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…

Poem Of The Week: Love By Hannah Lowe

Love Love was the boy I broke up with years ago. He lived on a grey estate in Upton Heights. He bought me tins of cider and Marlboro Lights and sometimes carved my name in fried potatoes spelled out on my plate. One night he led me through the streets, past moonlit maisonettes and tower blocks, to dawn on Wanstead Flats and as though I were a bride, he made a bed – his jacket on the grass, and swans in the marshes white as the pills we…

Truth And Prayer: The Day That Didn't Happen By Gerd Kvanvig

The striking lyricism of Gerd Kvanvig’s labyrinthine psychological tale, The Day that Didn’t Happen, loses nothing in translation. First published in Norwegian in 2000, her complex story of a young girl’s defining experience is conceived with impressionistic elan, as though to mould hindsight and the sensual immediacy of the present into one serviceable form. Rendered in the first-person through the eyes of the story’s narrator and protagonist, the reader is witness to a broken mosaic of memory as it is…

Nothing Stays Secret Forever : The Cliff House By Chris Brookmyre

Whatever you may imagine when you think of a hen weekend, my guess is, this isn’t it. In the case of The Cliff House, the hen weekend is for Jen, a successful businesswoman, who is about to marry Zaki – well, maybe. She has doubts but hasn’t shared them with anyone yet. Her first husband, Jason, a policeman, disappeared when incriminated in criminal activities. His treatment of her had shattered her confidence in men. Jen’s guests are a mixed bunch…

‘I Cannot Heave My Heart Into My Mouth’: The Uncommon Reader, By Alan Bennett

Nestled within the deliciously wry, often viscerally provocative, and always perspicacious oeuvre of Alan Bennett sits an unassuming literary gem. The Uncommon Reader was originally published in the London Book Review in 2007 and released later that year as a novella. Though this ostensibly light-hearted satirical musing upon class, monarchy, and unlettered nescience romps along with the zesty spice of a mock comedic fable, its innocent effervescence artfully caparisons Bennett’s bile. Deliciously subversive though whimsical in tone, our erudite scribe…

Poem Of The Week: 'I Am' By John Clare (1793-1864)

I Am I am—yet what I am none cares or knows; My friends forsake me like a memory lost: I am the self-consumer of my woes— They rise and vanish in oblivious host, Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life or joys, But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems; Even the dearest that I loved the best Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than…

Speaking In Tongues: Shelling Peas With My Grandmother In The Gorgiolands By Sarah Wimbush

Beyond Sarah Wimbush’s cross-cultural celebration of difference is a kind of accord, an acceptance of the rubbishy glue that mostly fails to bind us. Running beneath vision, like the rich seams of coal that layer the strata under the redundant pits of her native Doncaster, her poems transform knowledge of her heritage and experience into a constructive light, far removed, in terms of generosity of spirit, from our instinctive capacity to prejudge the Romany Gypsy community, who contribute to Wimbush’s…

A World of Echoes: Siren Song By Robert Edric

Think muscle-flexing hard man named Marco, and a consortium of less than reputable wealthy men led by Fowler (good aptronym) who keep their hands clean by employing others to do their dirty work; think arson, murder and highly profitable regeneration of rundown streets and warehouses; think people trafficking, the recruitment and mistreatment of illegals, and a gumshoe trying to bring down a criminal empire. Smacks of New York perhaps, Mafia wars, even? No, this is the second in the Song

Poem Of The Week: Last Illness By Ian Hamilton (1938-2001)

Last Illness (1938-2001) Entranced, you turn again and over there It is white also. Rectangular white lawns For miles, white walls between them. Snow. You close your eyes. The terrible changes. White movements in one corner of your room. Between your hands, the flowers of your quilt Are stormed. Dark shadows smudge Their faded, impossible colours But do not settle. You hear the ice take hold. Along the street The yellowed drifts, cleansed by a minute’s fall, Wait to be fouled again. Your final breath Is in the air, pure white, and moving…

Poem Of The Week: For M., In England By Matt Broomfield

for M., in England we busy ourselves with death for nineteen and a half hours daily afterward, for sixteen afterward, for twelve with a break, in the afternoon, for lying face-down waiting for the wi-fi to restart; and I begin to think of thinking about writing home to you, who never shamed me for not writing even when the bombs were falling for nineteen hours a day who never tried to ask a thing about the war, and so understood it better than most Matt Broomfield’s honesty is the key to his simply wrought, but deeply…

Review: Her Last Promise By Kathryn Hughes

Ok, after quite a variety of reading matter, recently, it felt like time to sit back on a staycation and relax with a comfortable summer read – after all the sun has shown its face (understatements ‘r’ us!) – so, off the bedside pile came Her Last Promise by Kathryn Hughes. Hughes creates believable characters who are endearing – or sometimes not! Violet Dobbs is as realistic and down to earth as her alter ego, Violet Skye, is idealistic, attention-seeking and…

The Swamp Ghosts Of Pripyat: Stalking The Atomic City By Markiyan Kamysh

First published in 2015, the currency of Ukrainian writer, Markiyan Kamysh’s, dark investigation into the aftermath of Chornobyl is immoderately underwritten by present events: the invasion of his land by Russia in February, the surrounding of the power station by its forces, and the crisis now enveloping the reactor at Zaporizhzhya are the latest instalments in a real-time dystopian narrative. Kamysh, the denizen of a post-meltdown landscape, is Kamysh the documenter of Descent, and his strange, compelled presence in the deserted…

