Poem Of The Week: Barmbrack By Dean Browne

Barmbrack Mother of God, two houseflies were making love on what must have been their honeymoon. My grandmother struck them with a dishcloth. The dirty fuckers, she said, sweeping them into her open palm like currants falling from the barmbrack loaf at the heart of which lay a golden ring. The affront of the grandmother figure in Barmbrack is a gentle infusion of humour in a vignette whose celebratory tone does for the thought of a freshly-baked fruit loaf what William Carlos Williams did for the irresistible allure of…

After Sylvia: Poems And Essays In Celebration Of Sylvia Plath

Observing the plaids and pleats of the contents of Sylvia Plath’s closet at Bonham’s auction sale room, academic Gail Crowther is struck by the potency of these ‘objects of the dead’, invested with an inextricable link to the ‘biography of the owner’. The ‘symbolic continuity’ they confer can only, she notes, be a shadow of that given up by a manuscript or a collection of poems, but they do introduce us to a kind of intimacy with the interior life…

Anthology Of Short Stories With A Connection To Lancashire To Be Launched

Next week, 12,000 copies of a new book 'Lancashire Stories' will be distributed for free across the county. Printed with help from UCLan Publishing, the book will be given away at libraries, museums and Lancashire Archives. An exclusive eBook version will also be available on BorrowBox, with five additional stories - after Lancashire Day on Sunday (Nov 27) Lancashire County Council commissioned 17 talented, professional authors to write 'Lancashire Stories', which delves into the area's people, places, heritage and mythology. Starting from Tuesday, (November…

A Different World: Swan Song By Robert Edric

Like tuning in to a familiar television series, there is something comforting about reading a series of books involving the same principal characters. You get to know them, to discover their foibles and traits and they become familiar, almost friends. So, it was with a degree of pleasurable anticipation that I picked up the third in the Song Cycle Quartet and met up once more with PI Leo Rivers and his news agency pals, Sunny and Yvonne. Having said how familiar…

After Sylvia: Poems And Essays In Celebration Of Sylvia Plath

Observing the plaids and pleats of the contents of Sylvia Plath’s closet at Bonham’s auction sale room, academic Gail Crowther is struck by the potency of these ‘objects of the dead’, invested with an inextricable link to the ‘biography of the owner’. The ‘symbolic continuity’ they confer can only, she notes, be a shadow of that given up by a manuscript or a collection of poems, but they do introduce us to a kind of intimacy with the interior life…

Books: Unseen Ayckbourn By Simon Murgatroyd

Sir Alan Ayckbourn, is arguably the country’s greatest living playwright. He is certainly the most prolific - and the majority of his plays received their premiere in Scarborough. Originally, this was in the Library Theatre, the first professional in-the-round company, which he joined in 1957 as an actor and stage manager, and from 1996 in the Stephen Joseph Theatre (SJT). ... is a marvellous miscellany of Ayckbourn’s out-takes, paths not taken, reappraisals and rejections. Both a scholarly work of reference and…

Poem Of The Week Children's Special: Head In The Clouds By Charlie Bown

Head in the Clouds Teacher says, Get your head out, Right out, Out of the clouds. Nothing good can come From having a head Stuck in the clouds, He says. Before I take my head Out of the clouds I look around, Around at the clouds. And I see magicians Explorers Adventurers Artists And dancers. I see movers And makers Singers Wakers Dreaming. In the clouds I see mysteries for solving Stories for telling Challenges for taking Lives for saving Questions for wondering And my head In the clouds, Exactly where it belongs. I think we’ve all been there; those unavoidable occasions so mind-bogglingly boring that the only escape is to…

Poem Of The Week: Colden Valley By Ken Smith (1938-2003)

Colden Valley North I’m convinced of it: childhood’s over, in the narrow valleys in the mist the frost is silver in the veins and edge of leaves, and last year’s briars coppered into stone. Then more stone dragged to quarter fields in which the miserable lives of beasts in winter whiten into breath. The valley pulls – poor pasture, poorer footage, water falling. And all its children gone through millyards into stone they chiselled.Billy, Emma, Jack, and gave their dates and shut the ground in work and prayer. Or they are almost…

Deep In The Shadowlands: The Damascene Moment By Malcolm Hollingdrake

Living in Harrogate as I do, a number of people have mentioned the Harrogate Crime Series to me but as the books were only available on Kindle at first - not my preferred medium - I did not immediately enter the world of DCI Cyril Bennett and DI David Owen. Now regularly published in hard copy, I can sit and enjoy their investigations. This is the twelfth in the series and it seems Harrogate is as dangerous a place to…

