It's raining poets! Sheltering at Tynemouth's Under the Arches

Maybe it was because the rain had stopped. It had been tipping it down for most of the day, and Under the Arches organiser Penny Blackburn had been anticipating a reduced turnout. Not a bit of it! The venue at Alfie and Fin’s bar in Tynemouth was bulging at the seams when we arrived, not long before kick-off time. So much so, that one or two of those who had already signed up for the open-mic agre...

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Review

The Illustrated Woman: Helen Mort, Chatto

In The Illustrated Woman Helen Mort guides us the through a roadmap of the body, its personal and political journeys, from adolescence to motherhood, to constructions of identity that question and shatter what has been expected of women throughout the ages. And as she raises questions, she proffers ...

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Possibly a Pomegranate: Alwyn Marriage, Palewell Press

Alwyn Marriage’s latest collection is a comprehensive and thoughtful overview that celebrates womankind in personal, evocative stories and via literary and historical characters; it also considers the...

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A Pocketful of Chalk: Claire Booker, Arachne Press

I emerged from Claire Booker’s A Pocketful of Chalk refreshed, as if from a journey across the downs and cliff-tops that she so clearly loves. In my reading I had accompanied the poet as she melded wi...

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Sushi, or chips? Poet charts complicated relationship with Japan

In 2017 Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana signed up for an MA – and began writing poetry. Five years on, she has published a collection of her poems, and on Friday night launched Sing me down from the dark a...

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The House Where Courage Lives: Maggie Sawkins, Waterloo Press

Maggie Sawkins won the Ted Hughes award for innovation with her live literature production Zones of Avoidance in 2013. But although she is a widely published poet, and is also recognised for her work ...

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The Two Dylans: KG Miles and Jeff Towns, McNidder & Grace

This is a book about connections, some fleeting and tenuous, others less so, between Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas. Given that these two cultural icons never met each other (Dylan Thomas died in 1953), t...

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Time Matters: Julie Anne Gilligan, Dempsey & Windle

Born and brought up in south-east London, Julie Anne Gilligan has lived in Essex for the past 35 years. Time Matters is her second collection of poems, following The Thickness of Blood (2012). She hol...

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Ultrasilence: John Darwin, Flapjack Press

John Darwin’s poetry is crafted and lyrical, and admirably economical:  it doesn‘t hang about, cuts quickly to the chase. You can hear the music of not-fooled urban poetry in ‘Slim’: “By the shop of b...

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It’s Honorary, Bab: Emma Purshouse, Offa’s Press

This book comes with a health warning. Wolverhampton’s legendary ‘man on the oss’, aka Prince Albert, is wearing a face mask and so is his horse. Both of them look alarmed. Perhaps they should be beca...

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Review

The Presence and the Dream: edited by Serena Trowbridge and Sarah Doyle

The Pre-Raphaelites are a beloved part of this country’s cultural fabric. And so an anthology of a decade of the Pre-Raphaelite Society poetry prize is not such a niche product as it might first appea...

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Mourning for Ukraine: how poets tried to make sense of lives lost

When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, a number of UK poetry groups and organisations reacted with heartfelt events and initiatives in protest and sympathy. One was a group based in Teddin...

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Woodview: Robert Garnham, Beatnpress

Robert Garnham is a spoken word artist who performs his comedy poetry at fringes and festivals around the UK. He writes for the Herald Express newspaper, edits the online magazine Spilling Cocoa Over ...

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Trauma and humour: the two sides of Martin Figura

There is a serious side to the poet Martin Figura. Quite serious. It was revealed during the first half of his set at Poetry Performance in Teddington on Sunday night, when he read the title poem, ‘My...

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The Metal Exchange: David Cooke, Littoral Press

A poet should always be curious, alive to the world in all its aspects, and David Cooke certainly is. I have also always regarded him as a practical, no-nonsense poet; one of his interests is in how t...

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Emptying Houses: Gerald Killingworth, Dempsey & Windle

Novelist, poet and playwright Gerald Killingworth studied English at Cambridge and was an English teacher for much of his career. His four years teaching English in Athens inspired him to write a play...

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Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic: Sarah James, Verve Poetry Press

I’m a sucker for a rock reference in poetry and Sarah James’s playful borrowing of the title of a classic rock album for the title of her collection is a masterstroke. Not only is it playful for the f...

