I’ve never read a poetry book that has made me laugh out loud the way Hugh McMillan’s 2018 collection did (it is possible I’m reading the wrong poetry). But The Conversation of Sheep is more than just sheep jokes, and therein lies its brilliance. The artistry and rhythm of these short, mostly page-long poems is contemplative and slow, but their content is incisive and witty, with pathos hanging over everything like the mist in the photos that accompany them.
The first thing to belie the humour, and possibly the reason I was so surprised to find myself laughing, is the somewhat menacing black and white cover photo depicting the silhouette of a herd of sheep on a low hill. The monochrome contrast recalled for me first world war imagery, as if the sheep were climbing from the trenches in a last attempt on the front.
Each poem in The Conversation of Sheep is paired with a with black and white photograph by Michael Robertson, a farmer neighbour of McMillan’s. These are, if I am not mistaken, real photographs, the kind made with film in a dark room. They are grainy, shadowy and evocative and are carefully curated alongside the poems...
This is an excerpt of a review by Ellie Julings of Hugh Mcmillan's The Conversation of Sheep. For more information on Long at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.
... Rachel Long is the founder of Octavia Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, and although my electronic copy was without a cover that shows a young woman of colour, themes of race, religion, gender, sexuality and family relationships are evident from the outset.
Arranged in three sections, ‘Open’, ‘A Lineage of Wigs’ and ‘Dolls’, the collection uses a wide range of forms and structures, all in free verse. The first section begins with a deceptively simple quintet of the same name:
This morning he told me
I sleep with my mouth open
and my hands in my hair.
I say, What, like screaming?
He says, No, like abandon.
Providing us with an intimate glimpse into the speaker’s private life, Long evokes the twisted texture of emotions that come with a relationship behind closed doors. Here, she has opened that door to us with dialogue....
This is an excerpt of a review by Thomasin Collins of Rachel Long's Forward Prize winning My Darling from the Lions. For more information on Long at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.
One may be surprised to discover that Shine, Darling is Ella Frears’ debut poetry collection. Frears presents an unapologetic front through her straightforward style, favouring lyric poetry as her medium. There is a raw intimacy to perform these experiences, whether it be a near-abduction, a suicide when she was in college, or having sex on bins in Cornwall, Frears will bring the reader into the heart of it all. As she says,
It doesn’t work; otherwise none of this works.
(‘Passivity, Electricity, Acclivity’)
The Air Year is Caroline Bird’s sixth collection with Carcanet. Her most recent and highly successful, In These Days of Prohibition, was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Ted Hughes Award. Bird, who published her first collection at the age of 15, displays an astonishing talent and a unique ‘voice’, and is known for her engaging and witty performance.
The opening poem, ‘Mid-Air’, has an atmosphere of lightness, eroticism and optimism, but this buoyancy is quickly dispelled in the poems that follow. Bird uses thrillingly surreal narratives, as in ‘Nancy and the Torpedo’, where strong sexual imagery meets a Babes-in-the-Woods fairy-tale atmosphere. This is Bird at her most idiosyncratic style; juxtaposing surreal encounters with interior emotions that speak to the reader in new and startling ways....
This is an excerpt of a review by Jenny Gorrod of Caroline Bird's Forward Prize winning, The Air Year. For more information on Bird at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.
... it’s with delight that I have in my hands, Andy Jackson’s third published collection of poetry, The Saints Are Coming, his first with Blue Diode Press. This title treats readers to a shining hagiography of saints for this anthropocenic age who, with due diligence, watch over the livingness of poets, radiographers, lottery winners, thieves, radicals, embroiderers, haemorrhoid sufferers, gamblers et al.
Observe as prosecutors
rearrange denials into damnations,
transmute honesty into culpability […]
(‘The Catechism of St. Catherine of Alexandria Patron saint of jurors‘)
These saintly characters cast in malleable forms, sometimes enacting the ludic virtue of a Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in ‘watching as I die my thousand/deaths, still clinging to my shtick’ (‘The Martyrdom of St Lawrence Patron saint of comedians‘) while at other times the gravitas of a rebel drama, are resolute in their capture of the tones and cadences of their patronage....
This is an excerpt of a review on the DURA website by William Hume of Andy Jackson's The Saints Are Coming. For more information on Jackson at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.
We’ll have two Open Mic events next month plus our usual slam. The first Open Mic session will be in a break-out room at the opening night party, after the formal launch event on Saturday 6 March, starting at 8pm. Then on Friday 12 March at 9pm, our regular Risk a Verse Open Mic is in partnership with St Mungo’s Mirrorball. We look forward to hearing some of the Mirrorballers reading then, but there are plenty more open slots for anyone else who would like to read then. To sign up for a reading slot, just email firstname.lastname@example.org with either Opening Night Open Mic, or Friday Risk a Verse Open Mic in the subject line with your name and email address. And whether you want to read or just enjoy hearing the poems and chat, you can book a free ticket with the Zoom link at our online Box Office.
The StAnza Slam will be on Saturday at 9pm, and even though it will start a bit earlier than usual this year, as we’ll all be joining from home, we decided to take the chance to give it a sleepover theme. So, feel free to dress in a onesie or dressing gown, and to have a mug of cocoa if you like.
If you’d like to take part in the Slam, there are still some places left so email email@example.com with Slam in the subject line, and with your name, email address, and phone number. And again, whether you’d like to take part or just to be in the audience, you can book a ticket to get the Zoom link from our online Box Office.
And full information about the Festival Café on Zoom opening hours is available on our website at https://stanzapoetry.org/festival/events/festival-cafe-zoom.