Poem Of The Week:Owdham Footbo' By Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946)

Owdham Footbo’ It’s run an’ jump an’ hop an’ skip, An’ sheawt hooray, an’ hip, hip, hip, It’s singin’ songs an’ eytin tripe, An’ suppin’ pints at single swipe, An’ brass for th’ wife to buy a hat, An’ th’ childer brass for this an’ that, An’ beauncin’ gaily op an’ deawn, Yo’ connut find a merrier teawn, When Owdham’s won. Aw lost mi brass, awm crabbed an’ croat, Aw lifted th’ cat eawt wi’ mi boot, Awr ne’er as mad i’ o mi life, Cleautin’ th’ kids an’ cursin’ th’…

Chasing Clouds - To See The World Through Poets’ Eyes

It is now one year since I wrote a blog entry about the possibility of setting up a web-based poetry bank to help plug a publication gap for poets who write for children. In August 2021, there followed an announcement through an article in the Yorkshire Times that the inaugural launch of The Dirigible Balloon(the DB) was taking place with poems from a dozen wonderful poets (the original Dirigible crew), free-to-view, on a site safe for a young audience and clear…

The Best And The Absolute Worst: The Dressmaker’s Secret By Lorna Cook

It’s true that war inspires the best and the absolute worst in people; brave heroism is juxtaposed with cruel atrocity on a regular basis. Inspired by information which has come to light in the last decade, The Dressmaker’s Secret tells the story of Coco Chanel’s war, as seen through the eyes of her assistant. While the details of Mademoiselle Chanel’s activities in Paris at the time of the Occupation are as accurate as documentation can make them, the assistant is…

Poem Of The Week: The Wireless By Jean Stevens

The wireless Kathleen Ferrier on the wireless. It’s my father’s way of getting close. I hold my breath to listen. When he mended a puncture on my bike or hammered nails into the sledge he made for me or when his calloused fingers wrestled with the tiny furniture of the doll’s house I keep to this day he’d be humming a song and I’d remember the lyrics that went with the music knowing that darling and love had to be said by someone else for a man of so few words. Without resorting to stereotype in…

Burned By Light: Dovetailing - Gathered Notes

Never underestimate the simple pleasure of contemplative quiet. Several visitors to Dovetailing - a collaboration of artwork, installation, music and word, which was exhibited at the Quaker Meeting House of Farfield near Addingham in the Summer of 2021- were moved to feelings of ‘calm and wellbeing’. Their thoughts, some of which are now collected in an impressive anthology of responses to the exhibition, indirectly corroborate the themes explored. Picking up suggestion as if on the breeze, one such gives a…

Night Swimming:Towards A General Theory Of Love By Clare Shaw

A paradox lies at the heart of Clare Shaw’s shattering new collection: striving, almost childlike, to order love in an anxiety of intractable images, her disclosure of unease is counter-intuitively strident. For performance is one of Shaw’s strongest suits and the banging of a resounding drum is a sincere means of attempting to negotiate a passage towards self-understanding. It works to great effect here. The mantraic repetitions of her poems ache to be declaimed, yet the earnest iteration of words and…

Poem of the Week: 'Together' By Robert Gibson

Together flax jute cotton wire willow wool raffia grass bamboo even a ripped newspaper’s weasel words may be twined braided or knotted woven into a common bond warp and weft synergy from vibrant difference As if to illustrate a sense of natural overlap and complementarity, Robert Gibson’s fine poem of condensed, serpentine power is rendered entirely without punctuation. The space between the gifts of nature is filled with the promise of enterprise, of creativity, of something even greater than intrinsic individual value, so that we are minded to…

Crimson Soil: Only Killers And Thieves By Paul Howarth

Sometimes a book comes my way which, under normal circumstances, I would not look at twice but which I am persuaded to read for other reasons. This is one such, the debut novel of Paul Howarth, and it is very different from my usual reading matter, falling as it does into the broad genre of the Western. It did not, however, disappoint. Set in 1885, it is a brutal description of a brutal life and brings into sharp focus the harshness…

Jubilee Poem Of The Week: 'The Patriarchs - An Elegy' By Simon Armitage

The Patriarchs – An Elegy The weather in the window this morning is snow, unseasonal singular flakes, a slow winter’s final shiver. On such an occasion to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up for a whole generation – that crew whose survival was always the stuff of minor miracle, who came ashore in orange-crate coracles, fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes. Husbands to duty, they unrolled their plans across billiard tables and vehicle bonnets, regrouped at breakfast. What their secrets were was…

Brooding At Twilight: Vinegar Hill By Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín is both present and not present at moments of immense significance to the teeming protagonists of his poems. As otherwise invisible as the bronzed figure of Icarus in ‘In Los Angeles’, as seemingly extraneous as the boy who falls into the sea in Auden’s ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, the novelist contrives an invaluable detachment in his first poetry collection. A shadowy figure pulling the narratorial strings, Tóibín gives agency to a multiplicity of Orlando figures who are behind…

