Saturday, 4 July 2015


I have recently discovered a lot of old writing from High School, I'm actually a bit impressed with 12 
year old me. 

The first 'real' poem I wrote, from 2004


It walked through  the door,
It walked on the grass.
It looked to the floor,
It looked through glass.

But through the glass what did it see,
A girl of pure simplicity.
For, in the chair,
Dressed in pure white.

She seemed only dead,
An angel of the night.
With her red cherry lips,
She seemed to live to excite.

And as it focused on the girl,
And as it eyes streamed.

The girl soon awoke,
The girl of its dreams.
As she looked out the window,
What did she see.
A painting of mist,
Stretching from you to me.

From the window came cold of ice and of snow,
But from the house came her angel like glow.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Review: Jump by Paula Kelly-ince

I have some wonderfully talented friends.

There is a sweet feeling in watching someone accomplish and succeed. Particularly when you have spent the last few years slogging it out with them and following them every step of the way.

One of my brilliant friends (be jealous, it's okay) runs a hilarious blog  and on this blog Paula Kelly-Ince has released the first section of her long awaited short stories collection.

Jump: Stories of Life, Love and Fear is a gentle whirlwind of emotions and lovable characters. Each story is beautifully crafted to lull the reader into its reality, slowly manipulating itself into a gut punch.

From Jump, which I have had the privileged of seeing performed, you hear the unnerving voice of a woman on the edge, both metaphorically and literally. I won't give the game away but her beautifully traumatic voice rings with a survival that inspires.

On top Tara, like watching strangers connect for the first time on the next street over. Two people devouring each other in conversation. It is like opening up.

To the final story in this collection Mr. Philips, which will remind everyone of 'that' high school crush and how we truly live through our experiences.

The three stories together tell a lot about female experience, giving strong voices to the often sidelined characters and providing weighted feathers to the reader.

Make this your Summer read. Then revisit it in Winter and Spring and Autumn. Show it to your grandparents and your daughter because there is something here for every season and for everyone.

Did I mention that I have wonderfully talented friends?

Again the link for a FREE PDF of these three stories is HERE

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: Coleshill by Fiona Sampson


A collection for anyone Local. I don't mean local to Coleshill but local in the sense of community, of knowing potholes, of knowing Terry as a man and then as a ghost of himself walking down the main road home. Local.
   This is a collection of rhythm, of human rhythm falling into place with nature. Of humans becoming the natural landscape - and isn't it about time? 'a phone rings' and the butterfly effect is set in motion as 'suddenly flocks of starling / are shuttling across the dark'.
 There is a sense of enclosure. A trapping in the quaint countryside that isn't as safe as those outside it seem to believe as Sampson writes through the murder of a girl from the local nightclub. The girl in A Charm Against Knives could be the victim, it could be any of us; it could be the earth 'remember[ing] the whisper / of steel on skin'. That is all a murder has come to, in the grand scheme of nature one death is not unlike another, but the difference lies in the proximity of  local.
     When reading this collection I was reminded of myself, stood behind the bar of the local pub and scribbling poems on the backs of discarded receipts. Poems about the trees and trollies becoming part of the stream.
    There is an important connection to made here that all we hold dear is cyclical, it belongs only to itself. Samspon sums it up in three striking lines 'Imagine bees falling from the sky - / yes, all of them. / Small scabs of air'.
    I was struck by the density of Sampson's verse, how she can conjure up entire communities and dreamlands, present them simultaneously in a 'snow-globe' of understanding. She pierces the heart of the scenic to find the moment of hyper-reality that we don't often assume to belong to such picturesque location. It is this hyper realism that tips the border to the dream land for me. Such as in From the Adulterer's Songbook and the 'one / clear note, / / the night odour' - it's almost unbelievable, transported until you anchor it to real life experience, and then it all too true. Seeing the adulterer's legacy lengthen.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Review: Skirrid Hill by Owen Sheers

From the cover I knew I was in for an exploration. The style of photography on the cover is called Body Landscaping, and it is when the object - often a human body - is made to look like an entire landscape on its own. In this case the shoulder and collar bones transformed into a valley, a hill, an estuary, a mountain. A landscape only too well known to many of us, iconic Wales.

