Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

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How to Grow Matches London launch 1

How to Grow Matches London launch 2


I’m very excited that my poetry pamphlet How to Grow Matches with Against The Grain Press went to the printers this past week. I’ve just had a flyer from the Against The Grain Press editors for the launch event they’re organising at the Poetry Cafe on March 31. More details on this to be revealed shortly, but the immediate where and when and sample poem in the flyer below.

I’ll also be setting up a website page here for the pamphlet, including the lovely endorsements from Luke Kennard and Gill McEvoy, and will be organising my own local launch event later in the year. Meantime, the pamphlet is available to pre-order from Against The Grain Press shop here!!!

And my sequel novella to Kaleidoscope, Always Another Twist (Mantle Lane Press), is near proof stage now and I hope to have more news on that to share soon too…


‘when it rains…’ specially commended in the Oriel Davies Gallery Open Writing Competition 2017.

‘All the women left’ (a poem from my forthcoming pamphlet How to Grow Matches) published on Atrium in Jan 2018;

Poetryfilm version of ‘Cumulus’ featured on the Cloud Appreciation Society website.

Publication of ‘Unhexing’, which was commissioned for the Still Born project and written in response to artist Adinda van ’t Klooster’s stunning artwork ‘Frozen’. The poem is one of eight commissioned for Adinda van t’ Klooster’s new book Still Born, which combines a personal selection of her artwork alongside responses by eight poets, her own narrative, and text by stillbirth specialist and obstetrician Alexander Heazell of Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre at the University of Manchester. (The book is launched at Northern Print, Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2NP on 22 March from 6pm – 8pm. More about this here.)

Two poems due out in A Restricted View From Under the Hedge(Hedgehog Press) ‘Zen and the Art of Cycle Maintenance in Issue #1 (March) and ‘Hedgehog Kind’ in Issue #2 (June).

‘A Planet Where’ accepted for Words for the Wild online.

I’m delighted to have been paired with U.S. poet Susan Roney-O’Brien for a transatlantic project between Worcester, U.K. and Worcester, Massachusetts. The ‘Tale of Two Cities’ project organised by Worcestershire poet laureate Nina Lewis involved sending each other a poem and then writing a response to the other’s emailed poem. Poems from the project are to be featured in a Contour Magazine special edition in April 2018.

Eight poems scheduled for a six-poet Arachne Press anthology in September 2018.


I’m delighted to have fiction published/forthcoming at:

‘Mistletoe & Marriage’ on Flash Fiction Magazine in Feb 2018.

‘No False Pretences’ (flash) on Fictive Dream in Feb 2018.

SarahP1010159boost 4 in a circle hrizontal with middle pylons too scaled down & more transparent in middle

‘Collecting Pylons’ (flash) scheduled for Spelk on April 20.

‘The Last Red Cherry’ (short fiction cli-fi) accepted for Cabinet of Heed (sci-fi issue).

Five pieces of short/flash fiction scheduled for an Arachne Press fiction anthology by five writers in September 2018;


Wednesday, 17 October 2018 – guest poet at Poetry Cafe Refreshed, Cheltenham

The evening at Smokey Joe’s, 16 Bennington St, Cheltenham, GL50 4ED runs 7pm – 9pm, and also includes open mic slots.

I have various other events coming up on the flash fiction and poetry fronts, as well as launches for my Against The Grain Press pamphlet How to Grow Matches and my new novella Always Another Twist (Mantle Lane Press). So, watch this space as they say…

Meantime, if anyone’s interested in the three-poet festival reading ‘An Unconventional History of Maidenhood, Mothering and Mistresses’, more information about the reading and booking us for a festival spoken word night or bookshop reading can be found here: An Unconventional History of Maidenhood, Mothering & Mistresses – Marketing Pack 2018.


At the end of last year, I was delighted to be asked by Roz Goddard to write an endorsement for her wonderful pamphlet ‘Spill’ out now with Flarestack Poets.

