heather’s first collection soon.


They brought you to the bar today,
An old tree, rocking in the wind.
Your eyes met mine
But in your absent face your eyes were dead.
I saw that you thought you knew me
But not who I was.

Amidst the noise and clatter
I watched you secretly.
You plucked at your sleeve again and again.
Lost in your world of silence.
Divided from us all.

I found this poem deeply moving as I was a support worker some years ago supporting someone with dementia.


Review by: Neil Brooks


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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine


Edition #32 (84) September 2017


Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #32 (September 2017), please see below.




Tan Raptures, poems by Alan Morrison


You Beast, poems by Nick Lantz


Harborless - poems by Cindy Hunter Morgan


The Metropolis of Glass - poems by Chloe Lee




Tan Raptures, poems by Alan Morrison.  An A5 size paperback book with a full colour and 191 pages.  Published 2017 by Smokestack Books.  email: info@smokestack-books.co.uk and www.smokestack-books.co.uk  ISBN: 978-0-9955635-0-6   £8.99

Alan Morrison’s eighth collection is a devastating and intense indictment of recent governments’ pursuit of benefit claimants. It demonstrates how the ‘tan’ envelopes dispatched by publicly appointed agencies embody that indiscriminate pursuit.

            This deconstruction of injustice weaves itself around an intricate historical tapestry of other struggles by the poor and disenfranchised. ‘The Moving Rainbow’ retells the story of the Bryant and May matchwomen’s 1888 strike, still ‘a light against intransigent grains/ Of industrial night’. Later, ‘Going Dutch’ is a sharp satirical riff on the dismantling of welfare state funding; ‘each pays according to their means (or mains), ... the less/ their means then the less they’ll eat – or heat’.

            Fifteen ‘Tan Raptures’ provide finely-wrought portraits of contemporary despair. For instance, ‘Shut Curtains during the Day’ exposes the government’s attempts to enlist people to spy upon supposed benefit scroungers. Like the theme of ‘The Bedroom Taxidermy’, the measure betrays no understanding of how people actually live. Finally, Morrison delivers a traumatic and moving roll call of many who have died, in the aftermath of receiving one of the dreaded ‘tan’ envelopes.

            This dense and detailed book contextualizes deprivation, presenting a studied gallery of how it looks, and why it persists. While the energy behind Morrison’s writing is unique and derived from his acute sense of injustice, it never loses its humour and linguistic vitality. It’s above all narrative verse, which, with compassion, colour and extraordinary knowledge shows us the trajectory of lives that are determined and suppressed by cant and denial.

Review by: Will Daunt


You Beast, poems by Nick Lantz.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback with a full colour cover and 94 pages.  Cover design: Jeremy John Parker. Wisconsin Poetry Series, editor: Ronald Wallace. Published 2017 by University of Wisconsin Press, uwpress.wisc.edu  ISBN: 978-0-299-31174-2 $14.95  £16.50.

This is a book that makes an impression. The cover photo is of a ram in a space suit, and the comma in the title changes the meaning entirely. It's not 'you beast', it's 'you, beast'. This is book about animals, humanity's relationship with them, and theirs with us. People have been writing about animals for a long time, of course, but this collection has some 'state of the art' ideas. One of the poems is based around Google autocomplete suggestions for questions asked by others. Eg, the partial question 'will apes ever...' elicited the suggestions 'evolve', 'talk' or 'take over the world'. Google autocomplete is probably a disturbingly accurate indicator of human curiosity nowadays. Other poems reference the joys of an earlier age, Mouse Trap board games and changing the tapes of a talking teddy bear to play Public Enemy and Metallica. There's a healthy dose of scepticism throughout this book, especially about politics, and throughout the book, Lantz assigns human characteristics to animals (and vice versa). This section from 'No Illeagles Here' (sic) is a good example: 'What to do with the sickly eagles, brooding In their brownstones and double-wides? They learned compassion from the fox That flees the henhouse with bloody lips, So how can they be expected to feel What the fish feels when it's swept From the river in their bright claws?' Most of the book is in poetry, but there are some interesting diversions. Several playlets crop up among the pages, some of which are very good, and draw heavily from the symbolism that infuses the poetry. 'The Prisoner' channelled Kafka better than many attempts I'd seen elsewhere. I enjoyed this book very much. I think it did well to stick to its theme so consistently for over 90 pages.

Review by:  Andrew Barber


Harborless, poems by Cindy Hunter Morgan. An A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 63 pages.  Published 2017 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Designed and typeset by Libby Bogner, Good Don Daily. ISBN: 978-0-8143-4242-8 (paperback) and 978-0-8143-4243-5 (e-book).  £6.00.

This is a collection of poems on a theme, shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, USA. The poems are accomplished, coming from a teacher of creative writing, reinventing flashes of the experience of shipwreck and the lives of individuals affected by tragedy. A strength of the collection is Morgan’s total immersion in the experience of these long ago equals, whose hopes and dreams are as important as our own, through the daily stuff of their lives which can be very different: in “Independence, 1853” a man on a floating hay-bale relives the central place of hay in his life:

“Smelling all of central Wisconsin after rain,

something sour and musty and born

of the earth.”

