Hay Festival 2019 Day 1 – Rain, Sun & Poetry – Past & Present

Marion Turner, photo by Iga Koncka

Marion Turner, photo by Iga Koncka

My first day at Hay began under a black cloud, and a sudden downpour (whilst sheltering in the food hall) but it soon brightened up, and I enjoyed a treat of poetry, biography and fiction, with a few bursts of sunshine in between. I enjoyed chatting to a friendly couple whilst munching on an incredible chocolate brownie, and despite still recovering from post viral fatigue, I coped with the onslaught of crowds and found refuge in the bookshop for a much-needed a rest. There seem to be more places set aside for reading this year, including a dark cave full of reading lamps called the ‘serious reading room’.    Continue reading

#Unafraid: Mental Health in Words

Christina Thatcher reading her poemsPoetry is not just for ‘arty’ types, it’s for everyone, so it’s good to see scientists and creatives working together. Last week I attended an event organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to celebrate their work with Patrick Jones, their current artist in residence. The event also showcased the work of other poets who have written about mental health issues, as well as patients who’ve benefitted from the therapeutic aspects of writing, but its main focus was as a starting point, a bringing together of psychiatrists and poets in the same space, to enable discussion and debate about what more can be done…   Continue reading

Book Review: On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell

On Poetry - a book by Glyn MaxwellOn Poetry is not just another book about poetry, it’s in a whole category of its own. It’s short, and concise, but also full of irony, subtlety and humour. It has a simple structure and purpose, to break poetry down to its basic elements and encourage you to pick them up for yourself, beginning with ‘white’ – a chapter which considers the essential element of white space on the page – the one thing that, Maxwell argues, divides poetry from prose. After reading this chapter, I had to put the book down to process it for a while, and then I read the whole chapter again. It’s that kind of book.   Continue reading

Poems from Cardiff, Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire and The Borders

Poetry from Cardiff, Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire and The Borders

These four slim poetry anthologies are beautifully produced, each containing a selection of poems centred around a specific area of Wales, collated by Seren’s editor, Amy Wack. Many poems are taken from recent collections, but there are also several new poems, and each pamphlet has a distinct feel to it. To begin with, in Poems from Pembrokeshire there is a sense of time standing still in a landscape rooted to the past.

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Poetry Review: Sincerity by Carol Ann Duffy

Poetry Collection - Sincerity by Carol Ann DuffySincerity is Carol Ann Duffy’s final collection as Poet Laureate, and it is extremely varied, flitting between the personal and the political, with very little to hold the poems together except this notion of ‘sincerity’. It is full of poems which are honest and sincere, whether recounting private experience or teasing out the unwanted truths of political events, playing against the idea of ‘fake news’ and revealing the reality beneath the gloss.   Continue reading

Book Review: Dignity by Alys Conran

Book - Dignity by Alys ConranI was mesmerised by Alys Conran’s debut novel Pigeon, and her second novel, Dignity, is no less stunning. It follows the stories of three women – Magda, Evelyn, and Susheela – travelling across time and continents, from North Wales to India, as their lives begin to unravel in all sorts of ways, anchored always to thoughts of Home. This is a novel which does not shy away from portraying the conflict and hypocrisy of Britain’s colonial past.   Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Healing Next Time by Roy McFarlane

Poetry Collection by Roy McFarlane - The Healing Next TimeLast year I read Claudia Rankine’s powerful collection Citizen: An American Lyric, which tackles the thorny issue of racism in modern America. Roy McFarlane has produced a UK equivalent in his second collection The Healing Next Time, which begins with a narrative sequence covering the years 1999 to 2006, interrogating what it means to live as a black man in Britain, merging the personal and the public in an exploration of family, politics, love and hate.   Continue reading

Poetry Review: Us by Zaffar Kunial

Poetry - Us by Zaffar KunialI heard Zaffar Kunial read his World War One poem ‘Poppy’ on Radio 4 as part of the centenary commemorations last year. It includes a haunting refrain ‘no, this is not enough’ repeated throughout, until, in the end, this phrase becomes the poem itself, a powerful acknowledgement that nothing we can write or say will ever capture the horror of war. This focus on the power of language, contrasted with a sense of inadequacy or uncertainty, runs throughout Kunial’s debut collection, Us.   Continue reading

Writing on a Global Scale: An Interview with Dylan Moore, Hay Festival International Fellow

Dylan Moore - writer and Hay Festival International FellowDylan Moore is a writer, editor, critic and English teacher living in South Wales. His first book Driving Home Both Ways was published by Parthian in 2018, and he was named as the Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow for 2018-19.

