Poetry Review: Two Exquisite Pamphlets

Poetry Pamphlets - Brood and Teaching a Bird to SingThese two poetry pamphlets (Teaching a Bird to Sing by Tracey Rhys, and Brood by Rhian Edwards) each have their own unique style. What links them, in my mind, is the exceptional quality of the cover artwork, along with a kind of poetry which is unflinchingly honest and elegant in its portrayal of motherhood, emotion and the complexity of family relationships. The volumes both present us with the imagery of nesting birds – a perfect metaphor for motherhood.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Slant Light by Sarah Westcott

Book - Slant LightSlant Light is a slim-lined poetry collection which hides a wealth of natural wonder between its covers. Sarah Westcott writes on behalf of nature – giving a voice to the creatures of the wild, and providing a new take on our understanding of the world around us. Her language is fresh, raw and earthy, with a strong ecological message.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Mabinogi by Matthew Francis

Poetry Book The MabinogiSpeaking at the Hay Festival last month, Matthew Francis described his first encounter with The Mabinogi (which he read in 1999 when he moved to Wales). “I was both baffled and fascinated by it,” he explained, “It’s extraordinary, and strange in the way it’s constructed, and it also has a strange logic.” He is not a Welsh speaker himself, and this is not a translation – he described it as a “re-imagining” of the myth, in the same way that Shakespeare drew on existing stories for his plays.    Continue reading

A Very Welsh Anthology of Young Welsh Writers

Cheval 10 anthologyA Guest Post written by Thomas Tyrrell

There is a short story called ‘Daffodil Nipples’, two different authors chose the title ‘Welsh Cakes’, and Blodeuwedd (one of the central figures of the Mabinogion) has a poem to herself. The Cheval 10 anthology definitely has a Welsh feel to it, and that’s appropriate for a collection created from pieces submitted for the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award, (for writers under 30 who live or work in Wales). But there are surprises too: a short story with the familiar title ‘Hiraeth’ turned out to be about an asylum seeker living in Wales, Martina Biavati came all the way from Italy to read her New York-set story ‘Caffe Giallo’, and Katya Johnson’s story about the French painter Cézanne won the second prize for prose.    Continue reading

From Pain to Poetry – Debut Collections by Rebecca Parfitt and Christina Thatcher

Poetry Book - More than you wereIt is often true to say that the most incredible poetry comes from the most painful experiences in life. For centuries poets have been transforming their pain into something beautiful and unique which speaks into the lives of others and helps us to confront our own pain, and two Cardiff poets have recently launched debut collections which do just that. Rebecca Parfitt and Christina Thatcher have both produced poetry collections which strike at the heart of what it means to be human, exploring the most intense and painful of emotions.   Continue reading

Book Review: Too Brave To Dream – newly discovered poems by R.S. Thomas

Too Brave To Dream - Poems by R.S. ThomasThe poet R.S. Thomas passed away in 2000, and two books on modern art were discovered in his library, with previously unseen poems inserted between the pages. Too Brave To Dream: Encounters With Modern Art brings these poems together for the first time, alongside the images themselves. The poems are varied, short and impressionistic, similar in style to the ekphrastic work published during his lifetime. They are surreal, reflecting the appearance of the art he is writing about, but they are also intriguing in their own way.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: And Suddenly You Find Yourself by Natalie Ann Holborow

Poetry book Natalie Ann HolborowNatalie Ann Holborow’s debut poetry collection presents us with a raw, emotional journey of self-analysis, exploring family estrangement, broken relationships and the vulnerability of human experience. Holborow turns life, love and myth into stark reality, with unnerving language and compelling imagery. This is poetry grounded in the physical, from the “silvered, reeking bass” consumed in a restaurant, to “the housefly buzzing, hysterical, / butting its skull to get out”.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Beginning With Your Last Breath by Roy McFarlane

poetry book Roy McFarlaneBeginning With Your Last Breath is a rich, powerful and moving debut from Roy McFarlane, a poet based in the West Midlands. It is split into five distinct sections, each one exploring a different aspect of the poet’s experience. But the book holds together through the shared themes of identity, family, love and loss, in the context of racial tension and cultural change. The cover image reflects the story of the poems within; it shows a painting by Sonia Boyce – She ain’t holding them up, She’s holding on (Some English Rose), 1986 – the image of the mother figure holding onto her family amidst the struggles of life and racial identity.    Continue reading

