Poem Of The Week: 'Master Of Works' By Rennie Parker

Master of Works The parkland there, Sir Not obtrusive to the casual eye It’s artifice concealed in the approved English manner. Remark upon your left the small temple -Let us say, to Harmony or the Four Winds – Advise me on the image immured within – As if, Sir, the ancients themselves Did pour their blessings on your fine estate. You will find it an esteemed model As seen in the later volumes of Vitruvius. A humble façade, Sir, Should not be countenanced here; The correct gesture is worth an hundred lies. I…

Love Orange By Natasha Randall - A Review

Love Orange, by Natasha Randall, is an elegant, skillfully penned evisceration of life as we know it. A frank assessment of the pitfalls of modern American existence is constructed via precise, careful examination, and we would pity the doctor whose job it is to deliver the diagnosis. This compelling account of an ordinary American family is an outstanding debut novel, intrigue keeps you turning the pages: an image of a modern dystopia, painfully rooted in reality, beguiling and ultimately captivating.…

'As Though To Breathe Were Life' : Appius And Virginia By G.E. Trevelyan

Tennyson’s rejoinder to the comforts of domestic inertia jolts the imagination into action: Ulysses’ refusal to accept the torpid duty of his office at any price is embraced most fulsomely on his seaborne return from Troy – nothing matters beyond the tumultuous journey and the unyielding spirit. A similar revulsion to the blandishments of the status quo animates Virginia in G. E. Trevelyan’s forgotten novel of catastrophically misplaced ambition and cultural recalcitrance, and there is some irony in the fact of…

Poetry And The Addicted Serial Submitter

Back in 1967, the Milk Marketing Board ran a competition to promote their dairy products. Pictures had to be sent from entrants depicting the wholesome quality of milk, cheese and/or eggs. My dad, a milkman working for the Co-operative, brought an entry form home and at six years old, I set about producing my own masterpiece. In the end, I drew a picture of him going to work on a motorised egg underneath the borrowed heading ‘Go To Work On

An Interview With Heather Child: Author Of Everything About You And The Undoing Of Arlo Knott

In her debut novel, Everything About You, Heather Child writes about new technologies in a way that both celebrates their creation, but also warns about the potential dangers they may hold for our privacy, data security and even our free will: “It’s said that science is about understanding the world, while technology is about changing it. Since we are increasingly becoming supervisors in our own lives, with smart devices second-guessing our every need, I think it’s worth keeping an eye…

Review: Earthlings By Sayaka Murata

I don't think I'd be alone if I said that on finishing Sayaka Murata's novel, Earthlings, I was left quite speechless. It is the kind of book that needs you to pause, take a step back and then decide upon a response. The themes it deals with are largely dark, some clearly exaggerated for the purposes of fiction, but nonetheless relevant to the modern world. However, the approach does keep a distinct gap between reality and fiction, so the reader may…

Review: The Hidden Hours By Sara Foster

It’s a long time since I romped through a book this quickly. Two sittings and only because bedtime came and went and I had to delay finishing it until I could sit up with a cup of tea in the morning. Sara Foster’s Hidden Hours is an exciting and engaging psychological thriller. To begin at the end with the powerful and heartfelt Afterword which, in part, explains the importance of books to the author who found them to be her salvation…

‘Fate Brings People Together No Matter How Far Apart They May Be’: We Are Animals By Tim Ewins

Fate is a concept indelibly ingrained into the human psyche, and one almost as mysterious as it is culturally pervasive. Carl Jung once said, ‘When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate’. Taking a more romantic and less clinically psychological stance on the topic, O. Henry said, ‘The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculatingly to meet and greet unknown fate’. Articulating his typically pragmatic approach, Marcus Aurelius tells us, ‘Accept the things to which…

Sam Mills: The Caring Art - An Interview With Liam Bishop

The writer and publisher, Sam Mills, swipes through pictures on her phone. "Look, here’s my dad playing crazy golf when we went to Littlehampton recently. It’s slightly surreal because he always wears his suit." Wearing his suit and a medical facemask while holding a putter is a surreal, sweet image of a man I feel like I’ve gotten to know through her memoirs, The Fragments of my Father: A Memoir of Madness, Love and Being a Carer (4th Estate). Mills is no…