A Sower In The Desert: Smoke By Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)

Nestled amongst my collection of often tenebrific Russian classics, the works of Turgenev seem to pulse as soft lucent beacons. His novels do not scar the retina of the reader with the blinding, dramatic lightning of Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy, but instead offer us the altogether more subtle tones and hues of a literary sonata. Turgenev penned no magnificent symphony in prose…instead, he gently distilled the contents of his compassionate, cosmopolitan heart onto the pages of his oeuvre in the form…

Ordinary Evil: A Spoonful Of Murder By J. M. Hall

Coincidences do happen. I was house sitting for a friend recently and, investigating the area, I discovered Thirsk Garden Centre. Well worth a visit with its lovely café and shop. When I got back to relax in the sunshine, I picked up my new book and it began in….Thirsk Garden Centre! Now that’s spooky. It also appeared very early on that I recognised, even identified with, the three central characters: women of a certain age, retired teachers to boot, albeit in…

Overall Winner Of Small Press Of The Year Announced At This Year's British Book Awards

Sheffield-based adventure books publisher Vertebrate Publishing has been announced as the overall winner of the fourth annual Small Press of the Year Award. The award, which is sponsored by CPI Books, was announced at The British Book Awards winner ceremony last night at Grosvenor House London in the first in-person British Book Awards ceremony since 2019, and the biggest yet. The event was also streamed online here. Previously announced in March as regional winners for the North of…

Poem Of The Week: 'Sonnet 29' By William Shakespeare

Sonnet 29 When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate, wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee—and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth…

Love Is The Magician That Pulls Man Out Of His Own Hat”: A Marvellous Light By Freya Marske

If Freya Marske’s debut novel were a cocktail, it would be both paradoxically delicious and delightfully moreish. A cornucopia of ingredients, deftly stirred so as to transcend the merits of its individual components and become an esemplastic feast for the senses. The recipe might at first glance raise a cynical eyebrow yet from the first sip, dextrous literary accretion acts an invisible dynamic agency producing something truly magical. Our young baron epitomises a finessed sense of noblesse oblige, charismatic…

Senoy, Sansenoy And Semangelof: When I Close My Eyes By Jemma Wayne

The lack of control experienced by the somnambulist is frightening and this novel explores the fear and sense of uncertainty it may arouse in sufferers. Physical torture is bad, mental torment is so much worse. Lilith shares a name with Adam’s first wife - not Eve, the one we all know about, but the first one, the one made equal who did not want to be subservient to a man; the one who, punished by God and robbed…

Poem Of The Week: 'This train has left the city ...' by Paul Henry

This train has left the city … This train has left the city approximately ten years late. You sway and stare at the glitter thinning out into fields, a Hopper model darkness frames, your hair tied back, your dress still thinking it’s summer. We share a cup’s hand-warmer. Here comes a tunnel, a pause where I cannot hear clearly the song that nests in your head. I used to know it by heart. It’s our station already. Drink up. We were never here. Edward Hopper’s lone figures occupying seats in the diners and offices of…

Poem Of The Week: 'Giorno Dei Morti' By D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Giorno dei Morti Along the avenue of cypresses, All in their scarlet cloaks and surplices Of linen, go the chanting choristers, The priests in gold and black, the villagers. . . And all along the path to the cemetery The round dark heads of men crowd silently, And black-scarved faces of womenfolk, wistfully Watch at the banner of death, and the mystery. And at the foot of a grave a father stands With sunken head, and forgotten, folded hands; And at the foot of a grave a mother kneels With pale…

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps: The Christie Affair By Nina De Gramont

I have always been a fan of Agatha Christie novels. I remember discussing them with my form teacher in the lower sixth as we swapped different volumes and compared our thinking. It was a great means of reading so many more volumes of a popular collection of mysteries. I also now live in Harrogate where Agatha Christie so famously spent her few lost days – the ones she claimed not to remember - and where a Crime Writing Festival is…

Inhabiting The Night: The Book Of The Barn Owl By Sally Coulthard

Sally Coulthard’s absorbing new book for Head of Zeus continues a worthy tradition of ecological engagement that has become one of the publisher’s hallmarks. The informal series of works of serious concern for nature in a changing environment alight upon animal subjects whose absence from popular public scrutiny is corollary to an instinctive unsociability, or to the fact of declining populations, or both. The powerful suggestion of empathy, which is a condition of all of Coulthard’s recent studies, informs a warm-blooded…

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2022 Programme Line-Up Announced