Poetry Review – The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America

Book - The Other TigerIt is strange to hear someone reading a poem in another language (a language which you don’t understand at all) and then to hear that same poem read again in your own language. There is a sense of building anticipation, as you hear the emotion behind the words, with particular intonations that seem to stand out… Yet the meaning must come later, inevitably with a sense of both satisfaction and loss, as no translation will ever convey the strength of the original…    Continue reading

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Poetry in Response to Art

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

I have always been attracted to the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and intrigued by the lives of the women who modelled for their paintings. Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is a collection which focuses on these women, particularly on Elizabeth Siddall, who was actually a poet and artist in her own right. Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet Off the wall also takes much of its inspiration from artwork, and contains some poems on similar themes to those explored in Kresan’s book.   Continue reading

Poetry Review: A Whole Day Through From Waking by Jacci Bulman

Jacci Bulman poetry collectionWritten in a bare, modest style, Jacci Bulman’s first poetry collection explores life in all its frailty and vulnerability. The language hooks you in, following the story inside each individual poem. Bulman plays with punctuation and form to reveal a raw, broken humanity. Themes include the uncertainties of youth, the agonising reality of grief and illness, and a celebration of life and hope.    Continue reading

The Magic of Medieval Poetry – Simon Armitage Translating Pearl

Medieval Poem PearlSpeaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Simon Armitage admitted that, when translating the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, someone literally had to take it off him, before he would allow it to be finished. “Translation is addictive,” he explained, “and much easier than writing your own poetry, because you can concentrate on it for longer, and it’s far less open-ended”. He added that “working with poets from the past is like tracing family members or finding ancestors; it’s like harmonising, like singing along to the Beatles in the car, two voices together.”    Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Immigration Handbook by Caroline Smith

Poetry - The Immigration Handbook, by Caroline SmithThe Immigration Handbook is an impressive collection which varies in tone and style. Smith uses simple language, small details and powerful imagery to present to us the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, caught up in situations beyond their control. As the asylum caseworker for a London based MP, she has spent years helping immigrants to navigate the complexities of an underfunded, overstretched bureaucratic system.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Gardening With Deer by Kathy Miles

Poetry Book Gardening With DeerGardening With Deer is a full-bodied, elegant yet accessible collection of poems which hold tightly together but also incorporate a range of topics, from art and myth to personal experience. It opens with an unnerving poem entitled ‘Bear’, which creates a sense of underlying fear, as we contemplate the “growling dark” and “the shadow on the wall that could be bear”. This theme continues throughout, as a prowling, dangerous presence, lurking just beneath the surface.    Continue reading

Ekphrastic Poetry from Kelly Grovier

Poetry Book A lens in the palm by Kelly GrovierKelly Grovier’s collection A lens in the palm is full of ekphrasis (poetry written in response to a piece of artwork). Each poem has an ekphrastic quality about it – a certain way of looking, not just at art but at nature and humanity as well. The front cover is taken from a Japanese woodcut by Shosan ‘Monkey reaching for the moon’ c.1910, and it encapsulates the theme of Grovier’s work – reaching out in an attempt to capture the intangible.    Continue reading

Poetry Non-Stop – National Poetry Writing Month

poetry books - National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry Books

April is National Poetry Writing Month (also known as #NaPoWriMo). The challenge is to write a new poem each day throughout the month. It started in America in 2003, and has grown since then with poets everywhere encouraging each other to take the challenge and get writing. Pattrick Widdess, a poet based in Wales who regularly performs his work and has had poetry published in a number of magazines, has written Poetry Non-Stop, an inspirational guide, ready for National Poetry Writing Month 2016.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

The Bees - a poetry book by Carol Ann DuffyA couple of years ago I went to Swansea to see Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke performing their work together. That’s where I bought The Bees – a treasure trove of bright, rhythmic poems by the UK’s Poet Laureate. The theatre was small – an audience quietly buzzing with anticipation, as we waited for the two poets to come on stage.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Ingrid’s Husband by Paul Henry

Poetry Book - Ingrid's Husband by Paul HenryI particularly love hearing a poet read their own work aloud, and this is how I first heard Paul Henry’s work, as he read from his book Ingrid’s Husband in the cosy library at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales. The book takes its name from one of its poems – and it’s this poem which sticks in my mind the most.    Continue reading