Poem Of The Week: 'Snowdrop' By Ted Hughes

Snowdrop Now is the globe shrunk tight Round the mouse’s dulled wintering heart. Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass, Move through an outer darkness Not in their right minds, With the other deaths. She, too, pursues her ends, Brutal as the stars of this month, Her pale head heavy as metal. The weather, for the arse end of November, might be a mizzly occlusion wrapped in a blanket of indifference, but there is a promise of something colder and more seasonally apt coming in over the hills.…

'When You Divide Death By Life You Find A Circle': Apeirogon, A Novel By Colum Mccann

Apeirogon is the name given to a shape with a countably infinite number of sides and this title reflects a strong current that ripples through this outstanding novel – that is, there are innumerable perspectives to every story. It is quite unlike anything I have read before, not only for its subject matter, but in how it is constructed, how it flows. For me, it is not a story with a definite starting point progressing to a defined ending, instead…

Review: Keepsake By Kayleigh Campbell

Kayleigh Campbell’s Keepsake is number 7 in the list of work published by those producers of wonderfully presented pamphlets based in Marsden, UK, Maytree Press. The editor, David Coldwell, wanted to establish a poetry press specialising in beautiful pamphlets and anthologies, combining poetry with art through the use of unique covers featuring original paintings. With Campbell’s collection, they have teamed up with West Yorkshire artist Caroline Brown, using ‘Reverie’, an ethereal figurative painting of a young woman seeking ‘space for…

'No Regrets': The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child

Readers may be familiar with Heather Child’s debut novel, Everything About You, which presciently perceived new technologies, their potential moral tenebrities, and rendered such abstruse concepts such as “hyperreality” accessible to the everyday reader. Child’s new fiction, The Undoing of Arlo Knott, tackles new moral territory and builds upon her recurring theme of conflicting realities. The concept and ethics investigated on this occasion are more philosophical in nature, with a gentle detour into the sphere of quantum physics. It…

Review: The Assassin’s Cloak – An Anthology Of The World’s Greatest Diarists Edited By Irene And Alan Taylor

Gwendoline in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest says, ‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something interesting to read on the train’. One imagines that fictitious diary would be nothing less than amusing, even if its author’s judgment is a tad blurred! Leading an interesting life or keenly observing the machinations of others as they lead theirs, can be wonderful material for a diary. Likewise the authentic ruminations, cogitations or whimsies of any individual…

'Thick Like Cream; Perfect Like An Egg': Beneath The Trees Of Eden By Tim Binding

How much wishful thinking is insinuated into fiction is a question perhaps best answered by others. But in the case of Tim Binding’s new novel – a long symbolic excursion through the arterial heartland of England – one infers an authorial projection into a visionary kind of escapism, which may or may not embody a rejection of the wild social and political wind we are presently reaping. Beginning in an England of the late sixties, Beneath the Trees of Eden filters…

Review: On Chesil Beach By Ian McEwan

July, 1962. Dorset, England. A young couple, very much in love, have just got married in the peak of an English summer. Following their wedding night dinner, they both struggle to suppress their private fears for the night to come, which ultimately ends with devastating consequences. Ian McEwan is a writer I had heard about, but I had little interest in picking up his books, until I saw that Saoirse Ronan stars in the film adaption of On Chesil Beach. As per my…

Review: Daisy Jones & The Six By Taylor Jenkins Reid

C’mon now, honey Let yourself think about it Can you really live without it? Whenever I read a book I always pick a favourite quote that either sums up the book for me or really resonates with me, this was my pick for Daisy Jones & The Six, taken from one of their songs mentioned in the book called, ‘This Could Get Ugly’. The novel is an oral history, almost written as biography. Although there is some inspiration taken from the band Fleetwood Mac,…

Goole Revisited: Diary Of A Wild Urban Child

As a child in the sixties, I lived and played down Jefferson Street in the Port of Goole. Home was handily placed for an unpaid job as ball boy with the town’s football team at The Pleasure Grounds. We could hear the busy railway lines that ran from Kingston Upon Hull to Doncaster (the same route travelled by Larkin on Whitsun Weddings) and I could see Goole’s water towers from my attic bedroom window, iconic buildings that still grace the…

Into the Light: Sheaf (Digital) Poetry Festival 2020

Preoccupation with the pandemic need not excuse the government’s apparent unwillingness to engage with the emerging crisis in the Arts. If we think we can ignore the problem – as some do, on grounds that plays, books and exhibitions do not make an appreciable difference to the way we live – I would encourage distracted onlookers to divert their gaze to the wasteland that in no time at all will fill the space where theatres throve until early March of…