‘So Many Dead In The Ashes’ : Dust Off The Bones by Paul Howarth

I reviewed Howarth’s debut novel Only Killers and Thieves a few weeks ago and said I would get hold of the sequel, which I have – and I read it just as quickly, captivated once again by the characters and events. Dust off the Bones begins five years after the end of Only Killers and Thieves and, with a couple of time leaps, ends sixteen years later. It may be read as a standalone but the reader benefits from having…

Interview With Victoria Dowd - Author Of The Smart Woman’s Mystery Series

Victoria Dowd’s debut novel The Smart Woman’s Guide To Murder won the People’s Book Prize for fiction in May 2021. Since exchanging a criminal barrister’s powdered wig for an author’s pen, Dowd has written a further three gloriously quirky crime novels, this scintillating quartet now forming her rather marvellous Smart Woman’s Mystery series. Having reviewed all four of her deliciously corpse-strewn books, each laced with Wilde-like wit and brought to effervescent life with unforgettable characters, perfectly manufactured plots and a…

The Endless Opportunity Of Words: Lanyard By Peter Sansom

Acclaimed poet, teacher and publisher, Peter Sansom’s, fine new collection of poems for Carcanet fingers out into the hinterland of Nottinghamshire as though the constellation of his experience could not be separated from the network of roads, byways and redundant pit villages that formed it. The neural connections of the imagination are the microcosmic equivalent of other mappings, of recalled landscapes of woods and fields, dams and playgrounds. Perhaps the indivisibility of the association is what confers on Lanyard such…

Poem Of The Week: Wheel By Stephen Dee

Wheel The well-kept gardens this side of town, rose mounted borders, cornflowered, lilac-laden around the back of the old stone primary (boys chiseled above one entrance, girls chiseled above the other) have never looked more dishevelled. Lowcloud, bulbous, dark as tripes eases itself across the sky. Underfoot the muscular cobbles, tyretread tattoos displayed on slick, moistened skin, channel drizzle where it gathers and begins to roll toward the valley floor. Over at Bob Crossley's the light, polished to silver in his workshop window, clings to the frontage like paint and in the yard his…

Melody Of Peace: The Electric By Tim Murgatroyd

How often do we give any thought to the effect a film’s musical score has on an audience? Music has a vital role to play. I recently heard it referred to as a leading character. It reflects the mood of the scene and helps the audience to anticipate what is about to happen; repeated motifs are used to highlight the ascendancy of a character: think Bond or Ethan Hunt when the hero once more gets the upper hand. I always…

Poem Of The Week: The London Dinner Party By Jayne Joso

The London Dinner Party Said the composer I have even met some working-class people And some of them Yes, some of them Are quite decent people I clear my throat Clink the ice in my drink People are nodding, not only a musical genius But what a kind man he must be And I? I will not play the chameleon, but I need a refill Someone offers and I accept as they pour The composer smiles as he awaits my cheering him I rise And I? I have met some very posh people in my time And…

“Something Fishy About This Case”: A Book Of Murder By Victoria Dowd

Victoria Dowd’s Smart Woman’s Mystery series began with her exquisitely quirky debut novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder. Back in 2020, Dowd presented us with an esemplastic tour-de-force in which she cleverly coaxed new tunes from a rather old, but much adored, fiddle. With sedulous legerdemain, Dowd took the classic tropes of the murder mystery genre and innovatively laced them with gothic leitmotifs, wittily acidic badinage worthy of Oscar Wilde, and lashings of ribald, Wodehouse-like humour. ...Dowd has once again…

Poem Of The Week: The Vote By Ralph Dartford

The Vote Thursday afternoon and I’m walking home. Not far, just down the hill from the campaign. Buttershaw, South Bradford. The north. Weather hard and splintered. A mist of mustard. The traffic is angry, the streets the colour of beer. It was in these moments that I knew it was over. The woman who said it was the immigrants. The boy who told me, “Piss off back to London!” The weak coffee, the stale biscuits of yesterday. I sat and counted hours. Hunted Twitter for clues. But I saw it in…

Poem Of The Week: 'But Where Are You Really From?' By Safia Khan

'But Where Are You Really From?' Clay. A shapeshifting clot of blood. A kernel inside the first shell- breath of God. Primordial soup, reduced to its atoms after being brought to boil. The same place as the stars and birds, where everything that ever existed was wrapped in tin foil and microwaved into being. An iron ballerina, pirouetting round the Sun and sweating out the Oceans. Mountains formed in an ice tray mould. A patch of grass that drifted from elsewhere. A patch of

He Knows I Know He Knows: Cradle Song By Robert Edric

I thought it would be a relief to read something not based on fact for once but this police procedural was realistic enough to feel authentic. The unsavoury crimes committed were all of the sort which would hit the news stands and flood the media if they were real. Don’t be fooled by the title, there is no comforting smell of baby talc, no first smiles and no tender lullabies. Having said that, I found myself wholly engrossed in the…

Brassed Off: What The Trumpet Taught Me by Kim Moore

The struggle to retain a sense of purpose and identity in a landscape one no longer recognises is a transparent subtext of the film Brassed Off; transparent perhaps because the film’s director, Mark Herman, overlays his narrative with a vigorously-prosecuted political patina that sacrifices subtlety to melodramas of sentiment and pathos. But there is more to the film than saccharine appeals to emotion: running parallel to the redundant miners’ claim to recognition is the elephant in the room - the…