It was great to hear Roz read from this at the recent Verve Poetry Festival in Birmingham as part of Jane Commane’s fabulous launch for her collection Assembly Lines. Two stunning poetry titles that I’d thoroughly recommend!

full coverIn my seventh interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Reuben Woolley about his poetry collection skins from Hesterglock Press…

In real life, ‘skins’ (which is the title of one of the poems as well as the book) come in all shades, shapes and sizes, as do the poems in this moving and impactful collection. How did the title and book as a whole come about?

As you know, I edit the online magazine, I am not a silent poet, for work of protest about all kinds of abuse. The issue of the refugees has been and continues to be a frequent topic and I found myself more and more drawn to it myself. On looking back through my work I found quite a few which referred to the horrible conditions that these people face in their home countries and on their journeys to Europe, particularly crossing the Mediterranean. One of the aims of I am not a silent poet is to give a voice to the voiceless, to those whose stories get lost and I thought that I could bring all my poems on the subject together in order to give a more extended view. Thus the early poems concern the wars and oppression in their home countries which force them into exile. Then comes a series of poems about the crossing of the Mediterranean with thousands drowning. The final poems concern their journeys in Europe, across unwelcoming frontiers and how they are received.

I showed Antony Owen an earlier version of the collection and he suggested sending it to Paul Hawkins and Sarer Scotthorne at Hesterglock Press to see if they might be interested. I’m delighted to say they agreed quite quickly and have done a marvellous job editing and getting it ready for publication

The original working title was “refuge” but Paul suggested ‘skins’ and I instantly agreed. As you say, skins come in all shapes sizes and colours, but it is something we all have in common.

‘skins’ is being sold in aid of the charity CalAid, which works to help refugees, migrants and displaced people. Could you say how and why this charity aspect, particularly in light of the poems’ highly relevant subject matter?

Firstly, I could not conceive of making money from the plight of the refugees so I asked Paul and Sarer at Hesterglock if my royalties could go in some way to the refugees. I was astounded when they said that Hesterglock would do the same. We looked for a good organisation working with the refugees, ie. one which does not dedicate most of the money to administration and executive salaries, and found CalAid which is made up of volunteers apart from just one person who is paid a salary.

Reuben Woolley at Newcastle StanzaElements of political and humanitarian concern feature strongly in this book. How important are these to your writing, here and more generally in poetry? And what other elements (if any) come close to rivalling them in importance?

Most of my work is not exactly sociopolitical thematically but there are times when political and humanitarian concerns demand a response, and poetry is the only way I know how to respond. As poets we are stimulated by what we see, hear and feel this may be from within us or from some outside stimulus. To ignore an important part of what is going on around us would be to deny its existence. This is not to say that these issues are those of the greatest importance in poetry. Absolutely anything has an equal right to trigger a poem, even lakeside daffodils!

For me, as a reader, ‘skins’ seems to manage that tricky feat of packing a powerful punch using very concise, spare language and a lot of white space on the page. Could you say a little about how space and text work for you as a poet, and also shape on the page?

I wish I knew a good answer to this question! I suppose I’ve become more and more minimalist, using scissors or even the garden shears along with the poem. I try to cut out the unnecessary. I hear the poem in my head while I’m writing and editing and the white spaces are the silence. In music, we hear the notes because of the silence which separates them. This is the music of my poems. Even though they are very obviously page poems, they should be read aloud – in one way they are like the staves of music waiting for the musician to interpret them.

”                      in tears
we are’s
the water we share”

Unfair though it is to pull out a single quotation as representative, it seems to me that the lines above do in some way encapsulate elements of the collection as a whole. How far would you go along with that, and is there anything else you’d add?

I must agree with you completely. It’s similar to Shylock’s speech in The Merchant of Venice: “Cut me, do I not bleed” or words to that effect, I haven’t got my Shakespeare with me here so I can’t check and I have a terrible memory.