Review: Call Me By Your Name By André Aciman

André Aciman is a writer of stellar reputation, most famous for Call Me By Your Name and its companion book, Find Me. A master wordsmith, Aciman is a peerless stylist when it comes to pin-pointing loving and difficult emotions and giving them life through emotionally complex characters. Whilst his methods and stories may be somewhat unconventional and strange at times, it is no secret that these stories nevertheless hit home for romantics and poets alike. The original story of Call Me By

Review: Impermanence By Colin Bancroft

In the doctrines of Buddhism we are told that existence is transient and unpredictable. In the cycle of life nothing lasts, everything decays, and because of this impermanence, attachments to things may cause suffering; which is a bit of a shame really, because Colin Bancroft’s collection of poems is a thing of loveliness and I’d quite like to hang onto it for a while longer. I fully expect my copy of number 20 in the Maytree Press list of publications…

Review: Wish By Katerina Neocleous

The debut collection of Katerina Neocleous, aptly titled Wish, would grant an afternoon of delight for anyone lucky enough to have a copy. The poetic skill of the author and the care with which she crafts each piece, weaving imagery through words that evoked a range of emotions in this reviewer, was impressive. From ‘Burr’ to ‘First Dreams’ the words held my attention throughout, each poem a delight, each line a joy to read as we witness how complications within…

Know Your Enemy: Living Better By Alastair Campbell

Strange that until today I thought of Alastair Campbell as the smarmy advisor to Tony Blair and I pictured him more in terms of how he was portrayed in the excellent film,The Queen, than in real life. I rightly assumed intelligence but hadn’t thought of him much since he left the limelight, and certainly never thought of him as an author. Yet, when I picked up his book Living Better I discovered he has, in fact, already penned eleven non-fiction works…

Poem Of The Week: 'Night Rain' By Edward Lucie-Smith

Night Rain The rain falls in strings, beads To be counted. It wears Out the night and the rock; All things succumb to it. I cannot tell if time Is being washed away, Or if this is time, made Tangible as water. My fever has returned, Like an icy river. In bed alone, I am Dissolving. Flesh becomes Like the wet sacks out there, Abandoned in the dark Of the garden, lapsing Slowly into the earth. Overwhelmed by the kind of deluge that soddens everything to the core, including mood, Edward Lucie-Smith’s finely-tuned poem renders tone as…

Review: She Came To Stay - Eleni Kyriacou

She Came To Stay, the debut novel of Eleni Kyriacou, opens with a young Greek Cypriot woman called Dina, arriving in a grimy, bitingly cold London of 1952. The reader stands beside her; the scene is set, and we quickly begin to form an impression of the central protagonist. She has limited options, nothing to return home to, and so steps into her new life in the big city, welcomed by a gust of wind that dishevels the hair she…

Review: All The Sonnets Of Shakespeare - Edited By Paul Edmondson And Stanley Wells

‘I see men's judgments are a parcel of their fortunes; and things outward Do draw the inward quality after them, To suffer all alike’. A line from Antony and Cleopatra, Act 3, scene 13. Perhaps a useful signpost when interpreting Shakespeare’s sonnets ? When the first national lockdown loomed large in the public consciousness, I had one dreaded fear - long queues outside local supermarkets. Even Prometheus was spared such a fate ! My solution was to arm myself with…

November 1st 2020: Déjà Vu, All Over Again.

Borrowing the above phrase made famous by professional baseball player and undoubted sage Lawrence Peter ‘Yogi’ Berra, we do seem to have been here before. Back in March 2020, when news of the first coronavirus lockdown was sinking in and the UK came to a shuddering halt, I had been deep in preparations for an August book launch of a small collection of poems called Fledge (published by Maytree Press). Several venues had been visited and one had been provisionally booked,…

Returning To Didcot: A Commonplace By Jonathan Davidson

Jonathan Davidson knows when to stop talking. And if we are to measure beauty solely by the standard of brevity we are on to a winner with his new book, at a consumptive 106 pages. Davidson stops talking when he doesn’t perceive a need to continue, and instead fills the spaces where superfluity might otherwise rein, with synoptic treasures. And then he moves on. With little time for the kind of complexity that banjaxes reflection, and causes some critics to retreat…

Hearts Of Darkness: Lord Of The Flies By William Golding

This is one novel I read when I was at school, and have since taught several times as an examination text, but it is a book which never fails to engage me and each time I read it, I find something new to consider. I picked it up yet again this week and have not been disappointed. Don’t dismiss it because you think you have read it before - it is well worth a second go, or even a third,…

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