Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2020

Review - "Somehow" by Helen Calcutt

Steve Spence " Somehow " by Helen Calcutt , pub. Verve Poetry Press. £7.50 35pp There are so many poets whose work is out there and published now that it’s not possible to keep abreast, something which Andrew Duncan has also commented on in his recent critical writings. Helen Calcutt is new to me and the powerful work in this chapbook resounds with both technique and emotional directness in a manner which feels confrontational in all the senses of the word. Writing about extreme subjects – in this case the suicide of her brother Matthew at the age of 40 –  can be very challenging and the relationship here between art and therapy can be a tricky subject to broach. Nevertheless I think this is an astonishing book which deserves to be widely read and discussed.   In ‘Something terrible happened’, an early poem in the collection, we have the opening lines:             the phone rang           and when I answered             it you’d killed           yourse

“Bethesda Constellations” by Peter Hughes

Steve Spence “Bethesda Constellations” by Peter Hughes, pub. Oystercatcher. 28pp. I love Peter Hughes’ poetry which fuses the personal with the political with an ongoing relish for language which so often brings a smile to my face. These poems are mostly geographically located in Wales, his new home I believe and combine a love of place with a love of words in a conversational tone (an inner conversation, that is) which reminds me more than ever of the late John James. In fact Hughes has included another ‘ in memoriam’ poem ‘At Red Wharf Bay’ which features the moving lines: ‘I remember all the stories / about contacting the dead /good afternoon to you too John / wherever you may be.’   In ‘Georgic’ ( for George Economou ) Hughes plays with his knowledge of form – ‘it’s been a long time since the Georgics / George but of course it’s always next season’s   / away fixtures sneaking through the sentence / that occupy the fleeting sunlit glimpses / disappearing at the far end of th

Review - “The Day Laid Bare” by Kiwao Nomura

Simon Collings “The Day Laid Bare” by Kiwao Nomura, translated by Eric Selland.  Pub. Isobar Press, 82pp. Kiwao Nomura is a poet of international stature, and The Day Laid Bare is a compelling example of his work. The inventiveness, the wide range of registers, and the diverse traditions brought together in the poetry make it hard to put down. I read the volume at one sitting. The book consists of alternating and contrasting sections headed ‘Parade’ and ‘Roadblock’. The former represent the contemporary world, the endless procession of human life. The latter embody moments of revolt, barricades thrown up against the ‘Parade’, perhaps offering an alternative. The texts of the ‘Parade’ sections catalogue a sequence of elusive, enervated life-forms which the poet calls ‘Flesh’. These poems are largely in prose. TWENTIETH FLESH is sleepy, always sleepy. Hence it makes one feel there is some kind of depth or intelligence there, but of course there’s not even a speck.   TWENTY-FIRST FLESH

“Mutter/Land” by Steve Xerri

Steve Spence “Mutter/Land” by Steve Xerri, pub. Oystercatcher. 24pp. The title poem comes with a quotation from Hugh MacDiarmid – ‘It requires great love of it deeply to read the configuration of a land.” The play on the word ‘mutter’ (German for Mother) and the muttering you might overhear in a pub, for example, suggest both a deep engagement with landscape and with politics yet both these aspects are incorporated into these poems in a manner which is often indirect and convincing. This is writing which is beautifully lyrical yet Zerri’s thought-processes are analytical and critical in a manner which adds depth to the work:             I have heard talk in pubs, English ale           loosening English tongues till the shiv words           Frog, Dago, Kraut, Eyetie and the rest spill out             always only joking but when will the terms           turn on me, a half-outlander, and what then           the defence against having this particular             blended crimson running in