  'Skirrid Hill' is a exploration of familiar introspection that takes the reader by the hand and helps them navigate their own personal history. It is only fitting then that we begin at the 'Last Ac't. There is a feeling here that we are seeing the writer in a similar role to the actor 'bowing as himself  for the first time all night.'. There is a distinct difference in confidence in Sheers second collection of poetry. A writer who is confident in his own raw emotion, confident even in the instability of image. The entire collection pivots on the grey area between having something, being one thing, and loosing it or becoming something else. Beyond that as the concept of the collection we see poems themselves altering before out eyes.
          Poems like 'The Farrier', that in tandem throw images of the farrier carrying on his days work, and that of a bride on her wedding day, alongside the ambiguity of the horse. All images pulling together to deliver the fatal blow as 'The sound of his steel, biting at her heels'.
     The winds of change are constantly blowing, I am older now than I have ever been and younger than I ever will be again. 'Inheritance' makes that abundantly clear, after the style of R.S. Thomas as Sheers ties in an incredible welsh poetic history to his work. 'From my father / ... / From my mother' here could mean the biological parentage or the rich heritage of poetry. the offspring, the barer of this tradition 'what they forged / in their shared lives;' - the heavy weight of this burden, but also the combined ancestry of it, a wonder that what humans really inherit from their families and from their environment, the collection continues to add to this image, speculating how we inherit the world around us and the skins of our old selves.
   An interesting vein of this collection is Sheers's investigation of language. Wales is a fascinating hub of bilingualism, but it hasn't always been this way. Just as his first collection 'The Blue Books' hovered on the edge of languages with it's obvious rooting in the blue books of 1847,the discussion continues now. In 'History' set in the Lleder Valley of North Wales the blades of slate make a 'rusted, / metallic sound' telling the 'story of stone'. Here mixing the Welsh language both with the landscape as ever present and also making it Other, disconnecting it from any known language.

       Sheers is one of my favourite writers both in Wales and generally. I devoured this collection.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

On Life

I'm ill. I'd forgotten.
    I forget quite often.
Until I feel my chest and feel the shadow of stickers left by the nurse, testing my heart rate. 'Standard procedure'
Until, on a warm sunny day I roll up my sleeve only to feel the dead scar skin and roll them back down.

I'm ill and I'd forgotten until the nurse called me in and described the funny anecdotes of her day to take my mind off the routine check-up that makes sure that nothing, other than the instability of my mind, is throwing me off balance.

The appointment took all of 10 minutes and yet for the next 4 hours I lie down with a cup of tea, watching the entirety of RWBY until my eyes ached to match my head. Thrown completely.

It's something I am only just getting to grips with in a safe way. Earlier this year I decided to take the step, after 3 days in bed, to see a doctor, and thankfully this time he listened. He didn't tell me that 'everyone gets sad sometimes' like the last one or throw pills at me that would only make bipolar worse and take me to the very edge; but the fact that this has happened before put me off for over a year. The counselor that stood me up before Christmas one year, or told me how great my abusive ex had been because he was also a patient of hers.

Because all of these things happen to too many of us with mental health issues I'm forced to ignore that little voice telling me that my voice isn't worth being heard and to understand that I'm not 'bragging' but merely being visible.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Review: New Light for the Old Dark by Sam Willetts

I chose this book as part of the 2015 Reading Challenge, this is my book with antonyms in the title.

Titles are something I struggle with as a writer and a reader. A bad title, a telling title or just something unappealing can instantly turn me away from a book; I do tend to read books based on instinct or initial appeal and occasionally recommendations. They also have the power to get me excited about a book or a poem or a play. They can light the fire of curiosity. Recently an editor came back to me with lovely compliments about my poetry but she didn't like the titles, and it has taken me nearly two weeks to rework those titles. It's like imagining your best friend with a different name - doable but a difficult habit to break.

