So, today, I am writing this just 12 hours post the official local launch of Be[yond] as part of Droitwich Saltfest. And what an amazing night it was!

I think I spent most of the evening when I wasn’t reading or introducing my guest poets in some kind of stunned delight. It was lovely to see Park’s Café packed to standing room point with a mixture of friends, fellow poets and also people I’d never met before.

The five-minute readings and performances from lovely poets and friends Jenny Hope, Maggie Doyle (Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2012-2013), Claire Walker, Andrew Smardon, Polly Robinson and Heather Wastie were amazing, with several of their comments and specific choices of poem almost bringing tears to my eye. (But crying so not a good launch look!)

With two ten-minute readings from me, it was lovely to have plenty of time too to chat and then on for a curry afterwards. It really was a wonderful evening!

This week, also saw a first lovely microreview of Be[yond] on poet Sarah Westcott’s site The Literary Loper. Given the more experimental/innovative angle of this collection compared to my first, it was a big relief to hear both that it was “unlike anything I have read” yet “accessible, indeed bidding the reader to come along too.” Among the other generous comments: “James’ confident compositions are unafraid to sing into silences on the page and holler into the philosophical ‘void’ with many possibilities simultaneously held at once.” (But please do check the link above out to read that full microreview and those of a range of other poetry collections.)

Thanks to reading Sarah Westcott’s praise in that post of Rebecca Goss’s Her Birth (Carcanet), I have also been reading that collection this week. More accurately, I read it in fact in one complete sitting, tears in my eyes for no inconsiderable amount of that time. This Forward Prize of Best Collection 2013 shortlisted collection is incredibly moving (about the short life of Goss’s daughter, born with an incurable heart condition). Aside from the strong narrative pull in these poems, the language is also beautifully crafted, the observation and imagery precise, balanced, beautiful.

At this point, I’m going to pause before moving on to my next microreview to explain something that’s been on my mind since starting these review snippets again over the summer. And that something is guilt.

I read a lot. Some collections, magazines, poems, I love. Others I don’t. The latter are simple to deal with, I just don’t write about them. After all, it’s subjective, and one woman’s poison may be another’s mead. It’s the collections I love but don’t write about that I feel guilt for because, more often than not, it’s not that I’ve enjoyed or appreciated the ones I do write about more, simply that I haven’t had time to write about the others, that my blog’s not been focussed on microreviews at that point or something else mundane and irritating has got in the way.

That off my chest, my other microreview this week is Mark Burnhope’s Lever Arch (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press). I was disappointed last month to hear I wouldn’t get to hear him read at the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press book launch in Liverpool next week. Having read the pamphlet now, I’m even more disappointed.

The visual layout of these poems (and choice of font) is such that it makes an immediate impact on the reader. The word play and way the poems use space on the page to invite the reader into the creativity of making links is also very much my kind of thing. For a pamphlet, there’s also an impressive rang of breadth in subject matter: love, protest, faith and death. As just one example, in ‘air show’ – the red arrow like layout on the page makes for a poem of moving fragmentation and orchestration around grief.

And on now from that kind of reading to a brief reminder that I will be reading as one of the featured writers at tomorrow’s Leicester Shindig.

Then, next Saturday, I will be reading at the official Knives, Forks and Spoons Press launch of Be[yond] in Liverpool.

Liverpool Launch – Saturday, September 21, 2013 – Mello Mello Café, 40-42 Slater Street,
Liverpool L1 LBX (Entrance on Parr Street)

I will be reading from Be[yond] as part of this Knives, Forks and Spoons book launch, also featuring readings from Robert Sheppard (The Given and The Only Life) and Peter Hughes (Snowclone Detritus).

Free entry. Doors open at 1pm for a 2pm start.

While I’m in Liverpool, I’m also hoping to sneak in a treat swim at the Aquatic Centre’s 50m pool, so it looks like a busy but fun week ahead!