The Balloon Goes Up: Adventures In Children’s Poetry

I stagger to the counter, an armful of book packages clutched to my chest. “Hello!” I say through the perspex slot, “It’s me again.” Mrs Goggins in the post office leaps into action and five minutes of weighing, printing and sticking begins as postcodes and zip codes are checked. While the growing queue behind me peppers the back of my neck with darts and daggers from impatient eyes, my right ear warms considerably. The process completed, the postage paid, I smile weakly and…

Poem Of The Week: On The Extinction Of The Venetian Republic By William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee; And was the safeguard of the west: the worth Of Venice did not fall below her birth, Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty. She was a maiden City, bright and free; No guile seduced, no force could violate; And, when she took unto herself a Mate, She must espouse the everlasting Sea. And what if she had seen those glories fade, Those titles vanish, and that strength decay; Yet shall some tribute of regret be…

‘However Faecal The Treacle’ : Wild Horses, By Jordi Cussà

W. Somerset Maughan wrote in the summation of his Ten Novels And Their Authors, “In one way or another, I have used in my writings whatever has happened to me in the course of my life.” The oft parroted advice given to many a budding novelist is to write what you know about. Ipso facto, many novels have come to us as refractory mirrors of those writing them. The extent to which the waters of the well of lived experience…

Contriving To Be Alive: Brave Little Sternums - Poems From Rojava By Matt Broomfield

The revolution of women presently unfolding in Iran, against male oppression bolstered by strict application of the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism, marginalizes still further the interests of the much-abused Kurdish peoples, at least in terms of the deflection of public attention. The stateless Kurds, whose numbers total near 40 millions, have been pushed around, tyrannized and displaced ever since the western powers re-wrote the colonial map in the early part of the twentieth century. And Matt Broomfield’s harrowing first-hand account of…

Universal Music Group And The Reading Agency Gift Books By Black Authors To Libraries Across The UK

As Black History Month reaches its conclusion, The Reading Agency and Universal Music Group (UMG) have announced the ‘Mark My Words’ campaign, providing copies of books by Black authors to libraries across the UK. The Reading Agency has partnered with UMG through the company’s UK Task Force for Meaningful Change (UKTFMC), which focuses on the unique challenges facing the UK’s Black community. The titles, including both fiction and non-fiction books for both children and adults, will be donated to local…

Long Lost Families: A Child of the Dales by Diane Allen

Get the tissues ready, Davina and Nicky are on the hunt for Long Lost Families again. I don’t know about you but the premise of this programme, to reunite families who have previously been separated for whatever reason and are now searching for each other, is heartwarming. At least, the stories we see on TV are, with their (usually) happy endings. So, too, A Child of the Dales, Diane Allen’s twelfth book, which is all about families. We have a foundling,…

Poem Of The Week: Beauty By Hannah Hodgson

Beauty Emptying a stoma bag is a transferrable skill – an icing bag of shit piped down the toilet. Summer is heavy in painful bones. Heat and urgency, my body a car aflame on a hard shoulder. When I get naked for the first time with my girlfriend she doesn’t comment on my lingerie; my body’s lace of scar tissue too distracting. When my life became a symptom I became an informational campaign, like those on the back of cigarettes. My mother couldn’t look at me without grimacing. Tesco had given me priority…

University of Leeds Poetry Centre Showcase At The Ilkley Literature Festival

It is a tribute to the durability of the ongoing collaboration between the renowned Leeds University Poetry Centre and the Ilkley Literature Festival that Wednesday night’s poetry performance at Ilkley’s All Saints Church did not suffer in the absence of one of its leading protagonists through illness. West Yorkshire-based poet Zaffar Kunial was to take centre stage in an alphabetical compendium of performers, but the ninety or so minutes of recitals were so rewarding, and of such a high quality,…

Poem Of The Week: Racedown By Peter Sansom

Racedown He leaps the gate, his party piece, and cuts the corner of a pathless field. She looks up, waves a trowel, and calls to her brother. Smiles. She’s twenty-five and will remember this the rest of her days, even when most of the days are lost: Coleridge as he was. Closer to, soup-stained, and with a days-long odour. He walked city to city talking all the way. But what she sees is how he listened to her. They are orphans together minding a child in a borrowed house; they read…

The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida Wins 2022 Booker Prize For Fiction

The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (Sort of Books)has won the 2022 Booker Prize. Synopsis: Shehan Karunatilaka’s rip-roaring epic is a searing, mordantly funny satire set amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war. Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed…

An Act Of Living: Hidden Music By Ralph Dartford

To the dyslexic kid sitting in a Vauxhall Viva outside a pub in Basildon in 1976, the spark of recognition is a long train coming. Twiddling with the knobs of the car radio whilst his father talks pigeon racing inside, an unlikely epiphany is enacted over the pop and crisps: from Hilversum to the tiny voices of foreigners in the box, from edgy guitars to discordant melodies, the boy arrives at a moment of discovery. The prelude to Ralph Dartford’s cathartic…