I would agree that those lines do bring together certain important elements of the collection. I think there are others as well.

Is there another short quotation from the book that you’d expand or counter my previous question with?

To go on from the previous question/answer, I think you have probably identified a key part. There is also, occasionally a certain dark optimism in ‘dark water’:

                                          i swim
cross current
                     not drowning

not always

and the human element of your quote is contrasted in the following from ‘the old crow welcomes winter’:

just asking
what it’s like to be human
           there are places
where the world seeps through
where monsters
like shells
on empty beaches

Given the Calais refugees link, it’s probably unsuprising that water flows through this collection. Is this subject matter, and also the fluidity of words and form themselves, something that generally appeals to you in poetry, and if so, why? (And, if not, why not, given it works so beautifully here?)

Water is definitely something which appears frequently in one form or another in my poems very frequently, liquids in general, I suppose. Blood is another, Air also flows and comes in my poems quite often along with things which use them – ships, birds, wings. I suppose I see a fluid world. I remember I once read – I don’t know if it is true or not – that there were no nouns in the languages of the American First Nation. Thus a rock was seen a change of form from mountain to sand. A rather liquid philosophy which I find appealing.

What question haven’t I asked about ‘skins’ that I should squeeze in now, before it’s too late?
I really can’t think of one.

full coverWhere can people buy their copy of ‘skins’?

From Hesterglock Press:

I have a few copies if anyone wants a signed copy but I have to charge £2 more to cover postage and packing so that I can send the full amount to CalAid.

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.

COVER HIGH RES JPEGLast week’s launch of Lampshades & Glass Rivers at Loughborough University was also the first time I’d held the finished pamphlet in my hands – & I love it! The whole event was absolutely wonderful, with fabulous readings from Sophie-Louise Hyde, Naomi Riley-Dudley and Maggie Nash.

I don’t yet have my copies of the pamphlet yet – as I was travelling by train, so couldn’t carry them back – but I hope to have some to sell soon.

This week sees my forty-first birthday. I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, especially as a woman. But that is my own small stand in marking age and experience as an asset not a negative.

Like most of life, it’s been a year of ups and downs. I try not to dwell on the lows. So, among the highs, I am proud to look back on my year of being 40 as one in which I have had four poetry books out! I can’t say that I would have deliberately planned it this way, of course, but it is how things have panned out and all the 4s seem significant!

It’s also seen my first poetry-play The Magnetic Diaries staged at The Courtyard, Hereford, and set to tour with Reaction Theatre Makers later this year, including the Edinburgh Fringe.

Looking ahead as well as back, I’m also delighted to have returned to writing fiction. Delightful news from the past few weeks includes a sequence of 12 21-word flashes accepted by Jellyfish Review, and the amazing news that my long short fiction Kaleidoscope is shortlisted in the Gatehouse New Fictions Prize 2015/2016. I can’t begin to convey how exciting this is, as well as slightly nail-biting in the wait for the winners to be announced!

Also important, on the practical side, is the fact that this year sees the launch of my editorial services, one-to-one feedback and mentoring – a way of sharing my love of words and hopefully inspiring other writers. You can find more about this here.

One of the writers’ groups that I belong to, and sometimes run workshops for has also launched a new website/blog, which you can find here.

My other news this weekend is that the results are now published for this year’s Mother’s Milk Writing Prize, for which I judged the poetry sections. Some really great entries made final decisions hard. My congratulations go not just to the winner and commended but all the entrants who made my judging job both enjoyable in the reading process and a tough-call in terms of selecting the poems for the prize anthology.

Other highs outside of writing, this past year and, I hope, next? Photography, meditation, enjoying the outdoors, new challenges, new interests and lots of laughter with friends!

