Poetry Review: Fourth Person Singular by Nuar Alsadir

Poetry Book - Fourth Person Singular by Nuar Alsadir

Fourth Person Singular begins with the intriguing line: “The door to my interior was propped open and a fly buzzed in.” This sets the scene for a poetry collection which experiments with form in unexpected ways, using metaphor and analysis to explore the notion of self-hood and internal thought. I was not surprised to discover that Nuar Alsadir is a psychoanalyst. This innocuous little book is challenging, provocative and beguiling in equal measure, though I am still not quite sure entirely what to make of it.

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Poetry Review: Visiting the Minotaur by Claire Williamson

Visiting the Minotaur - poetry by Claire WilliamsonVisiting the Minotaur plunges you straight into the myth in ‘Swimming with the Bull’, a dramatic encounter across ‘three-and-a-half-thousand years’. This sets the tone for the collection as a whole, exploring the surreal nature of family relationships and crossing the boundaries of time and space, as humans and monsters find their roles reversed. The cover image (a painting by Matthew Grabelsky) is both startling and ordinary – the perfect depiction of what lies between the covers.    Continue reading

Hay Festival 2018 – Part 1: Poets, Art, Ambience and the Taste of Words

hay festival 2018I’ve just spent three days immersed in the excitement and inspiration of the Hay Festival, writing about Welsh writers and enjoying the sunshine (with a little mud, lightning and rain thrown in for good measure) so here are some of my poetic highlights from the first few days of Hay 2018…

On Saturday morning I arrived bright and early to get a good parking spot and soak up the atmosphere. It was damp and foggy, but soon brightened up enough for an ice cream (gooseberry crumble flavour – the best I’ve ever tasted!).   Continue reading

Diary of a Creative Writing MA Student – Year 1 of 2

MA Creative WritingI began an MA in Creative Writing in September, studying at Manchester Metropolitan University (part time by distance learning). I chose this particular course because it was possible to fit the work around my paid employment – the seminars are online in the evening (through chatrooms) and you can liaise with tutors via email or phone. It also has a great reputation, with a lot of talented writers teaching on the course, and it’s possible to specialise in a particular area (novel writing, place writing, poetry or writing for children). I chose to specialise in poetry.    Continue reading

Open Space with Philip Gross and Robert Walton

Philip GrossLast Thursday night we were treated to a myriad of images and rhythms from Robert Walton and Philip Gross, two local poets whose work covers a wide range of themes. You can tell that Walton has a musical ear, as each of his poems has a certain rhythm to it, from dancing grandfathers to suspicious canaries and stolen saxophones. Sax-burglar blues, the title poem from his recently published collection, combines word and saxophone in a tremendous burst of sound which brings the instrument to life.   Continue reading

Verve Poetry Festival – Highlights from 2018

Jane Commane launch at Verve Poetry Festival Last year’s Verve Poetry Festival was an incredible weekend of variety and fun, and this year I was determined to come away with some inspiration of my own. The day began with a mammoth climb to the giddy heights of the sixth floor in Birmingham’s narrow Waterstones store (where I attended workshops accompanied to the sound of church bells and pneumatic drills) and ended with readings from a score of different poets amidst bright pink bunting, free cake and an atmosphere of celebration.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Hill by Angela France

Poetry Collection - The Hill by Angela FranceIn writing The Hill, Angela France has created a lyrical memorial, breathing life into old ground and resurrecting the characters of Leckhampton Hill over decades. The poems flit between past and present, nature and humanity, centred around the great battle for freedom that took place in 1902, when the local landowner tried to enclose the area, stopping locals from walking the paths they had used for centuries.    Continue reading

Collective 2017 – Poetry on Ice

Rhian EdwardsLast week’s freezing temperatures could not prevent a host of poetry enthusiasts from congregating together in Little Man Coffee Company for the second annual Collective event, organised by Christina Thatcher. The poetry was entertaining and captivating in equal measure, beginning with four poets whose collections were published this year…    Continue reading

Mama Amazonica – Poetry Review & Interview with Pascale Petit

Poetry Book - Mama AmazonicaMama Amazonica is an intoxicating mix of unsettling poems centred around Pascale Petit’s relationship with her mother. Set within the confines of a psychiatric ward, but also within the vast, untamed wilderness of the Amazon rainforest, we encounter the poet’s mother, constrained by mental illness and the physical walls around her. But we also see the sheer unfathomable complexity of the human mind, and its magical, surreal ability to survive trauma.

The following post reveals my own encounter with this remarkable collection, along with insights from Pascale herself, describing her experience of writing the poems, and the inspiration she drew from animals in captivity and in the wild.    Continue reading

The Cardiff Book Festival – Highlights from 2017

Horatio Clare at Cardiff Book FestivalThe Cardiff Book Festival began last year as a brand-new annual celebration of all things literature in the Welsh capital, and this year’s festival followed in a similar vein, with a slightly stronger Welsh slant to the majority of events. On Friday night I braved the darkening skies, sideways drizzle and end-of-week exhaustion on my walk across town, to emerge inside the bright, grand foyer of the old Angel Hotel, where most of the weekend’s events took place…   Continue reading

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

Artistic Inspiration: An Ekphrastic Writing Group

Ekphrastic Challenge

Ekphrasis is my favourite kind of writing at the moment – it’s a word used to describe the written response (usually in the form of a poem) to a piece of visual art. It provokes so many questions… Does the poem still make sense away from the artwork? Do the writer and artist agree on their interpretation of the piece? Can both poem and artwork interact and create new meanings together?    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