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The English Summer: Holly Hopkins, Penned in the Margins

The English Summer by Holly Hopkins bears little resemblance to those summers we’ve loved and loathed over the years, from the wash-out holidays at the seasides of our youth to the never-ending summer...

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Honorifics: Cynthia Miller, Nine Arches Press

Born in Kuching, Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, festival producer and innovation consultant living in Edinburgh. Her poems have been published widely both at home and abroad. Honorifics ...

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A Fire Shared: Peter Didsbury, Legal Highs Press

I came to know about this book through the ever-excellent series of close readings of poems that Carol Rumens posts for the Guardian. The poem by Didsbury she looked at was the eponymous ‘A Fire Share...

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The Cat Comes and with her the Garden: Brit Shneuer

Brit Shneuer’s self-published collection is an intimate journey through nature in which the poet explores, meditates on and finds her inner voice as she connects with the environment. It is a multi-fa...

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The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh, Raine Geoghegan, Salmon

Sometimes a collection arrives where a reviewer’s task is not so much to seek out and analyse the way the poetry is crafted, but more importantly, to recognise the significance of the subject matter, ...

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Review

The Citizen and the making of City: Roy Fisher, Bloodaxe

To many of his readers, the work of the late Roy Fisher will always be synonymous with Birmingham. The city consumed him and his fascination with it became a magnet for his writing. Reading his work m...

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Review

The Plumb Line: Hélène Demetriades, Hedgehog

The Plumb Line by Hélène Demetriades is presented in three parts: ‘Beginnings’ in which the poet shares her troubled childhood, from the ever present “ogre” of her father, to the veritable prison of b...

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Review

A Triptych of Birds & a Few Loose Feathers: Pratibha Castle, Hedgehog

The title of this impressive debut pamphlet collection is delightful, if a little misleading. Although the first poem features long-tailed tits, and other birds, including blackbirds, sparrows, and cr...

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Review

In the simmer dim: Barbara Cumbers, Dempsey & Windle

I’ve always wanted to go to Shetland. Geologist Barbara Cumbers spent a month’s residency there in 2017, and has visited the islands on several other occasions. Reading her pamphlet In the summer dim ...

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Review

The Telling: Julia Webb, Nine Arches Press

In Julia Webb’s third poetry collection she examines the complexities of familial relationships, between children and parents and vice versa, and others we closely co-exist with as lovers. It’s a tell...

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Grace Nichols and John Agard bring messages from the Caribbean to Chichester

You might as well describe them as poetry royalty. Wife and husband Grace Nichols and John Agard – both recipients of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry – were the two headliners at the Poetry & Jazz C...

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The poetry of things, and of people, too: reunion of the Troubadour crowd at festival book launch

A live gathering of old poetry friends took place for the first time in well over two years on Monday night, when regulars of Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour met once more, this time at a church...

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Rewriting Shakespeare: poet aims to set record straight on Richard

Has Richard III received a relentlessly bad press over many centuries? And is our most revered of English writers, William Shakespeare, largely to blame? Poet Imogen McHugh certainly thinks so.

Lau...

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The Battle: Antony Owen, Knives Forks and Spoons Press

In this authentic and deeply moving poetry pamphlet, Antony Owen lays down a battle with mental health, ranging from diagnoses and suicide, to the effects depression has on one’s sex life, to line man...

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A moorland beacon: animated prose-poem documents the seasons of Winter Hill

As a child in 1950s Oldham, Winter Hill was just a name we saw on the TV test card, that of a tall tower somewhere near Bolton transmitting a new station called Granada. It being ITV, thus carrying ‘c...

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Now hear the words of the bards: Bamburgh's Anglo-Saxon bones inspire poets

Northumberland’s rich heritage, and what is termed its ‘Golden Age’, were glimpsed at a remarkable poetry reading below the magnificent and imposing Bamburgh castle on the North Sea coast on Friday ni...

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Review

What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective: eds. Lisa Kelly, Sophie Stone, Arachne Press

This first week of May has been Deaf Awareness Week and this past year has seen Deafness and the Deaf community attract a lot of positive media attention. What a good time to read and reflect on this ...

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Review

The Country With No Playgrounds: Elena Croitoru, Live Canon

Prize-winning poet Elena Croitoru is a British-Romanian writer based in Kent. She holds an MSt (Master of Studies) in creative writing from the University of Cambridge and is a writer of poetry, novel...