Anyway; this title 'New Light for the Old Dark' slowly reveals itself through Willetts collection. It is about looking at childhood, heritage and ancestry, and the self in a 'new light' and dispelling the preconceptions that we leave behind us in the 'old dark'.
    The poems flow through Willetts own childhood, the upbringing of his mother's escape from the Nazis, and the redemption from a heroin addiction.
    Willetts manages to convey these unbelievable events through smaller, familiar images which give the reader a foothold in his reality. From the image of a little girl against her mothers hem to a Redbreast, the Dublin messenger-bird, the reader is absorbed into the world presented and becomes an active participant in its unfolding.
    There are moments of brutal perception in 'A Child at Their Party' when Willetts describes the scene as 'from a children's book written /  by adults for themselves.' - what a wonderfully heartbreaking observation. One that takes us back to our own childhoods and how we remember them, but also, as children the reminder that we were never on our own authority and that in fact our memories and environments; that we often hold so dear, are merely constructs. Artificial nostalgia created by adults for the adults that they are, that we were to become.
    The collection has a sense of loss about it, a sense of being the puppet, but this 'new light' shines onto the strings, and although we are the pawn in this big game of life and government it may actually be what we make of the 'old dark'; of our culture, history and within ourselves that breeds that light.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Today I started thinking about nature.

 Nature often plays a part in my poetry, often in snippets, one reason for this could be that I see nature in snippets around me. A weed growing from between paving slabs, moss growing on the side of a decorative rock, a badger dead at the side of the road. I live in the biggest town in North Wales - not quite a country bumpkin, not quite a girl from the city - so today I'm looking at how I relate to that.


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Englynion series: Cardiff


Take your time, enjoy it here.

Castle whispers in your ear.

Old meets new, it's any year

This is an Englyn Milwr, the rhyme scheme is a,a,a or monorhyme (which is when all end rhymes are the same) and each line contains 7 syllables (that is the tricky bit).  This type of Englyn was popularized in the first world war and is also known as the Soldiers Englyn. The content is normally used to either praise or mock a person or as a declaration on love. 

Here I use the Englyn to appraise Cardiff. I spent yesterday wandering around the city, something that I don't get to do often. I particularly like the clash of the old and new. On the edge of the city is Cardiff Castle,which blends with the horizon beyond the city and out across Bute park. In the middle is a labyrinth of side alleys, arcades, shops, streets and people and an eclectic mix of high end shops, high street regulars, independent and charity shops.  There are three theaters, St. David's Hall, the Royal Welsh and the universities. It's a small city but one which seems open to younger generations, as if waiting for people to come and put their mark across it. It also stretches out towards the bay but I haven't been there for a while. Whenever I venture to the capital I feel a sense of 'welshness' that bordering on a hallmark card. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Englynion series: Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus i pawb: Happy Sant David's Day everyone.

Sporting my spiffy Welsh Ladies Hat
 I love Wales. My mother is not from Wales, and I'm from the north. At times I struggle with my Welshness, but it is unignorable. There is an acceptance here for the creative which I haven't witnessed elsewhere (as the second photograph describes). Possibilities open up here, creative minds stumble upon each other in alleyways. Half of the people in the street are writers, the other half are musicians.

Throughout March I will be posting a series of Englynion (which are the British / Welsh equivalent of the haiku). I will discuss all things Cymru I have come to love and hate.

For now however I will leave you with the first Englyn I wrote,        inspired by a brilliant poet and tutor Andrew Taylor and                 published in Erbacce's 2012 summer issue.

 This is the poem that began my acceptance of and passion for English language Welsh poetry, a discovery I am grateful to for revolutionising my voice in poetry and leading me down the garden path.
I'm not nearly as Welsh as an Englyn,
Nor it's cynhanedd.
Mae hen wlad fy nhadau, Lloegr,
but I sing, yr ddraig goch, within.

This is a very rough Englyn, styled between Robert Davies'  the Penfyr. I will also be trying different styles including the milwr, crych and lleddfbroest.

