Poem Of The Week: From Under Milk Wood By Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

from Under Milk Wood To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled

Author Interview: Sharon Duggal Should We Fall Behind

Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal is a gritty yet tender novel giving life to people often ignored. It is a story set in any British city; a story of the homeless, the immigrants, the bereaved, the lonely; the story of all of us - but one not often told. Following homeless protaganist Jimmy in his search for a friend, the novel weaves its way in and out of the lives of the strangers he encounters. Behind each closed door is…

Review: Should We Fall Behind By Sharon Duggal

Sharon Duggal's second novel - Should We Fall Behind is a story of the forgotten, the ordinary and the invisible, and how their lives slowly become entwined. With characters less often seen in fiction – the homeless; single mothers; immigrants - the novel is distinctive, and normalises the ‘different’. Tiny actions the characters make become fronds that reach out and twist them together, altering the course of their lives. These strangers cannot know what impact they have; nor can they know…

Cam - The Otherside

Cam is not an artist who has ever rushed released. Back in 2010 she made her independent debut with the collection Heartforward. Later on she would describe the set as simply being more an experimentation than a finished release. However, those that heard it will be aware of the strength of the vocals and songwriting. These were further showcased with her brilliant, but underappreciated 2015 label debut Untamed, which of course saw her achieve huge acclaim for the epic Burning

Ane Brun - After The Great Storm

Sweden based Norwegian icon Ane Brun has had an extremely productive 2020. Having already released a truly remarkable 10 singles so far, before the end of the year she will have released two new studio albums. The first of these arrives on Friday. Although there have been albums released since 2015's When I'm Free, the release of After The Great Storm marks the first collection of new originals. And while her covers are remarkable, her loyal audience are ready for…

Passport Not Needed: Nothing But Words By Jean Stevens

There is an intimate connection between Jean Stevens’ poetics of physical and psychical wellbeing, and the natural world which both defines and nourishes them. And it doesn’t matter that her sense of the world has been refracted through the light of other streams, because she is no less startled by its wonders than she was when she first encountered them. Those ‘other streams’ rise in the interdependencies of the Romantic view, and Stevens’ is heir to a tradition whose great…

Review: Magnetic Field: The Marsden Poems by Simon Armitage

As a poet reviewing someone else’s poetry, I am acutely aware of how interpretation can be a massively subjective undertaking and as such, possibly at odds with the intentions and motivations driving the work. When the reviewee happens to be Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds, has been awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and is the current Poet Laureate, whereas the reviewer is, in this case, an ex-lettuce picker from Goole, then the trepidation levels get…

New Light Prize Exhibition - Brian Shields

There are few sculptures in the New Light Prize Exhibition. Easily the most interesting and eccentric, is The Patronage of Icarion John (John Clare poet) by Brian Shields. The diminutive figure of a man in Nineteenth Century clothing sits on a swing in a parrot’s cage. There are miniature books on the floor of the cage and the figure has wings attached to his back and a long pointed nose. This is Shields’ vision of John Clare, the so-called…

Things In Heaven And Earth: Interview With Author Jane Metcalfe

Things in Heaven and Earth by Jane Metcalfe is one of the more unusual books I've reviewed. Is it spiritual? Is it a guide to uncovering greater meaning? Is it simply a profound but recognisable love story? It is all those things. The true story is told by the author using the letters and diaries of her ex-husband Colin; and Dee, a Hollywood actress whose identity is unknown to both the reader and Jane herself. The book is of their meeting and…

Review: Things In Heaven And Earth By Jane Metcalfe

Things in Heaven and Earth is a book that is near impossible to categorise. It is a true story outlining a very human experience: human, yet so ‘other’ it would more often be described spiritual. It is literature; it is factual; it is philosophical, it is personal; but at its heart it is simply the truest and deepest of love stories. Told through diary extracts, interviews and letters, Things in Heaven and Earth is the account of a couple's meeting and…

The Moustache By Emmanuel Carrère - A Review

The Moustache, first published in 1986, features in a new series, Vintage Editions, and is reprinted by Penguin in a collection celebrating some of the finest authors in translation. A review in The Times roused my curiousity: the reviewer, John Self, introduced Emmanuel Carrère as a writer who has "been described by critics as 'straight beserk' and 'tremendously French'". Reading the novel, I couldn't help but agree with this phraseology. The story is one that begins with a fairly innocuous and…