My round-up from the last few weeks:

Absolutely delighted with The Magnetic Diaries reviewed on Stride – “The Magnetic Diaries is a sensitive reworking and beautifully rendered writing back, as well as a lyrical and experimental response to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, a book that still has the power to disrupt widely recognisable norms, like dysfunctional relationships and the boredom of the everyday. Sarah James modernises the novel, releasing it from its nineteenth century binding, and gives it freedom to move in the contemporary. Somehow, the way a novel like Madame Bovary can dance between you and the page is captured perfectly…Sarah James contextualises Emma in the twenty-first century in a way that breathes life into the nineteenth-century cadaver…Emma is a poet, as well as a reader, and her bouts of fancy and caprice are transformed into writing poems that are intelligent and expressive…” Sarah Cave on Stride, Feb 2016. The full, detailed review can be enjoyed here;

Featured poet on The Poetry Shed, with two poems ‘The Coastguard’s Grand-daughter’ and ‘the bearable unlightness’;

Flash fiction ‘Phlegmatic’ published in The Ofi Press Literary Magazine – a dark-edged, gritty piece: ‘You couldn’t argue with him.
“Ma lived to 91 and didn’t do her no harm.” This scorn followed by a cough that would have torn most people’s windpipes. Not his steel lungs though, tarred to Teflon coating…’;

Flash fiction ‘Of Risk’ published in Rockland London freesheet and online – another gritty story, this time about domestic abuse: ‘“Fancy a flutter, darlin’?” Mick started. “Take a gamble on my wings. Nothing to beat ’em!”
Okay, so those weren’t his actual words. But they might as well have been, had Bronwen paused long enough then to consider what it was that attracted her to Mick. Bronwen hadn’t though. Bronwen never thought about risk or asked what exactly was at stake in being with a fallen angel. Cash? Car keys? A house? No, nothing so simple. She put up her whole life, blindly… ‘;

‘Ye Olde Tavern’ published in Three Drops from a Cauldron Imbolc 2016 Anthology;

Three poems: ‘Seed through the eye’, ‘From the Attic’ and ‘The Swing’ accepted for spring issue of The Lonely Crowd;

A poem accepted for the fib review;

A new reading: Tuesday, June 14, Sarah will be reading at ‘City Voices’, Lych Gate tavern, Queen Square, Wolverhampton, WV1 1TX, 7.30-9pm. Tickets are £3/ £1 (under 16s). Now in its 15 year, ‘City Voices’ is organised by Simon Fletcher who formerly worked as literature development officer for the council and is now manager of Offa’s Press.

Snip its!

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Twas the night before Xmas… Yes, I am out of season, but for a good reason, as my snippets of news date back to the winter solstice.

At the Hotel de la Lune performed in Greenwich as part of Arachne Press’s Longest Night:

‘Insignificant’ and ‘Living with Salt’ published on Molly Bloom. There are loads of cracking poems in this month’s issue, so very be proud to be in their company.

‘Forget Beef, Forget Chicken’ and ‘American Dream’ accepted for Paper Swans Press anthology ‘Chronicles of Eve’.

‘Dear Argiope,’ accepted for Fairacre Press Maligned Species spider anthology.

A reminder that Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s The Power of Place, focuses on her novel The Broken Road, which features three poems from me. The article can be found here.

Thought for the Month – Work smart, not hard
My reflection on this stems from awareness of how busy most of us are and the overwhelming amount of information and writing available on and offline these days. This was reinforced by serendipity when I came across this article The ‘Technique’ of Rereading by Marvin Bell emphasizing the importance not of how much we read as writers but how well we read it.

Happy (re-)reading!

I’ve been thinking about my blog for a while: what it should be? And also what it shouldn’t be.

When I set up my website many moons, moods and modes ago, the theory of the time was that writers should be using email signatures for marketing, building up a base of support or email list via their website and generally creating a web presence. Behind these ideas, and much of today’s society, that one word: marketing.

Like the sea's voice in a shell - the subtle pervasiveness to aim for in poetry and marketing?