Harrogate International Festivals has announced the full programme for the 2022 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the world’s largest celebration of crime fiction and thriller writing. Curated by this year’s Festival Chair, award-winning novelist Denise Mina, the 2022 programme will see some of the most exciting names in crime fiction take to the stage, with speakers including: broadcaster and crime fiction debut author Rev. Richard Coles; comedian and writer Frankie Boyle; bestselling creator of the Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez…

Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum:The Gift - Book 1, Eleanor, by R. A. Williams

Audacity, authorial panache, and a quasi-forensic diligence, saturate the eldritch, often wondrously grisly pages of R.A. Williams’ first instalment in his The Gift Trilogy. Book 1: Eleanor is a cleverly executed and thoroughly absorbing, if complex, megillah which romps along at a zesty pace despite its narrative having to chart a wildly disparate catena of epochs, events, and ideologies. To conceive of a story almost deserving the term ‘epic’ is one thing…to artfully weave its multifarious strands together and do…

Poem Of The Week: 'Mountain' By Polly Atkin

Mountain Scar on the skin of the land, hypertrophic, memory of conflict, buckled and thickened by a difference in process, grown out of accident, formed out of pain. It says: this is where it hurt, once, a long time ago, Earth could have forgotten. Stone remembers. Two worlds met here, connected, pressed into one another, became something other. Surrendered futures. They say: this is where it hurt, when it happened, and for a long time after. Sometimes it still does. This is why we call them Fell. Fateful, suspicious. Like all…

Walking Away: Offcumdens by Bob Hamilton & Emma Storr

Emma Storr is an incomer, an ‘offcumden’ in the language of vernacular Yorkshire, and her poetry is paradoxically validated by the detachment which is gifted by an accident of birth. Her vision, in this absorbing marriage of photographs and words, is not comfortably complacent; instead, we find sincerity in her enthusiasm, for here is an homage to an adopted home whose poems reflect and describe the arresting photographs, by Bob Hamilton, on each opposing page. Any intertextual inference seems incidental. Offcumdens

Keep Digging: The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

The prologue, a vivid definition of arachnophobia, did give me cause to hesitate. What was I doing reading a novel like this? I don’t like frightening psychological dramas and I definitely don’t like creepie crawlies. I empathized with Sean Connery in Dr No when the tarantula crawled over him – his fear was real, apparently – and I don’t like the trials in I’m a Celebrity – you’ll know the ones. I didn’t need to worry in this case,…

The Devil's In The Detail: Johannes Cabal The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

As with innumerable readers, my reading proclivities benefit from the deft hand of serendipity acting as a delightful agent of fortuitous thaumaturgy. Quite by chance I will be drawn to a book ostensibly appearing to be something unlikely to tickle my fancy, yet upon closer inspection, said book magically provides unexpected noetic stimulation, and the invaluable balm of unadulterated entertainment. These lucky finds remain one of my greatest joys, and go a long way to explaining the enduringly ineluctable pull…

Poem Of The Week: 'On A General Election' by Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

The brevity of Hilaire Belloc’s clever polemic is of a piece with the sentiment he expresses: the man on the Clapham Omnibus might give vent to the intuition in a similarly abbreviated form. Similar, but different.On a General Election The accursed power which stands on Privilege (And goes with Women, and Champagne and Bridge) Broke - and Democracy resumed her reign: (Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne) The brevity of Hilaire Belloc’s clever polemic is of a piece with the sentiment…

Review: Cold Enough For Snow By Jessica Au

‘Lyrical and poetic’ is a phrase arguably over-used to describe narratives that have moved and stimulated us; but in this case I feel the phrase might justly be applied. Cold Enough for Snow is a short novel by Jessica Au, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, and a winner of the Novel Prize, an award offered by Fitzcarraldo, New Directions (US) and Giramondo (Australia) for any novel written in English that explores and expands the possibilities of the form. And rightly so. Cold

Moon Illusion: Samara - Poems By Graham Mort, Illustrations By Claire Jefferson

A sense of Ted Hughes is inescapable in Graham Mort’s powerful new collection, though he might not thank you for the inference: the ‘dwarf god growing / into lordship of its world’ in ‘Froglet’, and the lizards silent on stones, adored by the heat of the sun in ‘Waking in Picardy’, both anthropomorphically aggrandize the stature of the animals and suggest a centred, focused power not shared by their observer in the benighted shadows. Samara is a very beautiful suite…

Clearing Up The Havoc: Darkness In The City Of Light By Tony Curtis

If you stand at the end of the raised platform of the Trocadero, and look down over the parapet to view the manicured gardens that lead to the Eiffel Tower, you might not be aware that you’re following more or less in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler. Flanked, on a June day in 1940, by his architect Albert Speer and Arno Breker, the Reich’s sculptor in chief, the Fuhrer surveyed the hitherto biggest prize in his conquistadorial career, from an…