Morgan shifts into a different gear when she changes form, as in “St Lawrence, 1878,” to something more experimental. Here, four stanzas of three short lines are transformed by repeating the poem four times on facing pages but blotting out most of the words, leaving different words standing starkly at each repetition. The effect is to transform the quality of the reader’s attention, investing the remaining words with power and forcing the reader to stretch their interpretation to new limits. I also admired “J. Barber, 1871,” a prose poem about peaches, dripping with sensuality. Less successful is a pantoum about a cargo of Christmas trees, which contains good lines but does not use the circularity of form to any particular advantage.

The collection is notable for fine, precise use of language and shafts of imaginative sympathy.

Review by: Eve Kimber


The Metropolis of Glass, poems by Chloe Lee.  An A5 size paperback book with a full colour cover and 90 pages.  Published 28th May, 2017 by The Book Guild Ltd.  www.bookguild.co.uk email: info@bookguild.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-911320-89-0 £7.99 

The Metropolis of Glass is a poetry collection touching on many aspects of modern-day society. It spans a range of topics, including divorce, loneliness, infidelity and poverty. This is a debut collection of poems from Chloe Lee, influenced by aspects of current society, with a particular focus on the rise and use of technology. I like the range of topics she bravely covers and believe poetry should attempt to tackle current issues. Written by an exciting young, switched-on poet, with a lot of talent, The Metropolis of Glass is a poignant and relevant read designed to make the reader think. Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear a young poet’s perspective of the world. A lot of us grew up without the internet/social media and the fast-paced society young people are required to navigate during their daily lives.  I really enjoyed this excellent collection which describes what digitisation has done, and is doing, to a whole generation, namely staring into their smart phones and taking selfies. . .


So, it was good to get an insight into the world of technology and digital thinking. I liked this collection very much.    


“Her phone lost connection


The moment the doors banged shut.
It was then she saw her.
Not under the usual circumstances,
Distracted by her phone, or
Distracted by her watch, but
Just as she was.”



“But here they sat,

In front of their only medium,

Gripping steadfastly ahead,

Prolonging whatever would be left,

Minute by minute, even

Second by second, before she

Was engulfed once again into

The void of uncertainty”


Chloe’s lee debut collection provides observations and comments on various topics, including mobile phone signals and the both positive and negative issues often displayed in social interactions. Despite its sometimes negative tone, Chloe finishes her collection with a hopeful and optimistic outlook on our techno society. Whilst researching this poet I found out this debut has been inspired by John Ruskin’s ‘The Stones of Venice.’

Review by: Neil Brooks


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Book & Booklet Reviews

Pulsar Poetry Webzine


Edition #31 (83) June 2017


Index of Reviewed Publications, Pulsar Poetry Webzine #31 (June 2017), please see below.




Post Office Poems, 2002 - 2016, by Simon Robson


Hurricane Walk, poems by Diann Blakely


Mean/Time, poems by Grace Bauer


Sisters, Cousins, and Wayward Angels, poems by David Tillinghast




Post Office Poems, 2002 – 2016, by Simon Robson. An A5 sized stapled booklet with a two-colour cover and 21 pages. Drawings by: neil-wc.  Published 2017? by Grovsenor Road Books, 172 Grovsenor Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3EJ.  No ISBN.  £1.50.


Simon Robson’s perspectives on Royal Mail employment are presented in his characteristically ‘twentieth century’ style. Here’s a homegrown, typed and self-published booklet, conversational in tone and small enough to post, like a letter...

            The format suits an irreverent and detailed exploration of Post Office life, although it’s the second - and larger - section that provides more literal narratives. In these seven poems, the frustrations of a humorous narrator characterise the workplace as chaotic and dysfunctional. Dickensian managers and union rep.’s populate the chapbook, like the ‘...grandiose/ mental midget for an inward packet/ sorting area manager’, or ‘My late shift union rep ... puckering/ licking his fat lips.../ health and safety, steel toe-caps, protective...’

            Robson pulls few punches in tackling the worst of what he’s worked with, and its unreconstructed attitudes. The image of dust expands through the final pieces, as a metaphor for something that’s beyond decay: ‘For years I’ve been inhaling/ Post Office dust .../ automatic failures, the future rise and fall,/ the levels and changes...’

            Boldly, the opening poems imagine four rock stars as Post Office workers. This generates a zany and intelligent satire of their world, and that into which they’ve been projected. Iggy Pop struggles to open sachets in the staff canteen, while Lou Reed commutes in a ‘rust bucket’, littered with peanut and biscuit debris. Meanwhile, Bowie is a model worker and Jagger ages with reasonable grace.

            Cartoon-style drawings by Neil add spice to that rare thing: a wry and coherent series of poetic workplace sketches.


Review by: Will Daunt




Hurricane Walk, poems by Diann Blakely.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full-colour cover and 64 pages. Cover photo: Nikita Petrov. Cover design: Erin Kirk New. Published 2017 by The University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA. www.ugapress.org.  ISBN: 978-0-8203-5067-7  £20.50  €24.00


It's not often that I can agree wholeheartedly with the blurb on the back of a poetry book, but when this one talks about Blakely's 'refined sense of intimacy' revealing 'the fragile essence … of the human condition', it's startlingly accurate. 'Intimate' and 'human' are certainly two words that popped into my head when I was reading this collection. There is something very human and fragile about the characters that narrate these poems, which are mostly in first person, and all from a female perspective.