   I'm not nearly as Welsh as an Englyn
 Nor it's cynhanedd 
(essentially it's harmony, but more to come of this)
    The land of my fathers, England, 
    but I sing, the red dragon, within.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Review: The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion by Kei Miller

This was another random pick up from Wrexham Library (a wonderful place in a town that really needs it - I can't speak highly enough of this place).  The title struck me first, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, initially we are stuck with this battle between the physical and the mythical and so we go into no mans land to watch each sides interaction. In my work at the moment I'm trying to map both a people and a place that no longer exist in the same forms; whilst tying their Welsh language and it's clash with the development of the English language around them. So this collection is speaking to me on many levels at the moment. 
       The poems jump of the page with their use of language, the layout of the poems coupled with the rhythm of the language opens the voice within your mind; allowing you to hear the battle between them. Interestingly, Miller has a wealth of experience in Slam Poetry, I wonder if the combat between the two speakers is a natural rhythm for him to write in.
    The blend of language is beautiful. On the one side we have the Cartographer who is trying to anchor himself and his location, pin his own language onto this land,  he says 'my job / is not to loose myself... My job / is to untangle the tangled', a wrench apart of physical place. If we think about our own placement in the world and how tangled that is to our emotional response, our memories, this is a very sad image indeed.  This is combated with the rastaman's mixture of Rastaradianism and patois, drawing the reader into his colloquialisms as he responds 'draw me a map of what you see / then I will draw...  Guess me whose map will tell the larger truth?'. 
    The battle between what is physically there, and what a place actually represents is outlined clearly in the series of poems that begin Place Name. particularly Flog Man where 'Blood did sprinkle the ground like anointing' - as a poet I find it difficult to allow myself to admit that there are many things, places, paths even people that can not be described accurately by any use of language, things that 'are' cease to be graspable, and that is their beauty. Possibly by describing the world around them we can outline their shadow; but they will never flesh out. This is the debate that the Cartographer and Rastaman find themselves entwined in. 
      Miller's use of his heritage is captivating. Knowing nothing of Jamaican literature or much of its culture I was hesitant, but Miller guides us through. At the beginning I felt myself clutching to the Cartographers poems, finding within them debates that I contemplate daily. Within the Rastaman's narrative however, is a lilting acceptance of things that come and go, an acceptance of not knowing and not having to show others evidence of its existence. 
      The rastaman leaves us gently,  he 'Bids you, Trod Holy / To I-ly I-ly I-ly'


Friday, 20 February 2015

Review: Mandeville by Matthew Francis

After having picked this collection up on a whim at my local library my first port of call was to research a bit on Mandeville; in order to understand the poets source material, the linguistic differences, the subtle nuances of change between Mandeville's original and Francis' reincarnation.
    What i found fascinating was the aura of mystery that surrounds John Mandeville and his travels, an excellent jumping board for any creative to explore. Did John Mandeville really travel to these exotic and completely unfamiliar destinations? Are his accounts anywhere near accurate? Questions that have no necessary answer but that leave space for both the poet and the reader to jump into.

In Francis' collection there are lots of avenues. The imagery is often luxurious, at time's sufocatingly rich such as in Of Circumnavigation where the reader is traded between lands along with 'wool for spices, grey sea for blue, our brass for gold', to the point where the reader becomes almost travel blind with description.
    There is very little subtly about each poem, the over arching journey is at best unessential. Instead I would look towards each poem as a case study, the arch being held in John Mandeville's own writing, this taking one fantastic element of each stage of his journey and unfolding it until it becomes something other than what it was, baring a tenuous likeness.
  The collection is an intoxicating synaesthesic blend of 'cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg..culminating in a virgin sulphur.'. I've read many poetry collection that take the reader on a physical tour, but this is another experience that is tangibly liked to the earth in a way that conjurs the fantastical from familiarity. Francis' description of the dead sea uses familiar images and locations but uses anthropamorphism to conjur the spirit of the sea, as it has ' swallowed its tears and become parched by the salt'.  - so beautiful!
    The relationship between Francis and these objects is one of almost ownership, a claiming of their relation to other things, there is little delicacy, little right to their existence without his observing them. There is something harsh about the poem that is 'now tarnished ' by five hundred years of sandstorms' - of poets that alter colour.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Living with Irlen pt 3