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There: Clare Morris and Nigel Bird, TQ

The poet and writer Clare Morris works in collaboration with the artist Nigel Bird in this engaging and interesting pamphlet. Their works not only interweave and enhance each other but also aim to sup...

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Review

Elgar Country: Peter Sutton, Black Pear Press

Poet, playwright and translator Peter Sutton is a frequent reader at poetry events in the West Midlands and beyond. His alliterative verse translation of Langland’s 7,500-line medieval poem Piers Plow...

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Review

They Race Me In The Streets: Shaun Fallows, Lulu

The title poem of Shaun Fallows’s second collection is uplifting and full of love. It tells how Fallows, a wheelchair user who has cerebral palsy, is surrounded by youngsters in the street who admire ...

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Review

Chintz: Leela Soma, Dreich

This pamphlet by Leela Soma breaks new ground with its multicultural layers, at the threshold between India and Scotland. The two cultures sometimes merge but at other times clash. Soma’s literary wor...

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Review

The Columbus Memoirs and Other Tales: Nick Toczek and Signia Alpha, Mutiny 2000

This 120-page book contains the 19 lyrics/poems of the three albums released by the poet Nick Toczek with the band Signia Alpha led by Matt Webster. The first half is concerned with the words and is w...

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Review

Smudge: Dominic James, Littoral Press

The title poem of Smudge by Dominic James refers to the mark left on glass when a face is pressed against a window. It’s an image of distance, even loneliness, and perhaps a keynote image for this col...

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The Blockade Swallow: Olga Berggolts, tr Veniamin Gushchin, Smokestack

Olga Berggolts was a Soviet poet, playwright and journalist, who broadcast daily on Leningrad radio during the three-year Nazi blockade of the city. One and a half million people starved to death duri...

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Review

Shaking the Persimmon Tree: Marc Woodward, Sea Crow Press

Born in New York, Marc Woodward has been a lifelong resident of rural England. He is the author of three previous collections of poetry, A Fright of Jays (Maquette, 2015), Hide Songs (Green Bottle Pre...

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Review

How To Be A Dressing Gown: Charlotte Oliver, Dreich

A surreal world and a strong sense of identity are depicted in How To Be A Dressing Gown, Charlotte Oliver’s debut pamphlet. Her poems evolve with vivid imagery where a clear voice transports the read...

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Review

Sicilian Elephants: David Cooke, Two Rivers Press

The subjects and areas covered in David Cooke’s latest collection are many and varied as he invites us to go on a quest with him through history. Several poems are set in Mediterranean countries, espe...

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Review

Count the Ways: Finola Scott, Dreich

Finola Scott’s poems develop the idea of what it is like to experience the world through the senses and profoundly felt sensations. A sense of hope and optimism that arises from people meeting each ot...

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Review

Farewell Performance: Vernon Scannell, Smokestack

Vernon Scannell was at one time a professional boxer. He also twice deserted from the army during the second world war, and was twice court-martialled as a result. Yet these later collected poems show...

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Review

We Have to Leave the Earth: Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Seren

Bearing witness to environmental issues that interweave with our vulnerable and imperfect human condition is the reflection that Carolyn Jess-Cooke develops in her poems.

The collection is divided ...

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Review

Seasons of Damage and Beauty: Paul Surman, Dempsey & Windle

Oxford-based poet Paul Surman has written poetry since he was a teenager but did not make any serious move to get his work published until he retired early in 2004. His work has appeared in numerous m...

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Review

Love & Other Fairy Tales: Adam Horovitz, Indigo Dreams

Last year the poet Adam Horovitz published his latest collection. It was also the year when he lost his father, the legendary Michael Horovitz, at the age of 86.

There is a poignant poem about Mich...

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Review

Paperfolders: Chris Hemingway, Indigo Dreams

Poet and songwriter Chris Hemingway was born in Mansfield, studied in Leeds and Manchester, and now lives and works in Gloucestershire. His debut pamphlet Party in the Diaryhouse (Picaroon Poetry) was...

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Review

Mollusc: Mark Totterdell, The High Window

Mark Totterdell was born and brought up in rural Somerset and now lives in Exeter where he works as a copywriter. His first collection, This Patter of Traces was published by Oversteps Books in 2014. ...

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Review

Love Algorithm: Eleni Cay, Black Spring Press

Eleni Cay is a Slovakian-born poet living in England and Norway, and writes in a number of languages. She has published one previous full collection, and three pamphlets.

You might say that her lan...

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