Explore York Libraries from Home

Explore provides the public library and archives service for the city of York. Last year Explore York Libraries and Archives had over 1 million visitors, held 1466 events, told 1734 stories to children, and loaned more than 2000 books every day. Holding over 850 years of civic records, the City Archives are the most complete outside London. Explore enables people to live fuller, more connected and engaged lives, by giving everyone access to knowledge and ideas in safe, friendly spaces…

Review: Moonlight Over Mayfair By Anton du Beke

My family all know I am a Strictly fan! Previous Christmases have yielded tickets to the Strictly Tour and to Anton and Erin’s own show, a set of Ballroom DVD’s and a voucher for a five-week beginners’ course to learn Ballroom and Latin. My husband, I would like to say, is thrilled that those five weeks have so far extended to six years, although the current crisis has caused us to hang up our dancing shoes, temporarily. This year, Santa saw…

Children Challenged to Inspire Cressida Cowell in Settle Stories Competition

Arts charity Settle Stories have launched their free Children’s Story Competition ahead of Yorkshire Festival of Story 2020. The competition will be judged by Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, the author-illustrator ofHow to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series. Those aged 7 - 11 years old are invited to make the UK lockdown creative and inspire Cowell with 750 words set in Yorkshire. To mark their 10th year, Settle Stories are rebranding the Settle Stories Festival to…

Review: The Last Cuckoo by Maria Frankland

Here is a rare treat: a book of extraordinary depth that leaves no stone unturned in its selection of the kinds of trope which drive effective narratives – The Last Cuckoo is thorough in both conception and execution. This last skill – and it is crafted – is manifested in the story in thematic, stylistic and tonal devices which look incredibly well-honed. I was particularly struck by the ‘backward glance’ approach which is the story’s motor: the art of insinuating…

Real Heroes: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky By Simon Mawer

I have to admit, the Coronavirus is worrying, not only because of the financial and economic implications both for individuals and for the country but also because of the stark reality that some people we know and love might not survive. There are things we can all do. Social distancing is ok, self-isolating is a bit more difficult but we can do it – it seems, we must. Stories of selfish people attacking supermarket shelves like locusts are shameful, so…

Poem Of The Week: 'Spelling Rickets' By William Bedford

Spelling Rickets Stumbling from the park like a ghost on sticks the cripple boy chased after the crowds, dodging the trams like a coin in pitch-and-toss, flying unsteady down the cobbled streets... but wanting to play, whatever the cost. ‘Wait for me’ were blighted words for months after he ran too slow for the Wicker tram, blue sparks like lonely angels far from home. They buried him with his two wooden sticks and a daisy chain made from old newspaper. Ink ran on the white flowers. Rain did the rest, mulching the…

Review: EBORACVM: THE VILLAGE By Graham Clews

This book is a lengthy read, lots of pages of small print, in my edition at least, but one in which it is well worth investing your time and energy - and if you like it, it’s the first part of a trilogy which relates the interaction of two families, one Roman and one Brigantian, as they fight for land, justice and love. Yes, it’s historical action, spanning a little more than fifty years of Roman Britain, with a sprinkle…

Ghost Flowers: The Poetry Of Emma Simon, Nick On & Hilary Menos

Even in a series of collections as disparate, and individually rewarding, as the three winners of the Poetry Business competition for 2019, there is a tendency to try to locate connections, as though it were incumbent upon the reviewer to think thematic or lyrical simpatico into being. It’s where a natural synoptic impulse, or an urge for clarity through the illusion of verisimilitude, leads us. And really, the three pamphlets under poor secondary scrutiny here – secondary, because they were selected…

Review: A Body In The Bookshop By Helen Cox

Having recently read and reviewed Cox’s first Kitt Hartley mystery, Murder by the Minster, it felt quite comfortable to revisit the same characters in this, her second. There is some advantage to reading them in order since there are plenty of references in this novel to events which occurred, and relationships which were initiated, in the first. Once again, there are repeated literary references littered throughout the story. I had thought this novel alluded to Agatha Christie’s The Body in the

Poem Of The Week: 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802' By William Wordsworth

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 Earth has not anything to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty; This City now doth, like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Never did sun more beautifully steep In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill; Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm…

Review: Secrets of the Singer Girls by Kate Thompson

Similar to The Shipyard Girls in Love, which was previously reviewed in Yorkshire Times’ pages, Kate Thompson’s fine novel tells the story of a group of girls working in the factories of London’s East End, during World War Two. The title reflects not only their work on Singer sewing machines but also their habit of singing as loudly as possible, to keep their spirits up. All the old songs get a mention as do the popular radio programmes of the…

