Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Two poetry bloggers on their fathers

Two of my favourite poetry bloggers have written exquisitely about their fathers in the last couple of months. Both tell us something of their respective family histories, complemented by one of their own poems. The stories and contexts might be very different, but each blogger offers their readers a moving poetic achievement. You can read Martyn Crucefix's post here and Liz Lefroy's piece here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The price of poetry

- Two pints of bitter and two packets of crisps down The Bell
- a solitary trip to the cinema on Saturday
- off-peak ten-pin bowling for two
- a round of mini-golf for two down the park
- half a ticket to watch Aldershot Town vs Torquay United
- half a bad seat for a show at Chichester Festival Theatre

All these cost me as much (or as little) as a full collection...

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A sense of otherness, Gram Joel Davies' Bolt Down This Earth

A well produced and written first collection from an emerging publisher always represents an enticing prospect, and Gram Joel Davies’ Bolt Down This Earth (V. Press, 2017) is no exception.

Davies’ poetry relishes a sense of otherness which unsettles at first. At certain moments, conjunctions, prepositions or articles are suppressed, contractions avoided, nouns turned into verbs, everything often wrapped in the aural effect of repeated vowels. This means that the reader initially has to feel a way through these poems as if sight were blurred. However, as we get to grips with Davies’ idiosyncratic use of language, the consequence is that a perspective is eventually revealed afresh, brighter and more vivid than we could have expected.

One such example occurs in the closing lines of “The Plan”:

“…while you and I, at four a.m.,
thunder with the bedstead on the wall,

a bolt will plunge the flower bed,
the headland bitten like a scone,

and we’ll crescendo to the ocean floor –
ride the rocksled through a whooping storm.”

This extract provides two instances of nouns being converted into verbs – “thunder” and “crescendo”, while the reader would also conventionally expect a preposition after the verb “plunge”. Moreover, there’s an edgy, constant, almost enervating repetition of one vowel sound, “…bedstead…bed…headland…crescendo…”, all topped off by the inventive “rocksled” and complemented by a risky simile “like a scone” that pulls off its effect by evoking the crumbling texture and chalky appearance of the headland in question.

It does take a while for the reader to come to terms with Gram Joel Davies’ poetry, as if having to get used to a new dialect of an already-learnt language. Nevertheless, Bolt Down This Earth shows that the effort is worthwhile. Davies’ sonorous, surprising and jolting narratives are coherent, cohesive and highly unusual. They’ll challenge your expectations.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Under the Radar Issue 19

I'm very pleased to report that I have a poem in Issue 19 of Under the Radar, Nine Arches Press' flagship magazine. It's the third time I've featured in this journal (I was even in Issue One!), which continues to go from strength to strength. You can get hold of a copy for yourself here.

Friday, 21 July 2017

New Walk, the evolution from magazine to pamphlets

The disappearance of an excellent print-based journal (such as The Next Review a few months ago) is almost always to be lamented. However, New Walk's recent announcement presents us with a very different scenario, as their closure of the magazine is not an ending but an evolution toward pamphlet publishing. Moreover, this shift maintains their subscription model. In other words, instead of getting a copy of each issue of the mag, subscribers will now receive two pamphlets every six months.

New Walk's first batch of chapbooks are by John Mole and Zayneb Allak. If the production and editorial values of the journal are anything to go by, these pamphlets will be terrific to read. You can get hold of them by following this link

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A love for words, Will Harris' All This Is Implied

Will Harris writes beautifully. Every line of his prose (as can be on his excellent blog) and poetry portrays the intense nature of his relationship with language. At times he plays with words, at others he argues with them. Sometimes he savours their touch, sometimes he pokes fun. Deep down, he just loves them.

Many critics will rightly pick up on his mixed-race heritage and knack for a limpid narrative, combined with his ambiguous sense of home and belonging. However, his love for words, running throughout his first pamphlet, All This Is Implied (HappenStance Press, 2017), is what marks Harris out as a poet on the rise who understands profoundly a fundamental aspect of his art.

It’s all very well to make such statements, but evidence is required to back them up. Here’s an example, taken from “Mother’s Country”, one of the pamphlet’s pivotal poems in thematic terms but also a significant display of poetic dexterity, as is shown by the closing lines:

“…After years of her urging
me to go, me holding back,
I have no more excuses.”

Harris’ placement of “me holding back” is exquisite. It means that the sentence’s main verb and clause are also held back, grammar mirroring semantics, while its delicate repetition of the pronoun heightens tension before delivering the poem’s final, explosive line.

Another important quality of this extract is that it it achieves its aims without any obvious fireworks or flashiness. No allusions, no startling images are required. It shows us a poet with a delicate feel for the flow of language.

Of course, there are inevitable missed steps at certain moments in the pamphlet. For instance, when straining for effect, Harris tends towards a linguistic tic of forming clumps of three consecutive stressed syllables, as in:

“…But what
forgotten harms grow spores
unseen?...”

In this case, “harms grow spores” makes things unnecessarily awkward for the reader.

Nevertheless, or maybe even as a consequence of these tiny imperfections among such delicious mouthfuls, All This Is Implied remains a joy. Above all, it’s a terrific introduction to a poet who’s sure to build a strong reputation in U.K. poetry over the coming years.  

Friday, 7 July 2017

Snippets and Snapshots V

"With a synchronised swivelling of necks
and a coughed silence, they welcome me in,
wincing as I order. Once I've sat down,
a soft hubbub resumes..."

from "Twenty Years Apart", The Knives of Villalejo (Eyewear Publishing, 2017)