Sunday, 26 March 2017

Three Poetry Book Reviews

Although I haven't written much poetry lately I have been reading it, little my little. I have a stack of poetry books I am working through and try to keep one by my bed and resist the urge to take the latest novel up to bed so I can read poetry. This approach works sometimes!

The three books I am reviewing here all came from The Poetry Book Fair last September. The first two I bought after hearing the poets read. Their words spoke to me either emotionally, because of content or humour, or all three. I made a note of who they were and went out and bought their books. I haven't been disappointed.

The first of these is The Shadow Shop by Janet Loverseed (Overstep Books). Janet writes about life, about being a grandparent, fatherhood, image, relationships, children, bereavement and more. I loved The Man In The Middle, when I passenger on an underground train tells a woman that the man sitting between them is dead and advises her to get off at the next stop. Was it a joke? Would someone do that? Three Go Babysitting is a take on the three Kings visiting baby Jesus who in this poem bring him premium bonds, joss sticks and a room freshener, lamenting that Joe should have done computing like them rather than woodwork. I love it! In a short poem entitled Brother and Sister the sister attends the brother's funeral and looks back on their childhood game of Cowboys and Indians and how he bribed her to play, but once told her he was happy until she was born. She queries whether she is happy now he's dead.

This is a lovely crop of poems, ones you can associate with, that ring true and the touches of humour are right up my street.

Inti was the name the Incas gave to the sun, which scientists have now given to a particle of dust collected by the Stardust probe from the Wild 2 (VILT-two) comet. So goes the explanation Simon Williams gives to the title poem of this little book (also from Overstep). This collection features space, weaving, locomotives, Galileo and Kate Bush. A good dose of humour runs through many of these poems, such as Making Fun which follows backwards the story of Irish jokes, who and where they came from. Then there's the erotic The Best Time of the Night - great use of words! Margin Notes supposedly from great poets after false starts with their poems (I wandered lonely as a sheep/Needs something more fluffy, more solitary than sheep, I think). In Star Fish the lady looking after the Koi carp etc., points out to them the constellations and they try to fathom Pisces! Simon Williams poetry often has a last line that you don't expect, that makes you laugh. The poem leads you one way and then boom there's the twist. Delightful stuff.

The last book I'm reviewing today is a freebie given in the welcome bag on arrival at the Poetry Book Fair. It's from Valley Press called VP 50 and is a collection of 50 poems to celebrate the 50 books they have published and includes one poem from each.

This anthology has nicely linked poems and covers everything from child bullying to comparing ones life with that of a dog. There are also quite a few poems about poets and words. An anthology like this is a great opportunity to find new poets (at least to me) and marvel at their dexterity in writing. I enjoyed so many of these including the very first in the collection by James Nash entitled Sonnet I where he lists what his lover can and can't take should she leave him. It's very poignant. Then there's The Bricklayers Lament by Miles Salter and Life Expectation by Norah Hanson and the nostalgic Sandra is a Child of Peace and Love by Helen Burke.

Voyeurs by David Agnew tickled me with two seagulls getting an eyeful through the bathroom window. And Bath Poem by Rowena Knight and Billy Bragg's Beard by Kate Fox are favourites. There's a lesson on love in Forget What You've Been Told by Jo Brandon and Gooseberry, once more by James Nash, has a quirky take on what you might think of doing in a cinema while the couple you are with are smooching. The Light of You, a second poem by Norah Hanson looks at role reversal in parent and child in this heartbreaking poem. Finally The Minutes, another by Miles Salter, is a reminder of how we wake with all the minutes waiting/Hundreds crowed your bed, litter the floor. And so soon they go.

There are poets here whose full books could temp me, and I guess that's the thing about anthologies, you get a taster and sometimes a taste isn't quite enough.


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