I broke my glasses. A simple fix but it has taken me the better part of a week to get around to it, and I've been reminded how hard it is sometimes. I haven't read for a few days, on trains or on buses, which is usually my ideal reading nook! I've had terrible headaches, felt sick and nauseous constantly without them. The physical reality of Irlen is quite severe sometimes. If you've ever been very tired you'll know the heaviness of your eyes, imagine that constantly, as if you haven't blinked for an hour, as if a lens is constantly refocusing in your head. Some days I am very frustrated with my brain, it definitely doesn't work the way we're told it should.
      On a lighter note; I work in secondary, and it fills my heart every time I see a child using their glasses, or their overlays, or even hear other children refer to these resources - not with prejudice and misunderstanding like I had just 7 years ago - but with acceptance and at times just interest. There are a lot of children and young people being listened to and diagnosed, which can only progress knowledge and understanding of these conditions. I wish they had known when I was 12, think of the books I could have read in those 4 years!!
       I am also happy when children see me wearing my glasses on the bus, and when I teach. It shows them that this is a grown up difficulty as well, and that we can still make it places. Sometimes I hear children hiding behind their difficulties, because that is what we are taught to do, but I hope that is one child remembers the mental, ginger, supply teacher who wore her Irlen glasses on top of her head at every moment, they'll think they can get through the difficult patches.
        I'm very open about my Irlen, and now and again a child will ask me 'Miss, why are you wearing sunglasses inside?' and I'll blag their heads, and answer honestly. I like to think they respect me for that; these teenagers have a lot more in their heads then we give them credit for.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Review: Enchantment by David Morley

Enchantment spins tales similar to Aesops Fables or the camp fire shadows of myths and legends. Beginning slowly, the collection focuses the readers attention on the finer details of the natural landscape; from Fresh Water in Oxford, Dragonflies 'Here be Darters, Skimmers, drawn flame. Here, are Dragonflies' a deconstruction of their wider context, the ancestry that is attached to the imagery.
       Morley follows the thread right from the beginning of the oral poetic tradition and blends this use of language with the printed page, in a way that is equally as fascinating read aloud as it is read. He moves through the language, blending the imagery of the natural world with personification to further blur the line between the true reality of nature and human interaction. In The Lucy Poem ' She can sense as much water/ in her breasts as in the earth' an image that links the human body to a body of water but at once distances them from each other.

     In the second section begins with Hedgehurst, where Morley takes the story of Hedgehurt from Duncan Williamson's Fireside Tales of the Traveller Children and develops it in his own style. He follows Hedgehurst, decoding his character and using Williamson's context to move into his next 'voice'. Through the intricate graphology at the end of Hedgehurst, it runs us through companions of the natural world and their companions, mimicking the companionship in humans.We see Morley's next step into the storytelling tradition, following the Romany traditions and stories. In Romany Sarah we begin with 'air for oars' calling upon the phonetic link to blend man made tools with the natural landscape.
      After this Morley moves fully into the Romany community, Nightingales links with his beautiful poetic imagery of the beginning.  Taking the reader finally on a journey through the circus, but again focusing the reader on one element of it. This series is intriguingly linked together by connecting language; at the end of Mashkár the Magician 'I am talking to the space where their eyes will tear into time' and the beginning of Saydimé the Strongman 'Tear into time?' This brings the reader full circle, linking the characters of the circus together into a bigger collective that moves the readers attention also from the Dragonfly of the initial poems and linking through to a vision of the world as a whole.
     Mythology, pulling together the natural world and humanity to a cohesive whole.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: Craving by Esther Gerritsen

I read this as my 'A book based entirely on its cover' for the 2015 Reading Challenge. I am quite easily pleased, so it was the curved edges of the book that were interesting for me.

I had a few disputes with the blurb of this translation from the Netherlander playwright. The book revolves around the disjointed relationship of Coco and her mother Elisabeth.  This is not simply an exploration of the Mother/Daughter relationship but also about the unraveling of a family and it's member and most notably the clash of mental unrest / illness in a household. This is all brought upon by Elisabeth's impending death.