This is a great collection, all the more so because it's Blakely's debut. These are well-drawn portraits of a wide range of characters. There is the puritan's wife planning to tutor her daughter away from the village, because 'this child is all mine – her fingers grasp roses and sunlight'. We get the perspective of the amateur stripper, encouraged by her husband, who's just looking forward to buying a new winter coat with her earnings. And we get the perspective of a ballerina at 80, her body having 'thickened, predictably. / It is no longer art'. I think my favourite was the narrator in 'Fever', which could have come from Kathy Bates' character notes from Misery – 'How I adored your illness! / I cuddled and coddled it, / prayed it would stay. / You became helpless, easy to love...'


These are very human characters who don't hide their flaws. There's an honesty to them that is refreshing. One cheerfully admits to being 'well-endowed with original sin'. They're not perfect, and they know it, but (probably because of this) they're usually likeable.


Review by: Andrew Barber




Mean/Time, poems by Grace Bauer.  Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full-colour cover and 78 pages. Part of the Mary Burritt Christiansen poetry series. Cover photo: The Void and the Comma, by Katie Merz.  Cover design by Lisa Tremaine.  Published 2017 by the University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. ISBN 978-0-8263-5777-9 £20.50  €24.00


Grace Bauer is an American poet with a respectable tally of publications, but until page 48 I was thinking this was not poetry I could relate to. Much of it seemed to be, as Bauer says later in “Means of Transport,”


                                “...what may pass

                        for a poem – i.e., this

                        a meandering at best

                        through a state of mind.”


The words chosen are spare, scrupulous, the states of mind usually unremarkable – a moment of impatience, or watching a sunset. In the earlier poems there is a great deal of exploration of clichés, ironic use of clichés  and wordplay around them. Bauer’s use of words is often playful, combined with thoughts on the passing of time and the loss of friends, but these are the meditations of a corner table in a coffee-shop rather than a cell in the desert. Fair enough.

Then came p48 and “Fret.” This is a poem that evokes the modern plague of anxiety, that awful feeling that, though nothing particularly bad has happened, it will, and life is suspended in dread and anticipation. Bauer evokes a picture of Noah ready for the flood, his ark full of animals, but no flood comes. The absurdity and awfulness of this state of mind is powerfully expressed, and suddenly the work came into focus for me. Later poems in the collection, such as “Dusting the Angel,” look for gaps in the everyday busyness to hear the “call to work that feels more

worth your while, the necessary angel….

makes time matter.”


Review by: Eve Kimber




Sisters, Cousins, and Wayward Angels, poems by David Tillinghast. Slightly larger than A5 size paperback book with a full-colour cover and 59 pages. Cover design by Nancy Parsons. Published 2017 by Texas Review Press, English Department, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA. ISBN: 978-1-68003-123-2   £10.95 €13.00


I enjoyed the lyricism and tender references to friends, family in this collection. These poems echo the tender verse of W. H. Auden and the authentic sentiment of Louis Simpson’s poignant “Carentan O Carentan.” Similarly, it`s a difficult task for a poet to show his capability to write of family with tenderness, capturing friendships between the snapshot of stanzas including, snakes, wolves, mermaids, ghosts, the fragility of childhood, true love – and the things that matter the most in our personal worlds – without being held to criticism of sentimentality by some petty, obsequious literary critic.


The words of David Tillinghast illuminate the genuine definition of a style of poetry. I very much enjoyed reading this book out loud to get a feel for its mystery.  I read it with a pint of cider and imagined the places over the pond in the States. “Sisters, Cousins, and Wayward Angels,” will stay with you for many days and nights, these poems have invited themselves into my consciousness.  I enjoyed reviewing this book.  I read it to some of my poetry friends and they enjoyed it very much.


This book marinates in my thoughts for days and days. Anyway, it's a shame that there are not many full reviews. Surely someone, other than me, could capture the essence of these poems, maybe a reading audio file on YouTube.  I hope this review is fitting for these wonderful words.  Tillinghast has a fascination with nature and the beauty of friendships, family, and the strength of women, and the woods and trees seem to re-occur in many of his poems. Extracts below:




She doesn't wear a coat,


Goes barefoot in the winter,


I think she must achieve


Symphony from setting.


She cocks her head and whips

Her hip out like a knife--





My sister and I dwell in the lost
Gray nowhere of this October
Afternoon watching the slender
Water oak leaves twirl down
From their parents. She says
The leaves become inspired when
They hit the ground. She thinks
The little leaves dig in and sift
Through the earth like wee eels,
And when they reach the ninth
Level switch into swirly
Serpents on vacation to visit
Their country cousins in Hades.


Review by: Neil Brooks


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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.




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.




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




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




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.




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




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




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:




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.




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.




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




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




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




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




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




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


            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




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




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




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




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




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




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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