Jonathan Edwards’ first full poetry collection, My Family and Other Superheroes, was met with critical acclaim. It won the Costa Poetry Award and was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.... Gen is full of the same warmth, good humour and originality that characterises his debut collection. The poetry collection is a testament to Edwards’ fascination with the quotidian. Rather than focusing exclusively on its author, the collection includes poems on the poet’s mother and father, famous strangers, people from the past, animals, and even inanimate objects. Edwards focuses not only on what he might know – for example that his mother cut her arm in 1955 – but also on what he can only imagine. After all, we can only imagine what it would be like to be a tree in a retail park. Gen is not limiting itself to Edwards’ own life experiences.
The poems in Gen are characterised by the poet’s imagination and mastery of imagery. Rather than telling us how his characters feel, Edwards chooses to present us with little moments from their lives. Reading his poetry is, in many ways, a visual experience as we get to see the scenes unfold before us.
These scenes are often nothing more than a quick glimpse, as the poems in Gen share a certain swiftness of character. Reading the poems out loud, words tumble over one another; an effect created by carefully chosen periods, length of sentences, and line breaks. An example can be found in the very first stanza of the very first poem, ‘Spring Song Sing Song’, which musical and childlike title only adds to the provisional feel of the poem....
In The Lateness of the World is the fourth collection from Carolyn Forché, coiner of the phrase ‘poetry of witness’. Seventeen years on from her last collection, Blue Hour, Forché continues to bear witness with her poems, which here serve as war correspondence, warnings and eulogies, to both individuals and the world around us.
Intertextuality and a search for connection with other poets is a key theme of the collection. The title is a line from American poet Robert Duncan’s ‘Poetry, a Natural Thing’. Like Duncan, Forché laces her poetry with rich imagery of the natural world, for example in ‘Travel Papers’:
Mountains before and behind,
heather and lichen, yarrow, gorse,
then a sea village of chartreuse fronds.
However, this is a natural world that is disappearing:
villages, past horses grazing vanished fields.
Duncan asserts that: ‘Neither our vices nor our virtues/further the poem’, and that poetry is not a conscious endeavour, but rather ‘The poem/feeds upon thought, feeling, impulse’ in order to ‘breed itself’. Forché’s poetry, meanwhile, seems inspired by a desire to document the truth, and call the reader to action...
This is an excerpt of a review by Kai Durkin of Carolyn Forché's In the Lateness of the World. For more information on Forché at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.
Gordon Meade releases his tenth collection of poetry with an approach towards awareness. He forms lines to accompany the stills taken by Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. The photos are a peek into another point of view, and Meade puts a face—and a name—to the images, breathing life into a moment captured in time.
The titling in this collection is not done blithely. Zoospeak is a conversation about the language of the zoo, an intermission to stop and ponder the reality of the controversies surrounding these menageries. The collection of poetry speaks volumes for those who are willing to look beneath the surface as the author titles each poem in the same manner that a zoo labels each inhabitant: species, location, and date.
As I read the four sections in Zoospeak, I found myself examining each line, each complementing photograph in detail. Clever in the way he unfolds his poems, Meade manages to use repetition in ways that avoid becoming tedious. I found the echoing lines created a haunting cadence as each stanza expands, filling in a new link towards a deeper truth—the animal’s truth...
Theophilus Kwek is a prolific writer with five collections to his credit. His latest, Moving House, articulates a preoccupation with the themes of migration, belonging, colonial history, and the turbulent politics of the present.
Kwek is uniquely qualified to tackle these themes. He grew up in Singapore, graduated with a degree in history and politics, and has been involved with the plight of refugees, co-editing Flight, an anthology of poetry in response to the European refugee crisis. As a migrant student in the UK, Kwek suffered the consequences of xenophobia by way of a racist attack, which he touches upon in the poem ‘Occurrence’:
Nothing much then, now nearly unseen –
a cut beneath the eye. A bruise, fading
to skin, frown and furrow, fine print […]
These lines exemplify how expertly a poem can marry form with meaning. The line endings trace the journey from a physical experience to a written one – ‘unseen’, ‘fading’ to ‘fine print’. This movement is felt in other poems as well. ‘Witness’, the opening poem details an accident that happens in the rush of everyday life:
She was already gone. And so were we,
drawn on by the bus’ trajectory […]
If there could ever be the right – the only – title for this poetry collection, then Lamping for Pickled Fish might be it, setting the reader up as it so neatly does for the illicit, for the hidden and obscure and for journeys into unexpected spaces.
This is Beth McDonough’s first solo pamphlet and it contains 29 poems, a few of which have been published elsewhere. In subject matter they divide roughly into three areas – the natural world, her travels in the Canary and Balearic Islands and family. Most of them are short, only a handful extending to a second page.
McDonough is a forager, avid in pursuit of the wild jewels of shoreline and hedgerow in her native north-east Scotland and a maker. A maker of jam, from Ronnie’s stolen rhubarb; of soused herring in the title poem; of a young adult from a toddler; and, effortlessly, of words from other words.
She works her language hard, pressing nouns and adjectives into service as verbs. In ‘Marmalade,’ where ‘fluff thickened pith’ places the poem firmly in the reader’s mouth, ‘juices loch onto boards,’ enabling an agile leap from the bitter zest of those Seville oranges, to sunshine in a Scottish winter....
This is an excerpt of a review by Alison Bell of Beth Mcdonough's Lamping for Pickled Fish. For more information on Mcdonough at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.
As a much admired poet, writer and dancer, Tishani Doshi leaves little of the arts world untouched. Countries of the Body was awarded the Forward Prize for Best First Collection while Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. From politics, womanhood to the roots that ground us, this is a rewarding journey to undertake as a reader. Doshi’s characteristic wit, spikiness and vigour are on display in her new collection:
What more can be said about women?
Leave it. If history were a picture show
and we kept editing the bits we didn’t like
snip snip snip […]
(‘Instructions on Surviving Genocide.’)
From the very outset, these poems require an inquisitive mind. To turn history and ancestry on its head, they invite reflections on the misjudgement of legality and the failure of patriarchy....
This is an excerpt of a review by Mhari Aitchison of Tshani Doshi's A God At The Door (Bloodaxe forthcoming, April 2021). For more information on Doshi at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.