I mentioned earlier that Gerritsen is a playwright, this shows through in her writing and the translation has picked up on that quickly. The dialogue in this novel is fantastic, and extremely poignant as the two main characters find it difficult to talk to one another and to express their true meaning. The dialogue is true to life, relateable and colloquial in a way that reflects it's original setting and language but is also accessible for the English language reader.

The use of flashback in the book is a brilliant tell of the characters, hindsight breeds multiple perceptions and the narrative switching between Coco and Elisabeth allows the reader to fill in the missing gaps as well as acknowledge the differences between each story. I came unstuck with the novel at the end, as Elisabeth is dying; always a sticky point for a writer as each reader has their own interpretation of the after-life. Elisabeth's description of passing is the most reliable narrative of the whole novel, once she is free of the pressures of her life and her own connotations.

Ultimately, this was a beautiful read. The translator has done a fantastic job of merging the two cultures, there is a visible seam between the two but it only adds to the creative mixture of this novel.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus! - Happy Saint. Dwynwen Day.

25th January is the Welsh Valentines day. Celebrating Saint Dwynwen, and her dedication to lovers. Stori Santes Dwynwen is fascinating and you can read a lot more of it on the BBC's website. Today I offer up a series of linked Englyn's, following in Robertson Davies' style, which you read more on here.

     In short Santes Dwynwen was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, who fell in love with Maelon Dyfodrull. The two lovers planned to marry but Dwynwen's father forbade it. After this Dwynwen prayed to be let out of her love, and Maelon was turned into ice. As the story continues, an angel appears to Dwynwen and gives her three wishes. She wishes for Maelon to be free, that she will never marry, and that she could spend her life helping anyone in pain through love.
   Dwynwen goes on to establish many Christian churches, along with her sister Cain and her brother Dyfnan. Dwynwen's own church is off Anglesey, Llanddwyn, the remains of the church are still there and people still travel to it to pray to Dwynwen to help them with their love.
The Englyn is a short Welsh and Cornish poetic form, similar to that of the Haiku.

   Santes Dwynwen
Maelon, in your heart, do you still shiver,
from prayers icy dart
the angel of the river,
Brychan Brycheiniog's temper?

Maybe you dream, with me, at Llanddwyn,
a swollen memory
Angelsey, or an omen
of what we should have known, then.

But now you have gone, with Dyfnan and Cain,
and our sublime bygone,
to another place and time.
Here. I, mother to love's crime.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Imagine the scene. I'm sat on a train for at least 4 hours, it's 7am and there's isn't enough coffee on board this train to keep me awake, nevermind if I could afford a single cup. Crack out John Green.

The Fault in Our Stars had been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to have a few hours to dedicate to it's charm. I've followed Vlog brother online for a few years on and off, and I've spent my fair share of time on tumblr, so I was already familiar with his style. What I wasn't prepared for was to sit in a carriage full of strangers as I laughed out-loud, sighed with happiness, sighed with sadness and actually cried.

If tumblr ever sprouts fingers, it'd write this novel. It is positively saturated in internet speak. In a similar way to A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Fault in our Stars submerges the reader in the modern world in a way that is honest and real. As a writer I often find it hard to equate the silent ring of a smart phone in my pocket to the vibrations of a lark in the morning sky. Somehow this novel achieves all of that and more.
      I work in secondary schools, and when I see children reading this I'm smugly proud as it managed to be poignant in a new, debilitating way and also be an easy read, this is a subtle novel that eases you in to some very deep poetically constructed scenes. Hazel in particular is a lovely round female character, yes she has her flaws but it is lovely to see how she reacts to the pressure of society around her, it comforts me to assume that these flaws are the work of self-aware writer and not accidental prejudices - such as the still perpetuated distinction between 'Boy' and 'Girl' activities. Knowing John Green's work I assume this is the strong voice of Hazel, to be honest, at times I hate Hazel. But these emotions are real, the connection I made to the characters is honest and involuntary.
    Initially I was skeptical of the longevity of the plot, but Green is well aware of where he is taking these characters - a long emotional roller coaster definitely lies ahead.  Unfortunately most of the best 'lines' and scenes are within the first half of the novel, as the plot speeds up the inevitable happens in an unsuspected way which is charming at best. by the latter half of the novel the novelty is wearing thin, common devices start to melt away, I'm glad the novel is around 300 pages, as any longer and I think it would have been grating. I am wary of reading more of Green's novels in case these are his show ponies in their entirety; but there is only one way to find out.