Truth is that I’m proud of all my books – the love, research and crafting that has gone into each, the place it has in my life. I am also very grateful to all my publishers for seeing something in my work. That said, my natural pride is a quiet one, an inner glow of satisfaction at creativity crafted and polished. Marketing is the part I’d prefer to do without as a writer, if I could. But it is, of course, unavoidable.

In many ways, the basics of internet marketing haven’t changed. But the ways that this can be done and the number of people doing it have grown enormously over the past decade. And my personal circumstances have also changed.

The odd events and publications to blog about have become many, and, with it, a blog that often feels to me like an events or publications list. But both of these can already be found elsewhere on my website: on the Events page and my full (yes, I do mean full!) Writing CV page (and I will continue to keep these regularly updated).

Of course, there are also my micro-reviews. These have been both a way of logging for my own memory what I have enjoyed and why, and a means of sharing poetry that I’ve enjoyed. I don’t intend to stop these.

But I also set up V. Press as another way of sharing other’s poetry with the world and giving some free feedback to debut poets in way that hopefully doesn’t impinge on the livelihoods on those who need to earn a living from feedback/mentoring. Predictably, running the press has turned out to be an enjoyable but not un-time-demanding role.

Another truth of this blogpost is that all forms of writing, sharing poetry, publishing and that dreaded word ‘marketing’ take time and energy, and have to fit in around life too. Somehow my blog in its current form (with the exception of the microreviews) doesn’t seem the most important time-priority at the moment.

Like many things in life these days, the pressure to have all, be all and do all is there and unlikely to ever go away. But there is a point where this inevitably becomes self-defeating.

What comes next for me in terms of blogging, I’m not sure. I will be running a 52 Days of Christmas twitter poetry-sharing starting early next month. (My twitter account is @Sarah_James , if anyone wants to follow this.) I may gather up some of these snippets here at some point but as for the main thrust of this blog in future…I suspect the usual processes of adapt, innovate and metamorphose will come into play, but they (and I!) need a little breathing space in order for them to do so.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Beyond the Tune

Jayne Stanton’s Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press) is a beautifully presented, and written, pamphlet that I have dipped in and out of over several months. Each re-reading brings new connections with these evocative and atmospheric poems.

The vivid sensual details of the first half of the pamphlet bring a whole era to life, with subtly startling yet apt memorable lines, such as “tannin, bitter through the Tate & Lyle scree”.

Not all stories from the era are sweet though, a darker side revealed in the hauntingly beautiful poems of the second half that gradually bring us back through poems that could be then or now to the present day and then the present day looking back, linking us again to the pamphlet’s opening.

From “my spine | a river of running quavers that stick | to the soles of my sensible shoes” (Sin É) back to “ re-set your body clock to seal a time line” (Grace Notes), and then immersed again in a constant invitation to “Slip beyond the tune.” (Grace Notes)

Queen, Jewel, Mistress

If history lessons at school had been anything like Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress: A History of the Queens of England & Great Britain In Verse (Eyewear), then I’d have paid better attention.

I know Ruth, she’s a good friend and I love her work. This collection demonstrates why. Each queen is a given a distinct voice, in poems that take a range of poetry forms and styles befitting their time. They’re women’s viewpoints, but the worlds they belong to and are set in mostly men’s; its depiction therefore unconfined. The imagery is wide-ranging: nature, animals, birds, blood, war, lust, secrecy, politics, violence and the hidden messages of nursery rhyme.

The poems are full of memorable lines and metaphors. Some of the poems are thoughtscapes, others landscapes. Some carry a narrative, others spark against each other to create a bigger story. All of them are very human, and very much recommended.


Mark Goodwin’s Steps (Longbarrow Press) is one of those beautiful collections that somehow manages the feat of being in constant movement (word play, riff, layout) while also capturing the stillness of each precisely observed moment and creating a sculpture of words on the page.

These are poems of all the senses alert and voiced, with energy in the lay-out, punctuation and varying line lengths to create pieces that are quietly adventurous and daring, and always uncluttered.

