Poetry review – Of Love and Hope

Of Love and Hope coverFewer subjects seem to inspire more poetry than the thorny topic of love, so it takes a lot for one book of love poems to jump out from the pile. Of Love and Hope does it rather beautifully though, without shouting for attention, but simply by being spilling over with thoughtful, evocative words.

The fact that this poetry anthology is sold in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Care certainly helps. Nothing assuages the guilt of paying out for yet another book (when your shelves are already packed with unread ones) like knowing the proceeds go to a good cause.

Plus you really are likely to read this one. Editor Deborah Gaye has brought together a carefully selected array of poems that twist, flip and sigh their way into your emotions.

The poets who contributed to the anthology are truly top-notch, counting among their number Seamus Heaney, Wendy Cope, Carol Ann Duffy, Victoria Wood, Arthur Smith, Sir Paul McCartney, Roger McGough, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch and Margaret Atwood. An impressive guest-list! Continue reading

Strays, a small poem

Woman preparing pineapple, Borneo cr Judy DarleyA small poem of mine, Strays,  has been published in the current issue of Literary Bohemian, one of the most beautiful online publications of travellers’ tales that I know.

The poem appears in Issue 22 – Something About Water, although my ode is entirely earthy (it is set on an island, but a sizeable one) – curious when so many of my poems and stories are water-themed and inspired. As the editors comment, the issue is mostly about water, but also about sex and war. I think my poem encompasses both of the latter in a small way.

There are some wonderful reads in the issue, so do have a browse. I’m particularly taken with Ariana Nadia Nash’s The Pond. It holds the depths of a novel in just four brief, beautiful paragraphs. Impressive.

You can read Strays here. I’ll warn you, it isn’t one of my prettiest. I wrote it during an extraordinary trip to Borneo. The lady pictured here features in the poem, though I’m happy to say she doesn’t have a starring role.

Travel, landscape and poetry

La Laguna de la Janda cr Joanna Butler

La Laguna de la Janda © Joanna Butler

This week’s guest post comes from Joanna Butler, and weaves together poetry, photography and a small, very personal travelogue in an homage to journeys, landscapes and words.

“The world is already split open, and it is in our destiny to heal it, each in our own way, each in our own time, with the gifts that are ours.”

From When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

In October 2014, I took a trip to Medina Sidonia in Andalucia. During the trip, I attended a Gnosis of the Land seminar, which included visits to the Neolithic cave and rock art of the region, to La Laguna de la Janda, lessons about native wildlife, and cosmological studies.

After the course, I stayed on to explore Vejer de la Frontera, a labyrinthine Spanish hilltop town and municipality in the province of Cadiz, on the right bank of the river Barbate. This was a travel trip, an art trip, yes. But it was also something else. Continue reading

Become a Faber New Poet

Victoria Park cr Judy DarleyIf you’re making headway with your poetry writing, but are yet to publish a first collection or pamphlet, now’s your chance to make that happen.

In partnership with Arts Council England, Faber and Faber is inviting submissions for the 2014-15 Faber New Poets scheme. You have until 30 January 2015 to get your submission to them.

They say: “Faber New Poets exists to encourage new writers at a crucial point in their career. Open to those who have yet to publish a first collection or pamphlet, the scheme offers mentoring, pamphlet publication and financial support.”

If you feel like you would benefit from this, and that your poetry is already gaining substance and momentum, why not apply. There are four place available to poets keen to develop their work.

Manuscripts should meet the following guidelines

• 16 A4 pages of poems
• Set in 12pt Times New Roman or similar, and spaced at 1.5 lines
• Each new poem to be started on a new page

Your submission should be emailed to fnp@faber.co.uk and must be accompanied by a separate cover sheet including contact details and confirmation that you have yet to publish a single-authored volume of poems either in pamphlet or full-collection form.

Submissions may not be agented. Manuscripts must be received on or before 30th January 2015.

The successful candidates will be announced in Spring 2015.

Previous beneficiaries of the scheme include Fiona Benson, Heather Phillipson, Joe Dunthorne, Sam Riviere, Rachael Allen and Zaffar Kunial.