    I do think this is a modern masterpiece, it is beautiful to see writing mimicking real life and encouraging us to engage with it artistically. I haven't seen the film.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Review: another country: haiku poetry from Wales - Anthology

I love a good anthology. Or any anthology for that matter. My first exposure to most styles of writing is through anthologies, to get a taste for the way one theme can be interpreted by different writers, it's a beautiful thing. This accumulation of writers is no different.

another country brings together haiku's from all around Wales, some Welsh by birth, others choosing to settle in Wales, some influenced by Welsh culture that seeps through their writing.We learn a lot about the haiku from both experts and new comers in this collection. I was pleasantly surprised to find many examples of the haibun in this collection which pads it out even more. i particularly enjoyed In the Air by Lynne Rees (who's work shines brilliantly throughout the collection) which uses the haiku as flashbacks or snapshots within the prose, accentuating the character development; I also enjoyed Pilgramage to Pennant Melangell by Noragh Jones which again is a superb haibun, incorporating the welsh into the haiku passages which adds to the overall feeling of place, and is an interesting comparison for the haiku in both languages.

  The anthology is split into chapters, whereas this seems on the surface unnecessary thinking about it further the chapter names add to the traditional concept and conception of the haiku rather than as writing prompts; appealing to the ancestral nature of the traditional poetic forms.
Chapters include Age and Youth, Culture and Society, Memory and Imagination and Nature Observed amongst others. The poetry itself seems to flow out of these lines and merges into a collaborative effect at the strength of the haiku and traditional forms to fully realise modern life. some of  my favourite's from the collection are those in both Welsh and English, the contrast and comparisons between the forms aesthetic nature and lyricism is quite telling of the Welsh poetic tradition, such as Arwyn Evans offering :

cysgodion dail yn disgyn         Leaf shadows fall
i'r pwll disglair                         into the glistening pond
... gwrandawaf                          ... I listen

or some that play on common Welsh images, like Pamela Brown's

bright sunlight
through birch leaves -
fingers ripple the harp

or others that are, if anything, bereft of place, but rely heavily on sound,

frosty bark
   as I squint the Pleiades
of fox, cadno, fox, fox                                 *cadno = fox
Nigel Jenkins

Originally I wouldn't have thought much about the haiku in Wales but the gem of this anthology are the essays. They contextualize the works perfectly. The haiku actually seems like the most obvious choice for the Welsh writer, appealing to the obsession with language and lyrical addiction that is present in most Welsh writers, in the tradition of the Englyn, the prevailing tradition of the cynhanedd and the practice of dyfahu, the haiku is a fabulous form to bridge the gap often perceived in English language Welsh writing and Welsh writing as a whole.  The collection has spurred my interest into the history of Welsh poetry even more, so some of that will be showing through my work as the research continues

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Review: The Lilac Cellar by Diane Moore

2015 Reading Challenge. No, 37. A Book with a Colour in the Title.

Luckily my favourite element of this book in the title, it's a luscious placement of  delicate darkness, which throws the reader right into grip of the poetry. The collection is described as being 'situated in the complex film-like zone between extreme, pure reality - and only a dream...' and interesting description of reality as pure, that in fact in being pure it becomes abstract. The collection follows the narrator through a series of events from loves lost, motherhood, death and the familiar ups and down's of life.