Avenues & Alleyways: Tony Christie - The Song Interpreter

It is gratifying, in some undirected way, to read about a performer who recognises the debt he or she owes to someone, now largely forgotten, who gave them the impetus, the drive, to develop a career from the most unprepossessing of circumstances. For Tony Christie, the vibrato-voiced purveyor of many hit ballads, that person was Miss Mills, his music teacher at school in Conisbrough, and the reader is cheered by his belated mention of her recognition of his unique voice, and…

Poem Of The Week: 'Tamer & Gyrfalcon' By Yvonne Reddick

Tamer & Gyrfalcon The wood is fenced. Those fields are walled. Your horses kick against their stalls. You show me lures and hoods and gloves, And you say you’ll tame me with your love. I gralloch fawns. I eat raw fox. I won’t stay caged within this box. You clamp a ring to my scaly thigh And bind my ankles. Go on, fly! My feet are scythes. My face an axe. Pray that when you call, I don’t come back. Here, to adumbrate Tennyson, is nature ‘red in tooth and claw’.…

The Bog Togher And The Byerley Turk: Ireland's Forgotten Past By Turtle Bunbury

Acclaimed broadcaster, writer and journalist Turtle Bunbury has pulled off a feat of exquisite skill - the upholding of a mandate to edify entertainingly without overwhelming his audience in scholarly aridity. Ireland’s Forgotten Past is a rare and cherishable thing: combining assiduous research with a nose for ribald fun, Bunbury disinters the odd, the arcane and the profoundly surprising from the dark recesses of a mostly unknown history. His purview is panoramic: beginning with the tectonic continental shifts of distant geological…

Poem Of The Week: 'Snow' By Edward Thomas

At a time of apparently relentless deluge, we might yearn for the muffling silence of the white stuff. When streams become rivers and rivers become lakes, changed landscapes throw our sense of proportion, leave us at our lowest annual ebb, incarcerated by the twin spectres of SAD and looming climate emergency. Snow is a handy cognitive corrective, unless you are a hill farmer in which case it is almost certainly an airborne punishment. Snow In the gloom of whiteness, In the great silence…

Song Of The Wind: White Ink Stains By Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown’s first collection of poems, since her acclaimed volume Maiden Speech of 1996, is freighted with unspoken empathy. This unusual and beautiful volume gathers the lost voices of the past in a benign web of poetic exegesis, restoring individual merit commemoratively and declaring an affinity with those who ‘go down in history’ unnoticed, in Tony Harrison’s resonant words. Some of the poems here are responses to interviews recorded for the Reading Sheffield oral history project. Using an approximation of individual…

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Christmas (which now seems so far away) means Santa and in our case that always includes books. This year, the variety was notable. Anton du Beke’s Moonlight over Mayfair still awaits my attention (and Mum is impatient to get her hands on it, too!) as does Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. The first one I picked up, though, was Sally Rooney’s Normal People. An odd title but, then, who defines what’s normal? Rooney’s second novel is inspirational and thought-provoking, exploring…

Poem Of The Week: 'Everything Is Going To Be All Right' By Derek Mahon

Everything Is Going to Be All Right How should I not be glad to contemplate the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window and a high tide reflected on the ceiling? There will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that. The poems flow from the hand unbidden and the hidden source is the watchful heart. The sun rises in spite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright. I lie here in a riot of sunlight watching the day break and the…

Just Passing Through: The Valley Press Anthology Of Prose Poetry

The beautifully written Introduction to Valley Press’ new anthology of Prose Poems is a mirror to that which it describes. This hybrid form of expression, with a ‘mercurial resistance to definition’, has many detractors amongst poetic purists, but perhaps its quality lies in its very refusal to be circumscribed. It is distinguished from poetry only in terms of lineation, yet it often fulfils the criteria of lyricism and distillation of meaning by which we measure its enduring counterpart. And it is…

And So The Wind Blows: Poems From A Green & Blue Planet

The best poetry exceeds expectation, outreaches its own grasp, and sometimes yields unexpected, or unintended, rewards. The application of a connective thematic structure in Hodder’s wonderful new collection releases an energy which helps the poems to breathe more easily, or at least to enable the reader to make inferences about contemporary relevance which may transcend the limits, even, of authorial intention. Aimed at those amongst us who will inherit the future – our children - Poems From a Green and Blue

