Yesterday's Music Today: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press

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This is a wonderfully varied anthology that, like a good compilation tape (remember those?), never settles down into the obvious, and can veer from Billie Holiday to the psychedelia of Gong in the turn of a page. There’s a wide variety of styles too, from an elegiac sonnet by Angela Topping to a very near pure sound poem by Sue Birchenough which begins:


   and friends:



                         prup papapaaar

                                            ‘Billie Holiday’


and continues in this vein to the end, while playing with typography and making reference to the song Black & White. Similarly, Mike Ferguson’s ‘Mostly Metal’ fills the page with every sub-genre of heavy metal one could wish to know.

At the other end of the scale is Norman Jope’s entertaining narrative about Brummie rock band Black Sabbath, where:


    Twenty years earlier, a quartet of urchins

     from across the road had developed a thirst for the blues –

     the lead guitarist’s factory-wounded hand

     had found a style for itself, the singer had spread his arms

     and downer music, laced with working-class anger

     had rode the airwaves…



The range of styles is so varied, in fact, some might find it bewildering; rather like if you had a compilation tape in which Bach was followed by free jazz. I like the mix myself; and am firmly of the belief that one should always try to expose oneself to all kinds of music, all kinds of poetry and all kinds of art. I don’t suppose that anyone reading this anthology will enjoy every single poem here; but there is still something for everyone.

I’ll leave you with just a short list of my own favourites here (apart from the ones mentioned). I like the poems of Robert Sheppard, and I’m glad I read the poems of Mario Petrucci sampled here. Sarah James’ poems were very engaging, and I liked the long prose poem about Beethoven on the motorway by Jay Ramsey. Some names were new: Ester Muchowsky-Schnapper and Jimmy Juniper both brought unfamiliar musics to me.

Steven Waling


Yesterday’s Music Today, ed. Mike Ferguson and Rupert Loydell, Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, £11


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