Short Story: Meeting On A Train

I only ever saw her three times, and the first time was on a train - hence the title of my story. I had been on the train for not much above a minute before it began to move out of the station, and, to my surprise a young woman of perhaps twenty came along the corridor and to my carriage, and entered, handing me a note as she did so. My surprise was twofold. Firstly, the train being almost empty, I…

Dolche - Exotic Diorama

Occasionally an artist along and blows your mind from the very first few seconds of hearing their song. Sometimes it grows into a fervent passion for their sound, other times the interest wanes and they drift off into a distant haze. Dolche is an artist who captures your attention immediately and holds it. She is diverse, powerful and truly profound. Recording in a mixture of French, Italian and English, it doesn't matter what language she speaks, the message reaches into…

Russell Watson - 20

20 years have disappeared since Russell Watson first appeared on the international charts with his debut album, The Voice. A determined title that set the Lancashire-born Tenor on a path to true acclaim. Since then he has had numerous battles, most notably with a brain tumor back in 2006, but that hasn't stopped the determined vocalist from releasing a string of chart-delighting records. As he reaches this important landmark, his latest collection boasts thirteen newly recorded songs to showcase the…

Kev Sherry - Foxy Orthodoxy

As part of Attic Lights, Kev Sherry has delighted audiences since 2005 with his quirky indie rock sounds. Now trialling life as a solo artist, the musician who also works as a journalist, comic artist and novelist releases his debut album, Foxy Orthodoxy. Having teased the release with a string of striking singles, which showcased his ability to take the sound he is best known for and remould it into something truly unique, his loyal fanbase are fully ready for…

London Mural Festival Is Now Open To The Public

The eagerly awaited London Mural Festival (LMF) is now open to the public. Over 200 artists painted murals from Walthamstow to Wembley Park throughout September and October, with 75 plus large-scale murals and activations, most of which will last for years to come. The public are encouraged to download the latest map – https://www.londonmuralfestival.com/map and go and explore murals by well-known artists such as Camille Walala, Conor Harrington, D*Face, Marija Tiurina and Seb Lester. You can expect…

Interview: Philip Bowne

Philip Bowne’s debut novel Cows Can’t Jump was published in September and is a comical if also poignant tale of teenager Billy’s eventful journey across Europe in pursuit of his adolescent love, Eva. My take on the book, as my review reveals, is that it is about a youngster trying to make sense of an adult world that seems increasingly nonsensical, and for Philip Bowne, it is a book that could carry a positive message for a lot of young men…

Sheffield's Sheaf (Digital) Poetry Festival Returns In November!

Sheaf Poetry Festival returns in November boasting a vibrant programme of readings, workshops and panel discussion delivered by world-class poets/artists and local Sheffield voices. Sheaf Poetry Festival has been part of Sheffield’s artistic and cultural landscape for almost a decade. Formerly known as Sheffield Poetry Festival and South Yorkshire Poetry Festival, Sheaf returns this year in digital format from 19th–23rd November 2020. Suzannah Evans returns as Sheaf’s Creative Director, and the festival’s Poet and Young Poet in Residence are Genevieve Carver…

In Boots Like These … Kendal Mountain Festival Goes Virtual

Kendal Mountain Festival is a wonderful four-day event in November that brings a much needed boost of colour and excitement to the town and has done for four decades. A tented basecamp village springs up overnight in the Brewery Arts Centre, the main arteries of Kirkland, Highgate and Stricklandgate throb with quilt jacketed bodies, snatched conversations about mountains, wilderness and outdoor inspiration are overheard in the melee, fit-looking fell runners limber up by the War Memorial and commerce thrives as we’re…

'The Uncanny Power Of Repression': The Haunting Of Alma Fielding By Kate Summerscale

Flying frying pans whizzing through the air, kinetically energised by unseen spectral forces. Tea-cups destroying themselves inexplicably, shards of porcelain spontaneously erupting into malevolent maelstroms of domestic debris. Furniture hurling itself to oblivion with supernatural ferocity. Wraith-like apparitions skulking nefariously as unbidden spectral denizens of ostensibly dull suburban semis and terraces. All quite discombobulating! Add into this disquieting cocktail of the bizarre, the rise of Spiritualism, psychic mediumship, the proliferation of vainglorious ghost hunters and sceptics keen to debunk…

Poem Of The Week: 'First Foetal Movements Of My Daughter' By Penelope Shuttle

First Foetal Movements of My Daughter Shadow of a fish The water-echo Inner florist dancing Her fathomless ease Her gauzy thumbs Leapfrogger, her olympics in the womb’s stadium Against a cheerless backdrop of death and decline, of withering economies and strategic cluelessness, it is a simple joy to recall a poem of growth and hope. In Penelope Shuttle’s delicate, focused use of language, we hear the first echoes of life, feel the abstraction of an idea bursting from inertia into physical presence, like an astonished nudge. For here is…

