I’ve always had a thing about foxes. From Ted Hughes’s ‘The Thought Fox’ through many other real and written urban, country and metaphorical foxes.

For me, foxes often seem to go hand in hand with wolves and with fairytale, in particular Little Red Riding Hood. We used to have fox cubs in our garden at Lichfield many years ago. Wolves used to chase me along the corridors at my grandparents’ large, cold and spooky farmhouse. And Little Red Riding Hood has always been the fairytale that has most beguiled me, and that I return to again and again in my own writing, whether I want to or not.

I’ve read somewhere an article by someone suggesting that favourite fairytales are indicative of something. That’s a lot of ‘somes’ there that don’t necessarily add up. (Certainly, I don’t now remember where, who or what.) It also has everything and nothing to do with why Ruth Stacey’s Fox Boy (Dancing Girl Press) sequence has had me hooked from the start.

Ruth is a friend, so I’d read and loved the poems even before their publication. But the pamphlet is the beautiful finished thing. Through the ‘Fox Boy’, these poems touch on issues of belonging, parenthood, family, mixed race and more, with a native American influence and shape-shifting flavour. The poetry is spare, beautiful and moving, with enigmatic touches of mystery. It is also accompanied by some of Ruth’s gorgeous artwork. This is very much a little thing of beauty to look at, hold and read.

“Doorways into shape-shifting, nature & folklore” (picture caption)

The cover art is also what appealed first about Jessi Lee Narducci’s Sharked (also from Dancing Girl Press).

It seems particularly (yet randomly) apt that I should end up reading this pamphlet now, as this week’s launch of the Restless Bones anthology for the Born Free Foundation included me reading my poems for the whale shark (and grey wolves). (There is also a poem ‘Wolf Stalks Fox’ in Sharked.)

In this pamphlet, the sharks are very much metaphorical ones – society, men, relationships, life. There are some beautiful, striking and forceful lines within these thought-provoking conversational poems, where modern life and recession jostles dramatically alongside mythical allusions. A short collection very much made for re-reading.