The collection ‘Steps’ into a range of landscapes, many in the U.K. but also across the world. These aren’t unpeopled places though. There is the child carried on the walker’s back, hands ‘like clinging stars’, those met along the way, those exploring a walk with Goodwin. In an Africa-set poem, also an acute awareness of the less-privileged.
All of the poems are alive with beautifully stunning but entirely unfussy or unforced images. As a reader, each one is like turning a corner on a path to come across something most unexpected but breath-taking.

Everything about this collection feels accomplished. When Goodwin pulls out words for a parallel text or breaks up words into their parts, it is not a disintegration but an opening of new possibilities and connections, a highlighting of things we might overlook, a focussing of attention on language’s full power when not taken too much for granted.
One of the longer piece in the collection ‘From a St Juliot to Beyond a Beeny’ exemplifies this and the overall collection’s feat of realising a world in which the walk is a poem, the poem a walk, and everything else found within. This 71-page piece is simultaneously a nature poem, a love poem, a subtly philosophical/spiritual poem (in the simple but effective use of the indefinite determiner before pronouns and proper nouns – as seen in the poem title) and has elements of found poetry too, all interweaved as naturally as breathing.

A very beautiful and enjoyable collection to read.


Just received my copy of The Poetry of Staffordshire, a beautiful anthology from Offa’s Press, including my poem ‘Slipping’.

The past fortnight has been one buzzing with poetry – from this year’s Poetry Book Fair, to the Forward Prizes and the awesome feeling of opening this year’s prize anthology to read one of my poems from The Magnetic Diaries.

In fact, prizes and anthologies have featured quite a lot in the past week. (It doesn’t happen often – so please bear with me if I enjoy it for a short while as a little reward reaped from much hard work.)


First up, was the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair in London, where I was proud to be running the V. Press stand, reading from Hearth for Mother’s Milk Books and have a poem chosen by Paper Swans Press (from the ‘Schooldays’ anthology) for the fabulous Free Verse poetry book fair anthology. At the fair, I picked up my copy of the new Mother’s Milk Writing Prize anthology,The Story of Us, containing my poem ‘Chuckle Chutney’. Then, a trip to Southbank for the Forward Prizes awards ceremony, where I was particularly awed by the shortlisted single poems and collections readings. It was amazing too to hear Claudia Rankine read from her prize-winning Citizen: An American Lyric, which I reviewed (and loved) last year after reading the original Graywolf Press edition. Finally, I also came away with a copy of the Forward Prize anthology – proof that it’s not just a dream that I have a highly commended poem in there!

The past few weeks brought news too of other anthologies. I was delighted to check the proofs for my poem in My Dear Watson (Beautiful Dragons Press) feauring a poem by a different poet for each element in the periodic table. I’ve also heard that my poem on three drops from a cauldron is to be included in the next print anthology (due out in January).

Other poems have been published in The French Literary Review and accepted for the International Times, the next issue (January 2016) of Molly Bloom and I have a poem in the Ink, Sweat and Tears week-long series of light-themed poems to mark this year’s National Poetry Day. (My poem ‘Against Candlelight’ features tomorrow, Monday, 12 Oct, but the whole week’s line-up looks very exciting so do dip into the other days’ poems too!)

Last year’s National Poetry Day saw me turning on the animation of my light-themed poem ‘That Night’ at the Blackpool Illuminations as part of the Wordpool festival celebrations, so this year I thought I’d settle for a quieter day, only to be delighted by two surprises. The first was the Mad Hatter Reviews review of my Nine Arches Press collection, plenty-fish. I knew that Charley Barnes was reviewing the book and had also done an interview with me, but not that they would coincide with National Poetry Day. For me, “this entire book is really quite beautiful” and “Plenty-fish is a stunning and emotional collection” are two of the highlights in terms of what I’d hope to achieve. But these are just two short snippets, the whole of the review can be read over on the website here, along with an interview about the collection, writing and performance more generally.