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…

Poem Of The Week: 'We Won't Get Fooled Again' By Blake Morrison

We Won’t Get Fooled Again Among the Saturday bargains – hose pipes, open-crotch panties, inflatable chairs – this one: ‘Front-door spyhole. Six-foot span. You see unwanted callers. They don’t see you.’ The picture’s inspired. A curlered housewife safe behind her door figures immediately the scar-faced stranger looming outside is not selling brushes. She won’t open up. Europe’s new frontier! The end of the terror! Never again those games of happy families cut short by a rap in the heart of the door – father leaving us to answer it, then the loud,…

Urbanus Magnus: Fucking Good Manners by Simon Griffin

There is a genre of literature, frequently best-selling, that takes a sardonic scalpel to what we mostly recognise as commonsense. In less than capable hands, such a strategy is doomed to failure on grounds of tedious reiteration: the material facts of the way in which we disport our affairs does not always bear excessive scrutiny. Think Grumpy Old Men – overcooked television series, and subsequent book whose diminishment of economic return was predicated entirely on the enervation-inducing repetitiveness of its…

Poem Of The Week: 'Star Of The Nativity' By Joseph Brodsky

Star of the Nativity In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain, a child was born in a cave in order to save the world; it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart. To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior—the team of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar. He was but a dot, and a dot was the…

At Home In Grasmere: Vital Stream By Lucy Newlyn

There is an authenticity to Lucy Newlyn’s magnificent new reworking of William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s elemental outpourings of 1802 which has less to do with faithfulness to language than to the nuances of their profoundly unusual relationship. Her attention to detail in this lengthy series of sonnets is nothing short of phenomenal, her affinity with the Wordsworth’s writings predicated upon extensive research. Newlyn’s compendious academic knowledge of the Romantics is evident at every turn, and she has found a form…

A Point Of Departure: When The Tree Falls By Jane Clarke

It would be a hard heart that didn’t yield to the bucolic simplicity of Jane Clarke’s poetics. Her metrical sense slows in obedience to a languid lyricism, creating an adagio which is as much about rendering intensity of feeling as meaning. Giving vent to her love for her departed father through a shared affiliation with the rustic landscape of her formative home in Roscommon, When the Tree Falls is a protracted and desperately moving song of loss. And, in the sense…

Poem Of The Week: 'If My Grandmother Had Had Balls' By Tom Sastry

If my grandmother had had balls she would have been a juggler and joined the circus where she would have learnt how to eat fire and not get burnt. Instead, she kept house with the violence of a perfectionist and left bruises and is not missed. Tom Sastry’s embittered and perfectly rounded skewering of his grandmother is a neat antidote to the compelling, some might say sentimentally-cloying, portraits of conventional expectation. For here, rendered in two simple quintains, is a domestic tyrant who does not spare the rod, an…

Poem Of The Week: 'Home' By Deryn Rees-Jones

Home As if we would never arrive, we check our watches and connections. So many elsewheres as we walk into abandoned rooms that somehow have forgotten us. A window propped, half-open on a garden, stares. A bird as if to say, you’re here, glances its wings against the blue so far away, then becomes invisible. How they call to us, the lost places. Now I carry my life, as a snail might, slipping across grass and stone: the shrugged contours of her shell’s light spiral, the glistening of her bridal train. Like a half-remembered song, marking us,…

Poem Of The Week: 'Last Post' By Gill Petrucci

Last Post - Written to mark the closure of the historic Malham post box The vivid red soldier poised at his post ‘G.R.’ gleams proudly on his chest. Yet his jaw is clenched tight, straining behind the fixed metal plate now marking his useful end. He considers for a moment his years of platitudinous service. Practical, noble and necessary, he never missed the vital daily pick up. What could he have done wrong ? He misses those familiar sounds; paper envelopes slipping inside, the creaking hinges. Jangling keys, then letters cascading into…

Song Of The Ungirt Runners: The Result Is What You See Today

The monumental growth of the Park Run phenomenon in recent years is one yardstick of running’s burgeoning popularity. It is fitting, as one of the curators of this fine anthology of poems implies, to measure that phenomenon in the words of its practitioners, in a medium of expression which best captures the immediacy, the pain, the gratification and the freedom associated with this most psychologically liberating of pastimes. Park Run has levelled the playing field and opened a theatre of infinite…