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Showing posts from April, 2021

Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard

Alan Baker “The English Strain”, by Robert Sheppard, pub Shearsman Books, £12.95, 136pp. "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard, pub. KFS, 102pp. This is Sheppard's own account of the aims of the project of which these two books are a part: "...they present the capering of Bo and Go and other clowns across the post-Brexit dogging site that newly-independent 'Bressex' has become, or... the subtler story of the English strain of the sonnet form'. Among contemporary poets, only Sheppard could have achieved this unlikely synthesis; his poetry is learned, scholarly, satirical, outrageous and innovative as well as - most importantly - political. Much poetry produced now - possibly most - is in the form of the personal lyric, and it is difficult to broaden this out from the personal, and from issues of identity, to the wider political arena. The pandemic is undoubtedly political, and in Britain it coincided with a historic rupture marked by the departure from the

Review - "Anxious Corporals" by Alan Morrison

Steve Spence “Anxious Corporals” by Alan Morrison, pub. Smokestack Books    162 pages    2021    £7.99 I don’t quite know what to say about this book. It’s astonishing. Described as a long poem, we have 150 pages of dense text, split into 25 chapters, with each line starting with a capital in time-honoured old-style poetry fashion. The title relates to Richard Hoggart via Arthur Koestler discussing the phrase which suggests the mixing of classes during WW2 and through National Service which    led to a rapprochement between working-class intellectuals/bookish men (it is mainly men we’re talking about here as feminism barely enters the discussion) and more privileged literary types. ‘The Anxious Corporal’ is effectively the working class ‘misfit’ who belongs nowhere due to a new kind of ‘social mobility’ or potential realisation of a different lifestyle. My dad would have fitted this ‘category’ like a glove if he’d been at all bookish but his skills were more practical (no less

Review - Lee Duggan and Maggie O'Sullivan

Steve Spence “Green” by Lee Duggan, pub. Oystercatcher. 17 pp. 2019 “courtship of lapwings” by M aggie O’Sullivan, pub. if p then q. 76pp. 2021 Lee Duggan’s Green is a poem of landscape and of one person’s response to time and place. We have a walker, an individual who through memory and reflection creates an imaginative and observed universe which includes microcosm and macrocosm. We have politics and we have an awareness of ecology added to breathtaking suggestions of more expansive, extra-terrestrial vistas. There is a grammar of place, a mixing of language which feels exploratory and reminds me at times of Helen Macdonald’s bird’s eye view and a rich yet pared-down lyricism which has a kinship with Elisabeth Bletsoe’s poetry. Here’s the opening section:             bridging                    what is           to walk            out of                      edgeland             mind mountains & cypresses                formally defined