It’s an exciting opportunity, offering the chance to have your talent nurtured and brought to the public’s attention.

Find full details at www.faber.co.uk/blog/faber-new-poets-2014-15/

Let them read poetry!

OverTheHillsAndFarAwayBuying gifts for other people’s children is never an easy task. Is that big plastic dinosaur really going to keep them enthralled pass Boxing Day? Why not buy them a poetry collection instead? There are plenty out there especially written for children, fun for adults too, and, brilliantly, they won’t take up space in the toybox!

Here are three that have caught my eye.

My Life As A Goldfish coverMy Life as a Goldfish by Rachel Rooney

This comical cover of this collection belies the thought-provoking poems within.

In Wide Open we’re shown the inside of unbroken eggs, the moon and stars and even told of the wide open eye of the title that “yesterday it spied on your nightmares/and tomorrow it will spy on your dreams.” This poem manages to encompasse all the wonder our universe contains – impressive in only a few lines. Elsewhere in the collection a wolf girl laps hot pea soup from a bowl, a lie slithers into a school bag, and we experience mundanity and drama of the world from a goldfish’s point of view.

One of my favourites is Stone, three elegant couplets that begin: “Stone remembers sea: its salty lap./ Sea remembers river’s winding map.”

There’s plenty of humour too, including Rooney’s witty limericks and riddles, a helpful advice poem (“never ask a hippo/ for a friendly game of squash”) and a lonely hearts advert from a wolf seeking “lady in red/ with plump and soft skin/ to share walks in the forest/ and cosy nights in.”

Werewolf Club RulesWerewolf Club Rules
by Joseph Coelho

At first glance, performance poet Coelho’s verses form a lighter, shallower collection. In fact, as you sink into works like Miss Flotsam you’ll suddenly realise you’re swimming through waters packed with life. Coelho weaves in a view of the world that will help children make sense of atrocities without soaking in their terrors. miss Flotsam is a hero who helps her pupils through some of life’s frightening moments without letting them know quite that’s what she’s doing – and Coelho shares her skill.

There are celebrations of food, of pets (particularly puppies) nature and education (even though in the  An A* From Miss Coo there’s a humorous yet alarming examination of the dangers of being ‘taught’ to write poetry).

Among the wealth of stories, imagery and ideas, there are occasional blips. In Wool the poet suggests sheep are skinned to make jumpers, which seems an odd oversight to publish in a book for children. Other than this, the riches are many, with plenty to make kids laugh aloud (I know my five-year-old nephew will love Animal Boy, and enough depth to enthral older children and adults too.

Over the Hills and Far Away collected by Elizabeth Hammill

This hardback, beautifully illustrated book is a rather different beast. Bringing together nursery rhymes gathered from across the English-speaking world, it’s the kind of tome you give as an heirloom gift, to be treasured by generations of children, parents, grandparents (not to mention uncles and aunts!). The book has been devised and put together by Elizabeth Hammill – co-founder of the marvellous Seven Stories in Newcastle.

As a writer, I was intrigued to read the different versions of familiar rhymes (in Australia, for instance, Little Miss Muffet faces up to a boxing kangaroo and a wombat – perhaps Australasian spiders would give little ones nightmares!), while absorbing poems from as far afield as Ghana and New Zealand and rediscovering some half-forgotten favourites.

Children will enjoy vivid poem tales from Jamaican, Inuit and Maori cultures, while eating up the energy-packed artwork – it’s just a shame it isn’t made clearer which of the 77 artists illustrated each nursery rhyme – this would have added a further dimension of pleasure for me.

To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Poetry review – Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

hold-your-own coverTaking the myth of the blind prophet Tiresias, Tempest sets out her own thoughts about identity, love, sexuality and growing up, and sets them alight.

Tempest is no newcomer to the UK’s poetry scene. A regular at London’s rap battles from the age of 16 (she’s now 28), her work has since expanded and shifted poetry-wards with performances at London lit night Bookslam, before taking Wasted, and then the award-winning spoken word performance Brand New Ancients on the road, and across the Atlantic. Oh, and this year her first album, Everybody Down, was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Kate’s goal, you might agree, is self-expression by any and every means possible.