‘It Seemed Innocuous Enough’: The Thursday Murder Club By Richard Osman

Oh Richard, may I call you that, or should it be Mr Osman since I haven’t actually met you? But anyway, thank you! The last time I laughed out loud when reading a book was when I opened Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary and we all know how long ago that was. (Well, actually, I couldn’t remember but I looked it up and it was published in 1996 and I know I got it in my Christmas stocking when it…

Poem Of The Week: Deathbed Observation By Kit Wright

Deathbed Observation Broken in my father’s face, The lock of anguish and dismay, And lines of laughter – burned away In death that turned his body grey. Fell no dark upon that place. Death relit a younger grace. Strange, in his own light, he lay And he was handsome as the day. Kit Wright’s closely observed poem says all that needs to be said in two quatrains. Elegiac in tone, ‘Deathbed Observation’ is transformative, conferring upon the father figure a mien which, in death, belies the anxiety and sadness…

Poem Of The Week: The Way Through the Woods By Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

The Way Through the Woods They shut the road through the woods Seventy years ago. Weather and rain have undone it again, And now you would never know There was once a road through the woods Before they planted the trees. It is underneath the coppice and heath, And the thin anemones. Only the keeper sees That, where the ring-dove…

Three Strikes! : The Local By Joey Hartstone

I’ve said before that I’m a fan of John Grisham, especially his legal dramas full of courtroom spectacle and intrigue, with a sharp eye on legal protocol and intricate detail. Well, this debut novel by a well-established script-writer, follows in Grisham’s footsteps. Slightly shorter, slightly easier to read but still with plenty of drama and spectacle and not just in the courtroom. Zawar is not happy with the verdict and in a violent outburst in the courtroom, he threatens to kill…

Poem Of The Week: They Shut Me Up In Prose By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

They shut me up in Prose They shut me up in Prose – As when a little Girl They put me in the Closet – Because they liked me ‘still’ – Still! Could themselves have peeped – And seen my Brain – go round – They might as wise have lodged a Bird For Treason – in the Pound – Himself has but to will And easy as a Star Abolish his Captivity – And laugh – No more have I – The inner resource of American poet Emily Dickinson’s imagination,…

Another Life, Another Way: Constellations Of Eve By Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood

French existentialist philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre said, “We are our choices”. Perhaps Sartre was echoing the thoughts of his ancestor, Herodotus, who proclaimed that, “The destiny of man is in his soul”. Mankind’s perennating battle with personal autonomy and the capricious forces of Fate has occupied the minds of innumerable luminaries within the Western literary canon. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 comes to mind, though Emily Dickinson’s Superiority to Fate strikes me as being directly concerned with the power of individual…

A Different Kind Of War: The Tin Nose Shop By Don J. Snyder

I sometimes wonder if I am a glutton for punishment, choosing as I so often do, to read novels which reflect on grim details of our past, but I console myself in the belief that we ignore history at our peril if we are to make a better future and, thankfully, most of the books I read end with a promise of better times ahead. So, yet again, I found myself engrossed as I read The Tin Nose Shop in…

Poem Of The Week: 'My Heart's In The Highlands' By Robert Burns

My Heart’s in the Highlands My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here, My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer; Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe, My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go. Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North, The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth ; Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, The hills of the Highlands for ever I love. Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow, Farewell to the straths and…

Between The Acts: The Still And Fleeting Fire By Amina Alyal & Oz Hardwick

Amina Alyal and Oz Hardwick bestride the earthly universe like prophets in their prose-poem collaboration for Hedgehog Poetry Press. That one of the subjects of their philosophical exploration is the pandemic need not be undermined by the tardiness of this review, because there is a wider serviceability to their poetic mandate: the pandemic, here, is one symptom only of a greater malaise, as the authors’ katabatic descent indicates. The underpinning of the journey that the narrator(s) undertake in The Still

Poem Of The Week: Paris By Rosalind Hudis

Paris Lime trees are dumb with chlorophyll wasps nurse whatever sweetness the makers of crepe and beignets have smeared on the glistening air. They hang like half-cut bodyguards above the bent back of a girl who’s thumbing the racks of vinyl. She’s sifting with forensic tip-fingers an archeologist hunting codes locked in shimmer. Scratches buzz gyrate a counter-line, off- beat, off-their heads, swamp crazy jazz, quivering on the city’s white pate. The languid fulsomeness of Rosalind Hudis’ compelling poem is Keatsian in metaphorical vigour. This montage of a Parisian day, set…