On Thursday, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn also revealed a little more about our collaboration for her forthcoming novel The Broken Road. My part in this is small, but one I was very honoured to be asked to play, admiring Lindsay’s work and also the opportunity to widen poetry’s scope. Set in Venice, this beautiful and moving novel features a character who takes up poetry, these poems written by me for the character’s voice and life story. One of the poems ‘La Resistenza’ is shared on Lindsay’s blog. You can read the poem, and find out more about the novel and the poem’s inspiration, here.

Meanwhile, this weekend, a poem from my very first collection Into the Yell gets another outing over on the fabulous Keep Poems Alive run by Sally Evans. The site is a great way of discovering poems, poets and publications, as submissions are all ones that have been previously published elsewhere three or more years ago. (My poem ‘Unsubmerged’ was also one shortlisted in the Plough Prize 2009.)

Anyway, returning to my quiet plans, the other reason(s) for this plan include current childsitting debts, having enjoyed a lovely night headlining with the wonderful Paul Francis at Lichfield’s Poetry Alight on Tuesday and reading in the Birmingham Literature Festival sold-out vintage bus Ode Trip taking place in just a few hours. So, instead of being out and about enjoying poetry, I settled for social media sharing and enjoying some quiet time reading poetry at home. It was lovely day, but to avoid this post bursting its internet seams, the resulting micro-reviews will follow in a separate blog post next week.

Have a good one!

Chinese lanterns lift
red hearts to black sky: no
colour without light

One of the great things about travelling to gigs in different areas is not just the chance to see new places and meet new people (as well as old friends), but also the opportunity for reading on the journeys.

Though the massive backlog in my reading is far from sorted, travelling to Leicester Shindig on Monday, I finally got the chance to catch up on three poetry pamphlets.

Margaret Thatcher’s Museum (Hesterglock Press) by Antony Owen opens with a list of exhibits – the politically-edged dark humour in these sets out the core of this pamphlet: what it is to be human/come from a working class/non-white background in today’s society. The personal and political are carefully and beautifully interweaved in these poems, where sometimes dislocated sentences and unfussy line-breaks on ‘and’ and ‘that’ highlight the sense of raw material being built up (against the odds!) into something as sharp as “Your sea is a vase of breaking flowers”, as beautiful as “the son of a song never heard” and as essential as “unrehearsed smiles in rehearsed routines”.

Sarer Scotthorne’s The Blood House (Hesterglock Press) is one of the most beautiful and unique-looking pamphlets that I’ve picked up in a long while, with a striking cover image, (ink) blood-stained flyleaf and fingerprint on the inner back. The poetry inside is as haunting as this suggests. At times painful and eerie, also bold, black and bloody, but beautiful too. The range of forms and layout on the page also make this a pamphlet to explore, and then re-explore, each time gaining more.

It was a real delight to hear Rosie Miles read from her HappenStance pamphlet CUTS at Monday’s Shindig. On the page or heard aloud, the poems are vivid and quirky, at turns humorous but still undercut by the sharper edges of love, life, society. Family relationships, historical characters and modern places (amongst a range of other subjects) all cut in different ways, and are all explored in unusual and striking ways that make this a very memorable pamphlet. In fact, it’s one that I closed with an admiring sigh, knowing that I’ll be opening it to re-read again soon.

Other things making me happy this past week: the Nine Arches Press launch of plenty-fish at Birmingham MAC last Friday, another poem accepted for London Grip, three poems accepted for Stand and the proofs for the Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize 2014 anthology The Story of Us (available for pre-order here). Also, continuing plans for The Magnetic Diaries poetry-play tour and heading up to London for The Poetry Book Fair at Conway Hall on Saturday, where V. Press will have a stand beside Mother’s Milk Books and Fairacre Press. I will be reading for Mother’s Milk Books at 2.30pm and Jacqui Rowe will be reading for V. Press, sharing poems from her pamphlet Ransom Notes. I’ve also been loving the September sunshine and autumn colours!

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