Poet In A Fridge

The dust has settled, the circus has moved on and after a bit of excitement, the routines we were obliged to adopt in late spring/early summer seem to be returning. I’m already looking back fondly at the weekend of 26th September when the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival of Poetry and Prose landed in Cumbria for a brief but wonderful three days and I got to fulfil my dream of being a ‘Poet in a Fridge’ … The festival, directed by…

Review: Plague By Julie Anderson

Plague, Julie Anderson’s new crime thriller, published in September by Claret Press, opens in an ancient burial ground, uncovered during a construction project linked to the London Underground. The capital’s population, we are told, expanded greatly between 1500 and 1650 and pre-existent churchyards could not cope with the surge in demand, therefore ‘overspill’ grounds were created. But, that’s not the focal point because at the same location they have uncovered an impromptu burial site for bodies hastily discarded during one of the…

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold: The Racketeer By John Grisham

Well, I have warned you before that I like Grisham and here we go again. The Racketeer is definitely not a dry and dusty courtroom drama but a feel-good, justice-is-served type novel. Although it begins with a court case, it is more about revenge. Grisham’s criticisms of ‘the establishment’ are clear, although this is not simply a book about the miscarriage of justice. The actions of the hero are excused because he has already been so badly treated by the…

Authenticity Is Its Own Reward: Interview With Kirsten Hesketh, Author Of Another Us

Having recently reviewed Kirsten Hesketh’s boisterously entertaining novel, Another Us, I was fortunate enough to interview its affable author and provide our readers with an exclusive insight into both the woman behind the keyboard and her delightful first book. Hesketh is an effervescent amalgam of warm-hearted humour and esprit de corps. She is a passionate member of the Debut UK 2020 writing fraternity, a devoted wife and mother and a woman not short on colourful life experience. For anyone who has…

Lycanthropes & Astronauts: Wolf Planet By Oz Hardwick

The flotsam of Oz Hardwick’s febrile imagination might lead the accustomed reader to infer a unifying impulse in his work, though that would necessarily circumscribe a writer whose instinct is for contrariety and division. Cross-sectional similarities obtain in despite: with his new venture Wolf Planet, he returns to the fluidity of the prose poem form if only because neither prose nor poetry could contain, in isolation, the energy and phenomenally wide-ranging gusto of the piece. Well worn conceits flourish here…

'Heaven Knew The Boundaries Were Blurred': Kirsten Hesketh - Another Us

Marian Keyes is an author well known for exploring family life and the darker motifs of mental illness, divorce and alcoholism in order to find within these emotive shadowlands, the uplifting light of comedy and hope. Keyes once said, ‘I've always used humour as a survival mechanism. I write for me and I need to feel hopeful about the human condition. So, no way I'm going to write a downbeat ending. And it isn't entirely ludicrous to suggest that sometimes…

Poem Of The Week: 'The Behaviour Of Dogs' By Craig Raine

The Behaviour of Dogs Their feet are four-leafed clovers that leave a jigsaw in the dust. They grin like Yale keys and tease us with joke-shop Niagara tongues. A whippet jack-knifes across the grass to where the afghan’s palomino fringe is part Opera House curtain, part Wild Bill Hicock. Its head precedes the rest, balanced like a tray, aloft and to the left. The labrador cranks a village pump, the boxer shimmies her rump, docked to a door knocker, and the alsation rattles a sabre – only the ones with crewcuts fight. Sportif, they scratch…

Deja View (Part Two): Conflicting Realities In Heather Child’s Everything About You

We live in strange times. Our usual routines have been disrupted, our relationships affected, and our life choices set back in the interest of public health. For many of us “lock-down”, “self-isolation” and “social-distancing” have been new and unusual experiences. Some of us, understandably, may even have started to lose our grip on reality as a result – myself included! In the beginning, almost by way of novelty, my reading choices were largely pandemic-themed; now, as our situation has progressed, I…

Ward Thomas - Invitation

Ward Thomas have come an awfully long way over the last few years. Having started out as darlings of the British Country scene, they signed a record deal with Sony Music, which propelled them into the mainstream consciousness for their BBC Radio 2 championed sophomore and third releases. The radio exposure saw those records reach #1 and #8 in the charts respectively. Not bad at all for the sisters from Hampshire who boasts very pretty harmonies, but have had to…