Thursday, 11 May 2017

Poetry Book Reviews

Just finished reading two books of poetry. The first is Stanza Stones, a colourful book by Simon Armitage with Tom Lonsdale (former Chief Landscape Architect) and Pip Hall (stone carver). The commission was crreate a Stanza Trail running through forty-seven miles of the Pennine Way. The book follows the initial idea to Simon's wanderings across the Pennine Way trying to find the right words for his poems. Much was needed to bring this project off, such as acquiring permission from various people, like English Heritage, who owned a particular piece of land. The book records entries from stone carver Pip's journal who worked mostly in situ in all weathers, sometimes having to retrace letters washed out overnight due to rain. The glossy photos show the the stages the project went through, the heavy lifting gear sometimes needed to move stones, the passing walkers who stopped to chat while Pip carved, and the final finished piece. I loved this book. It's a table top glossy hardback edition, but one I will look through many times. Simon's six poems - Snow, Rain, Mist, Dew, Puddle and Beck are evocative. While I enjoy walking I am not a hill walker so may never get to see these stones for myself so it is great to have a book like this.

The Immigration Handbook by Caroline Smith made compelling reading. Each poem is the story of someone's life. Caroline worked as an asylum caseworker for a London MP and the stories here are ones she encountered. I found myself reacting to these poems. Some made me sad, some made me angry but all spoke of fear, of waiting, of judges agonising over decisions, of bureaucracy. It is a heartfelt book and brings it home to you that this goes on every day, the playing with people's lives.

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