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

A Day at the Ledbury Poetry Festival

amali rodrigo

Amali Rodrigo

I couldn’t have picked a better day for attending this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival – the sun was shining, the roads were quiet and the poetry was exceptional. I only wish I could have stayed for longer. My first event was an opportunity to ‘Meet the Poetry Editors’, followed by poetry readings from Suzannah Evans, Tom Sastry, Jacqueline Saphra, Katherine Towers and Amali Rodrigo, as well as a personal serenade from a blackbird in Ledbury’s old walled garden.    Continue reading

Looking Forward to the 21st Ledbury Poetry Festival

Phillippa SlingerThe Ledbury Poetry Festival is now well established, and 2017 will be bigger than ever, as they celebrate their 21st year. Described by Andrew Motion as “the best” poetry festival in the UK, it will be crammed full of events, including kids activities, free ’20 minute’ readings and writing workshops, alongside the big names in poetry. I interviewed the Festival Manager, Phillipa Slinger, to find out more.       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

Reflections on Edward Thomas 100 & National Poetry Writing Month

Glyn Edwards poet

Glyn Edwards

National Poetry Writing Month is over at last, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cosied up on the sofa listening to the autumn storms, thinking April seemed a long way off. It was back in October that I began to plan a series of events for #EdwardThomas100, to mark the centenary of the World War One poet, and to make Cardiff University’s incredible archive collections more visible to the public. It’s been an exciting few months, and it’s hard to believe it’s all over, so here are some reflections on the experience…    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 & Music at the Abergavenny Writing Festival

Rufus Mufasa (2)The Abergavenny Writing Festival began last year, but I wasn’t able to make it, so I was determined to get to at least one of their events this year if at all possible. Life is busy! But I managed to get to the grand finale – an event which combined music and poetry. It was a beautiful drive up into the Welsh hills, to the Kings Arms Hotel, where we sat in a cavernous room with unusual acoustics to hear from some talented local musician-poets.    Continue reading

Two Roads, Two Poets: The Friendship of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost

Edward ThomasThe first thing that struck me about Edward Thomas, when I began to research his life and work, was his close bond with the American poet Robert Frost. Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ was actually written for Edward Thomas, during a period of indecision. It was 1915, and Frost himself had returned to the US, whilst Thomas was intending to follow him there. But the First World War was still raging, and Thomas’s conscience held him back. He did not want to enlist but, as he explained in a letter to his friend, “hardly a day passes without my thinking I should.”    Continue reading

Book Review: Now All Roads Lead to France – The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis

Now all roads lead to FranceMost biographies begin at the beginning. Not this one. This one reads more like a novel – and the last few years in the life of much-loved poet Edward Thomas certainly provide an engaging plot. Hollis begins his tale with an introduction to Harold Munro’s Poetry Bookshop, which opened in London in 1913, providing a unique hub around which the poets of the day gathered… But Edward Thomas is not yet a poet at this stage in the story; he is a stressed poetry reviewer, churning out travel books and reviews, struggling to make ends meet…    Continue reading

Death Writing and Poetry: An Interview with Christina Thatcher

Christina ThatcherChristina Thatcher is a poet and creative writing tutor from the US. She moved to the UK in 2009 after winning the prestigious Marshall Scholarship (studying MAs at Cardiff and York). She is currently working on a PhD at Cardiff University, and her debut poetry collection, More than you were, will be published by Parthian in May. I met her through Roath Writers, the community writing group which she has been running since 2012.    Continue reading

Edward Thomas 100: Celebrating A Poetic Legacy

Edward Thomas I recently discovered that Cardiff University holds a unique collection of rare books and manuscripts. Amidst this literary treasure trove, there sits a shelf or two of unassuming boxes, containing the Edward Thomas archive – a set of objects, original manuscripts, letters, notebooks and other material relating to this popular poet. And it just so happens that it’s exactly one hundred years since Edward Thomas was killed, at the Battle of Arras in April 1917…    Continue reading

Verve Poetry Festival Highlights – A Celebration of Diversity

Geraldine Clarkson

What I enjoyed most about the recent Verve Poetry Festival (first of many, I hope) was the fact that it embraced poetry in all its guises, from the academic to the experimental, the hilarious to the downright ridiculous. We had spoken word at its most ostentatious, the big names and the new faces, plenty of opportunities to hear about the writing process, and workshops on themes as varied as ‘taking risks’ and performance technique…    Continue reading

Poetry – for loss, absence and bearing witness…

isobel dixonOn this – the final day of the Verve Poetry Festival, we have just been treated to a memorable showcase of four poets from Nine Arches Press, whose writing is both poignant and moving, unafraid to face up to the difficulties of life and the pain of loss. All the poets agreed, in their discussion afterwards, that poetry is an essential tool for “bearing witness” in the world, that it’s important to be truthful, allowing emotion to come through in your work…    Continue reading

A Feast of Poetic Delights at the Verve Poetry Festival

Dan Simpson

Last night I feasted on poetic delights of all kinds at the Verve Poetry Festival, which is beautifully pink and exciting… hosted by the many-layered Waterstones Birmingham store. I’ve never seen so many poetry enthusiasts in one space before! We had readings from Mona Arshi, Kim Moore and Katrina Naomi, followed by a full-on spoken word Dice Slam with Apples and Snakes, featuring poets from around the UK, and a rather unusual judging method… 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