News! Happy, happy news!

My queen poems are going to be published by EYEWEAR next year….how brilliant is that?! I am so pleased I did a happy little dance! This collection means so much to me and I am looking forward to working with Todd Swift during the editing process, something I am interested in finding out about because this is my first collection! Now you can understand my excitement!

The poems loosely use the poetry from the relevant period to give the experience of moving through different poetic styles as well as the changing role of a queen/consort. Some poems are instantly recognisable as they mimic a familiar form; others are free verse or epistle. The aim was always to give each queen/consort a voice and capture the feeling of the historical period. This quote by Susan Howe highlights what I was aiming to do with the poems as I was writing them: ‘I wish I could tenderly lift from the dark side of history, voices that are anonymous, slighted-inarticulate.’

queens

Verily,
I swear, ’tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perk’d up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow.

King Henry VIII Act II Scene III

Be[yond] by Sarah James

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‘Snow is not a kind of water. Mostly it is cruel.’ Beyond Melting by Sarah James

I have to admit bias with this collection. Sarah is a close friend of mine so I cannot read this book without hearing her voice and remembering our conversations. It makes it more dear to me than a normal collection because I watched her through the process of writing it and getting it published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press.

The three sections of this collection – Against Air and Water, Through the Ether and From Earth and Fire – guide readers past the beaches of Birmingham, through meditations on water, a dreamworld strangeness, mezzanine memories of France, defamiliarised cityscapes and gorse wildlands to the edges of everyday life, love and language.

My favorite part of the book is the first section. The poems all focus on water and have a cool, almost scientific atmosphere that belies the waves of emotion crashing within each poem. Each poem has a wonderful quality I would describe as without/within. The narrator seems to stand outside the poem calmly describing each carefully constructed image and idea and then with a whoosh the emotion brings the reader inside, within the heart of the poem almost with a sharp slap of cold water.

beyond

apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist

ingerchristensen

I read books all the time. Any books. If there is nothing else available I will read a car manual. I just like to read. Any words will do I guess, but I love reading poetry. It satisfies my soul. Of course, some books become favourites. Alphabet by Inger Christensen (translated by Susanna Nied) is one of mine. I read it whenever I feel low. Something about the poems lifts my spirit despite it being about ecological disaster and outrage against that destruction. The part that stands out to me is the exact descriptions of the beauty of nature and the feeling created by the mathematical framework. The repetition and the growth of the sections has a meditative feel to it that soothes me as I read it. The sequence lists nature’s glory and the things that destroy it. It is a both stunning and startling. It is a systematic poem, in which each of the fourteen sections of the poem is tied to a letter of the alphabet and the number of lines found in each section is dictated by the Fibonacci sequence. (The first section, “A”, has one line. The last section, “N”, has 600).

alphabet (excerpt)

The Dreaded Boy

I really like small pamphlets. They fit in a pocket and can be taken to read when you have a spare moment. The Dreaded Boy by Antony R Owen is a good example of a well-made pamphlet. It has striking font and colour; black, white, egg-yellow and blood-red throughout. Each page has a faint water-mark evoking a passport and the poems certainly take the reader on a journey through modern war-zones.

I have heard Antony R Owen read from this pamphlet and his manner and tone is direct and unapologetic: the poems are upsetting but you will listen to them because this is important. The poems are unflinching in that they don’t shy away from things so often unpalatable; children in war zones, the death of a soldier son in war, the grief that remains. Owen looks at both the soldiers and civilians dealing with the aftermath. He is passionately incensed about the atrocity and injustice of warfare yet the poems are not emotional, they feel like accurate reports from a truthful correspondent. It is upsetting to read, however I think that is an essential part of war poetry. To remind the reader of what the reality of it all is. (My feeling is the reality of it all is grief.)

dreadedboy

The poems are so good, so vibrant, filled with cunning metaphors that pounce on the reader.  I know they are expertly crafted because the images have stayed with me for days after I read them. Such vivid expressions of the horror and pain of war.

From Eggs

In Gaza the swallows are chirping from bullet holes.

They make their nests with jettison-

cardboard, cotton, human hair.

This pamphlet can be brought for only £2 (!) from Pighog press. I think everyone should read it because Antony R Owen is a war poet in the same tradition as past poets who expressed screams of outrage through their words about the futility of it all, only Owen is looking with  keen eyes at the wars happening right now around the world. Our stupid, bloodthirsty, terrible, beautiful world.

Right to the heart of motherhood and loss.

etter

I got both of these books on the same day and I met both of the poets on another same day. Perhaps that is why these two books are linked together in my mind. They are both astonishingly well written. They both made me cry. They both made me think about my own version of loss.The poems led me to a door I don’t open very often, one I have tried to write about but find I can’t. Not yet anyway.

‘The pain of nursing and losing a sick baby inspired the poet to write a collection which has earned her a place on the Forward poetry prize shortlist.’

Rebecca Goss writes in a very clear way; I almost felt like the stunning poems were medical notes as I read them. Not that the poems are devoid of emotion, quite the opposite. The poems are raw, tender and precisely detailed. Careful in the sense that they must be written right, the memory must be preserved accurately like a flower pressed between the pages of a hardback book captures the memory of summer. They are heartbreaking to read but always the life itself shines through, not the death. That and the mother’s steadfast courage and love.

Print

We have her prints.
Hands and feet, pencil grey,
as if they stood her in soot.
A nurse lifted her palms
then soles to the paper.
Underneath, wrote her name,
the date. I wanted her handprint
to come home on sugar paper:
bright yellow, ready for the fridge.
Months later, the sun picked out
her paw on the pane, each tip,
tiny as peas. I peered close,
nose almost touching my fossil,
backlit on the glass.
“Print”  Her Birth by Rebecca Goss (Carcanet, 2013)

flowers

‘In Imagined Sons  Carrie Etter has written a book of vivid, heartbreaking poems on the experience of giving up a child for adoption. A prize-winning author, lecturer, critic and popular blogger, Etter imagines the possible destinies for the child and presents us with various scenarios from the tragic to the absurd.’

Carrie Etter uses the catechism form to answer the questions so often casually thrown to women who give up a child for adoption. Between these poems are a series of Imagined Son poems. Each one imagining a meeting with the man he might now be. A glimpse, a conversation, different points of his life. Like dreams they begin unexpectedly in a new setting and end without reunion. It is very unsettling and emotional to read, but like any good book I could not stop, wanting to read another vivid scene. Etter shows the complexity of it all: nothing is simple or black and white. Longing is presented next to reason, emotion next to logic. It is this rich layering that makes the poems so brilliant in my opinion.

My favourite poem from Imagined Sons 13: The Woodcutter

carrieetter