Dylan and I met a few years ago, when he happened to marry one of my close friends, and I was chuffed to hear that he was given the Hay Festival Fellowship, a programme that allows a writer from Wales to participate in international Hay Festival events throughout the year, in Colombia, Spain, Peru and Mexico as well as Hay itself. I thought it would be interesting, as he nears the end of this momentous year, to find out how it has shaped and developed his work as a writer…    Continue reading

Three Years of Blogging – Part 2: Poetic Moments

Amanda Rackstraw reading at the Edward Thomas 100 event

It’s three full years since I first launched my brand-new book blog, and I’ve been looking back at all the fantastic books that I’ve reviewed, the fascinating people I’ve met, and the incredible events I’ve been able to attend during that time. In fact, I’ve published a total of 218 posts, including interviews, features and reviews.

I decided early on to include fiction and poetry on my blog, and it was the right decision, reflecting my own interest, and allowing me an excuse to review and post about the books I enjoy, whatever the genre. I’ve heard hundreds of poets perform their work, and had the privilege of reviewing 28 poetry collections, many of which have inspired my own writing.

So, as I celebrate my three-year blogaversary, here are my top three ‘Poetic moments’ from the past three years, along with my top three Poetry Reviews…

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Three Years of Blogging – Part 1: Fiction & Festivals

Created to Read logoI launched this book blog on 18th March 2016, with no idea where it would lead me. Looking back over the last three years it’s hard to believe all that has happened in between. Reviewing books written by other people gave me the courage to look back at my own writing again, after years of relegating it to a dusty shelf, and to send it out into the world. So, to celebrate my three-year blogaversary I’ve picked out some of the posts I’ve most enjoyed writing, including my top three fiction reviews and my top three literary festivals…    Continue reading

Book Review: The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

The Faerie Tree by Jane CableThe Faerie Tree is a deceptive novel. The cover made me think of witches and spirits, but the blurb caught my interest and, in reality, it turned out to be mysterious in a far more disturbing way than I could have imagined, playing, not with spirits, but with memory, so that even as a reader you’re not quite sure what’s going on. The novel begins with an encounter in 2006, as Izzie spots a homeless man who looks somewhat familiar, and the past slowly begins to unravel.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Cyclone by Robert Peake

Cyclone - poetry collection by Robert PeakePoetry has always drawn analogies between human emotion and the weather. Cyclone by Robert Peake creates a storm of words that circle around the unabating grief of a father for his lost child. The collection begins with subtle hints that all is not well, even within nature itself. ‘The Man with the Kindest Face’ begins a series of poems interspersed throughout the collection which suggest an attempt at human connection that, somehow, never quite works. This man appears to be a shadow of something good just beyond reach, haunting the poet’s world: “He might not have a face at all / or change it like a set of masks”.   Continue reading

A Poet in the Making – Finding Inspiration at Tŷ Newydd

Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre Last week I was invited to the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales as one of 10 writers selected for the 2019 Literature Wales Mentoring Scheme. After several months of ill-health I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend, but the week turned out to be beneficial in more ways than one – providing not only inspiration and development for my writing, but also some much-needed rest and relaxation in a gorgeous old house on the Llŷn Peninsula.    Continue reading

Book Review: Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

Book - Paris Echo by Sebastian FaulksParis Echo, the latest novel by Sebastian Faulks, explores our complex relationship with history, glimpsed through the lives of two very different characters in modern-day Paris. Hannah and Tariq end up in Paris for different reasons, but they are both searching for something, and they are both haunted by the ghosts of the past. We see the city through the eyes of two outsiders, with all its quirks and contradictions.    Continue reading

Translation, Interrogation, Spoken Word and Collaboration: Highlights from the Seren Poetry Festival

Poet Amiina Mohamoud

Despite being unwell I was determined to enjoy at least a few of this year’s Seren Poetry Festival events. Highlights included a fascinating insight into the complexities of translating poetry from Welsh to English, exceptional spoken word from up-and-coming poets Amiina Mohamoud and Umulkhayr Mohamed, an unusual two-way collaboration between visual artists and writers, and a frank and open discussion about the ‘BAME’ label and the need for change within the publishing industry…   Continue reading

Book Review: SNAP by Belinda Bauer

Book - Snap by Belinda BauerA Guest Review by Mary Le Bon

SNAP is a haunting but very satisfying crime novel. I found it hard to put down, despite the fact that I didn’t allow myself to read it at bedtime. It is the story of three young children, left in a car on the hard shoulder while their pregnant mother goes to phone for help, and what happens when she doesn’t return. She leaves her eleven-year-old son (Jack) in charge, and he takes this responsibility so seriously that he is still in charge three years later, struggling to provide food for his younger siblings and trying to keep the house looking neat and tidy on the outside so that no one will guess the chaos within.    Continue reading

Looking forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2019

rhiannon hooson poet

Wales is full of literary events, book fairs and writing festivals, from the very small to the very large, celebrating literature in all its forms. So here’s a list of all the literary / book festivals taking place in Wales during 2019…

Please use the comments below to add information about any literary festivals which I have missed out, and I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year.

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