Six Bad Poets: Christopher Reid, Faber & Faber

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Go to a gathering in poetry's metropolis, and it’s surprising how often you spot Christopher Reid there. Now there appears one possible explanation for his ubiquity: all the time he was gathering comic material for his rollicking narrative poem, Six Bad Poets.

I feared that I might not appreciate this book, on the grounds it would amount to a knowing insider’s tale of London poetry goings-on, f...

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On Euclid Avenue: J Fergus Evans, Flapjack Press

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The Manchester poetry scene has been enriched by a number of North Americans over the past 10 years. J Fergus Evans adds to the trove with a fine collection, On Euclid Avenue, published by Salford’s Flapjack Press.

Evans’ first collection carries the reflections of a mature and discerning writer ...

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Rhyme and metre and the rhythm of rail at Sowerby Bridge

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There were poems about the North Yorkshire Moors railway and the Ribblehead viaduct, about liaisons in carriages and seaside specials, about old tracks turned into walkways, and even about slinging ch...

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To Sing Away the Darkest Days: Norbert Hirschhorn, Holland Park Press

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No book which looks at the Jewish race through its language and culture, as Hirschhorn’s does, can completely avoid asking all the unanswerable questions.   But it seems to me this collection of work ...

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Train Songs: eds. Don Paterson and Sean O'Brien, Faber & Faber

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Maybe I should put my trainspotter’s notebook aside as I clamber aboard to review the Faber anthology, Train Songs, edited by Sean O’Brien and Don Paterson. Am I justified in wondering about the numbe...

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Replenishing imagination: a tribute to Seamus Heaney

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The world of poetry paid tribute in words and music to Seamus Heaney on Wednesday night at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, in a moving celebration of his work and life, with leading poets deli...

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Air Histories: Christopher Meredith, Seren

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Air Histories, the latest collection from poet and novelist Christopher Meredith, is a protean work, shifting from archaeological landscapes to Oedipus. In this it reflects the poet’s career as poe...

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Rhyming Thunder: the alternative book of young poets, Burning Eye

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Spoken poetry in the UK is huge at the moment.  Call it what you will, spoken word, performance poetry, there is an abundance of fresh, impassioned acts out there.

Editors James Bunting and Jac...

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Gingering the World from the Inside: Anna Freeman, Burning Eye

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The title of this first collection from performance poet Anna Freeman is the only thing not to like about it.  Freeman is a redhead, and, like many ginger performance poets, uses this fact to make ...

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Poems to Elsi: RS Thomas, Seren

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“It was a day when Diane Abbott MP was 47, and Alvin Stardust 58, when they honoured RS Thomas.”  So writes Byron Rogers in his introduction to The Man who Went into the West, a valuable and highly...

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The Forward Book of Poetry 2014

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In my bookcase are ranged the Forward prize collections for the last five years. They look so neat, lined up together in their plain white jackets. I bought the Forwards automatically and compulsiv...

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She's having a ball: rising poetry star breaks out into comedy

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Mention the word 'Joy' to any northern poet and they might well respond  “Balls!”, but not for the reasons you'd suppose.  ‘Balls’ just happens to be the title and subject matter for one of Joy Fra...

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Sisters: Jennifer Copley, Smokestack

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If death is the last taboo this book breaks it open and stares unflinchingly inside.  Beginning with the rather startling front cover – an example of Victorian post-mortem photography of two sister...

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National Poetry Day: going with the flow at the Southbank

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National Poetry Day may be over for another year, but the memory lingers on. For some, it may be the Prince of Wales reading Dylan Thomas.  For me it is of a splendid afternoon of live poetry compe...

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Mud Wrestling With Words: Bang Said The Gun, Burning Eye

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Bang Said The Gun’s anthology Mud Wrestling With Words defies the conventional, carefully-weighted review – and I’m sure that’s the way the organisers of the weekly ruckus at the Roebuck pub in sou...

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Grand performances as TS Eliot tour drops in at Oldham library

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This was a feast of poetry at Oldham library, and part of a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the TS Eliot prize that is taking 36 nominated and/or winning poets on a 10-date sashay across t...

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Red Devon: Hilary Menos, Seren

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Red Devon, Hilary Menos’ second collection, is a book about farming: about mud, manure and long dead hours spent ploughing; about thistles, slurry and dead sheep rotting in the yard. Inspired by Me...

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the light user scheme: Richard Skinner, Smokestack

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This interesting book of poems deals with excerpts and extracts that form the basis of ‘the secret springs of action’, as one of the pieces is entitled. People caught in mid-thought, mid-step, mid-...