The authors own introduction is an interesting concept of poetic.  Described as 'Poems of an anguished Winter, the expression of a woman's self-doubt, fifty days of immediate (non)-events and writing' setting the tone from the offset. Explicitly stating that the poems take place in non-events tricks the reader into finding events, from a writers perspective Moore is not using time specific triggered events as inspiration for her work, instead she is allowing the rollercoaster of her life to wash over her and out into her work. A Woman's self-doubt is another interesting concept, the poetry in this collection I would describe with feminine imagery, coming from a definite space of cultural stereotyping and oppression.

Noteable poems include Poem for Alla Pugacheva, opening with 'It is a melody played over a thousand times, / captured in the lilac mist / emerging from a metro station', which ties together a history of imagery with Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro. A synthetic journey through non-events. The use of colour in this collection is beautiful, such as 'my final tear of overdosed cyan' from Unearthed Love and Loss by using the cyan colour specifically it brings the language of photography or cinematography. The collection comes from a place of extreme reality in the sense that reality captured becomes hyperealistic.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2015 Reading Challenge.

This year I will be taking part in the 2015 Reading Challenge that is doing the rounds on ye olde Facebooks. I have a few friends taking part as well, and have joined a few new forums for it so we'll see how that goes. If you fancy giving it a go here is the main guide.
   I will be doing one book per category, but know a few who are ticking multiple boxes. Reviews will appear on the blog sporadically of books that capture my attention in particular, otherwise mini-reviews will be put on my GoodReads account.

Good Luck!

Review: The Whole & Rain-domed Universe by Colette Bryce

An unintended trip to the local library saw me plucking this from the shelves. I'm slowly making my way through the poetry section and every poet there I haven't read yet. All of the credit must go to Wrexham Library who have an excellent selection of poetry, prose and non-fiction! *plays are lacking a smidge*

The unusual cover and the theme of rain brought me to this book - research for my own poetry in progress on Capel Celyn but more about that later. I'm extremely glad to pick this up; as with most books the blurb is often shrouded in mystery but this blurb says exactly what you'll find inside.

Bryce presents a 'personal reckoning' of her life, family, environment and culture that is raw and cutting in places, putting Derry and the Troubles into a tangible poetic force for the reader. I'm particularly bowled over by her sense of place and space, highlighting the limitations and possibilities that are constantly at work between the writer and their origins.

I was captured from the first poem, White  a beautiful quilt of poetry to swiftly pick up the reader in the folds of childhood, something we can all relate to, the importance of our development at this delicate stage speaks through 'the wordless place', which is a fascinating image for poetry, that does in fact convey up with words to a wordless space of images, scents, sounds and memory. The book more or less continues in chronological order, and I was pulled by the anchoring placement of some poems. After being conveyed to childhood Bryce takes us to Derry, a place that I have never been and hardly heard of, but paints a picture with very familiar colours, such as 'the sounds of crowds and smashing glass', it is the way that Bryce layers these images that make us feel at home.
      We move quite quickly to the Troubles with The Analyst's Couch and the 'Blood... / like HP sauce' - such familiar images to describe uunfamiliarevents envelops the reader into the time and place. Growing up in Wales I can pull elements from the text that reminds me of my own life, which is a sign of a very good poet, to involve the reader actively in the story telling, like in Don't speak to the Brits, just pretend they don't exist and 'a wasp stings him on the tongue/ 'Tongue' is what they call the Irish language', images and context such as this makes the poetry very isolating, internal reminders and quite painful times I can imagine, spun into words of silver.
     My absolute favourite poem of the book is one of the final ones, through quite a mature voice about a Mother A Simple Modern Hand, words taking the movement of writing and showing us that process. Crushing the hulk of words into dust that sings, the musicality in this poem with the 'mama - mama - emem - emem' dances from the page and moves the tongue in your mouth. The third section of this poem spells out the word Mother, forcing the reader to retrace their steps, like a reprieve in a song.
    The overall accomplishment of these poems is one tellingly very personal to the poet, the characters she involves, the family they may represent, the place becomes a person in it's own right and guides the reader through the lives of it's inhabitants. By the end you are welcomed in, to pick up a pint or a cup of tea and join in with the story telling.