She self-published her first poetry collection Everything Speaks In Its Own Way before coming to the attention of Picador, who have brought out her coming of age collection stapled to the tale of the gender-shifting prophet. Continue reading

Cox – a small poem

Cox apple cr Judy DarleyDid you know that today, October 21st 2014, is World Apple Day? Created to celebrate the riches and variety offered up by British orchards, it’s the perfect excuse to bite deep, crunch loudly and allow sweet juices to spill over your lips and run down your chin. Bliss!

To mark this day I’ve written a small, slightly sensual, somewhat sinister poem that tweeters on the brink of being a haiku.

With your knife I slice
it quite in half, revealing seeds
that resemble tears.

Poetry review – Beautiful Girls by Melissa Lee-Houghton

beautiful girls coverHalf truth, half dare, Melissa Lee-Houghton’s second collection, Beautiful Girls, carries you through a landscape of secure hospitals, red light districts and bedrooms where little sleep seems to happen, through adolescent yearnings, childhood dread and adult regrets piled together in a disconcerting, fragile heap that seems likely to topple over at the slightest pressure.

Sinister undertones give way to outright panic, and Lee-Houghton unflinchingly casts grenades in our midst, strewn with lines so tightly wound they may well explode.

In Jade, the opening lines can refer to nothing good: “They called me at three o’clock in the afternoon to tell me/ you’d no longer be able to call me at three o’clock in the morning”.

Couplets like these bound from poem to poem, each so original I want to copy them down, savour their sly promises. (In Sundown by the Abattoir, “Nobody trusts a blue sky./ I am too good to be true and you are too good to be true.” Irresistibly damning.)

Continue reading

Theatre review – The Shipwrecked House

The Shipwrecked House cr photographer Josh Redman3How do you turn a poetry collection into a stage show? If you’re Claire Trévien, it seems, with incredible poise and power.

The collection behind Claire’s touring show is The Shipwrecked house (read my review of that here). When I learnt that Claire was taking the poems on the road in dramatic form, I was agog to find out how she would transform it for the stage. And I was far from disappointed with the results.

The Shipwrecked House cr photographer Josh Redman2

The Cube is definitely one of Bristol’s quirkier venues. Entirely volunteer run, it has, in the most charming way, a curious sense of being a bit of flotsam washed up by storms itself. As we entered the building and waited to enter the theatre space, we heard piped recordings of seabirds lilting overhead. An atmospheric start!

Laid out with a set comprising ropes, nets, buckets and buoys, the play opens as Claire stumbles through an old familiar home by torchlight, where memories sit shrouded by tarpaulins and old suitcases contain unexpected treasures (some of which may make you jump). Water drips resonantly, and Claire exhales the words of her poems supplemented by sparing quantities of recordings in English and French, plus the sounds of the elements, as a storm closes in.

The Shipwrecked House cr photographer Josh Redman

There are whispers of a blissful childhood, opening shop on an imagined café where the pudding may have “crawled away, but we have seeds/if you wish”, and heart-aching memories of a grandmother, whose “house is dragged apart by the fractures/of your smiles – the thought of its absence echoes.”

Visually, this is a stunning, atmospheric creation conjuring up hints and imaginings where a suitcase can reveal hoarded shells, or tiny coloured bulbs ablaze. Trévien steps nimbly through it all, spilling into grief, nostalgia, humour and charm with apparent ease. Both poet and performer, she uses every inch of stage and prop with an explorer’s hunger, rediscovering her own stories so we can share in them with her.

The Shipwrecked House cr photographer Josh Redman1

Both sound and light are orchestrated by Penned in the Margins publisher and director Tom Chivers, presenting an ocean of a play, with tides and waves, moments of stillness, and beauty by the bucket-load.

And yes, there are whales, “making the hinges rock,/ splitting cups and cheeks./ Stray socks melted in their comb-mouths”, reminding us of the strength of things unseen but suspected.

Find tour details for The Shipwrecked House here.

All images in this post are by photographer Josh Redman.

To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.