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Paul Muldoon and Don Paterson pay tribute to mentor and inspiration

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The shadow of the late Seamus Heaney loomed large over this evening of poetry reading – he should have been there.

As Don Paterson, sadly but brilliantly standing in for the maestro, told the p...

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How I Learned To Sing: Mark Robinson, Smokestack Books

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Mark Robinson sees angels all over the north-east, far beyond the Antony Gormley landmark that greets the A1 traveller heading towards Newcastle. And ghosts, too. In How I Learned To Sing, a genero...

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Let freedom ring: dreaming of Martin Luther King on the Southbank

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A day that began with voices including Maya Angelou, Doreen Lawrence, and the Dalai Lama reading extracts from Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech on the BBC ended for those in London with...

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A Child's Last Picture Book of the Zoo: Louise Warren, Cinnamon

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  ‘Excavations’

 

    It came with the house.

    A lungful of earth coughed up

    with all the disturbance, the laying of foundations,

    the sinking of  drains,

    and ...

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Maxine Peake: Shelley's The Masque of Anarchy, Albert Hall, Manchester

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As I started to write this I realised I had absent-mindedly typed The Masque of Energy - an apt Freudian slip after this fiery performance surged through the huge Manchester International Festival ...

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She Inserts the Key: Marianne Burton, Seren

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Based on a series of observations around hours of the day called  ‘Meditations on the Hours’, this debut collection is remarkable not only for its assurance of technique, but for the poet’s ability...

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Temporary Safety: Rose Drew, Fighting Cock Press

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We learn, on the back cover of Temporary Safety that Rose Drew’s favourite place is in front of a large audience. That’s obvious from her book: the works in it make themselves clear at a first read...

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Sex & Love & Rock&Roll: Tony Walsh, Burning Eye

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Tony Walsh is a leading performance poet with his roots very firmly in the north, whose first open mic gig was in Manchester in 2004. He performed at Glastonbury the following year, and this is his...

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Dear Boy: Emily Berry, Faber and Faber

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Dear Boy, the debut collection by Emily Berry, is made up of poems that put on outfits and adopt personas as easily as the best con artist, all ultimately relating the story of middle class, 20-som...

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Stanza Bonanza: poets from Reading and Greenwich in high-scoring draw

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The Poetry Society had billed it as Greenwich v Reading. But you mustn’t think of this meeting of two of the society’s Stanza groups at London’s Poetry Cafe as a football match, I kept telling myse...

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Versions of the North: edited by Ian Parks, Five Leaves

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Kirkgate Market Cafe, Manningham Mills, Adel Crag, Flamborough, Warley Cemetery, Tinsley Towers, Humber Bridge, Holderness …  a seam of poems with  place name titles in this anthology of contempora...

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Outfoxing Hyenas: Alan Price, Indigo Dreams

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This is a debut collection, divided into three sections and telling of voyages, time, music, of boyhood and pubescence in which mythological, literary and art references abound. It is a rather mixe...

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The Word on the Street: Paul Muldoon, Faber

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Paul Muldoon is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary poets. He published his first collection in 1971, taking his place as the youngest member of a group of Northern Ireland poets which includes S...

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A voyage around her grandfather: Cynthia Buell Thomas at Sale

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In 10 years of running Write Out Loud I don’t think I have witnessed as magnificent a reading as that delivered by Cynthia Buell Thomas in her showcase slot at the Sale Write Out Loud last night.

...

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Review

More for Helen of Troy, Simon Mundy, Seren

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An ancient world looms large in Simon Mundy’s collection, usually as a point of comparison with a (mostly) inferior modern world.  In Radnor Songs II, “iron” in times past “meant victory”,  not the...

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On Becoming A Fish: Emily Hinshelwood, Seren

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In our increasingly urbanised surroundings, with the commonplaces of environmental degradation and decline, how should we write about the natural world?

This question, which of course has no si...

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Review

Newspaper Taxis - Poetry After the Beatles: ed. Bowen, Furniss, Woolley

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“Newspaper taxis appear on the shore / waiting to take you away” are two of the lines from John Lennon’s surreal Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, a song that he always insisted was not about LSD, on ...

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Tony Harrison's v. and the commodification of outrage

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For reasons I can't remember I have two copies of Tony Harrison's collected poems. Perhaps I think one will illuminate the other. I don't read either of them very often. If I have a session which m...

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