I’m absolutely delighted to be able to start this post with some news that I’ve had to sit on for weeks, despite the difficulty in explaining my exceptionally bright smile! I am very pleased to say that my unpublished sequence ‘Lampshades and Glass Rivers’ has won this year’s Overton Poetry Prize and will be published as a chapbook by Loughbrough University’s Lamplight Press. (It is quite possible neighbours may already have guessed this from the great whoops of joy when Dr Kerry Featherstone phoned to tell me!)

Other delights of the past fortnight include a poem taken for the absolutely gorgeously beautiful Synaesthesia Magazine, two poems taken for The Frogmore Papers, another two haiku published in the Financial Times on May 28 and June 4, a commissioned poem successfully completed and two poems published in The Ofi Press Magazine. This includes another poem and photo collaboration with Dan Haynes. (Web layout is always tricky; Solstice is actually two five-line stanzas, but readers can probably see/guess where most of the way through double line spacing has distorted this appearance.)

I was also busy recording Clarissa Hope-Birch for her role as six-year-old Beth in the soundtrack for The Magnetic Diaries at Hereford’s The Courtyard studio theatre on July 4 and for a new audio version.

Microreviews

Simon Barraclough’s book-length Sunspots (Penned in the Margins) has absolutely dazzled me. Themed as the title suggests around the sun, I had wondered if this might not prove enough variety to hold my attention for a whole book. I need not have worried though, the poetry is totally engaging and addictive: a sizzling mix of striking imagery, humour, thought-provoking/philosophical observations/insights…and the language has a brilliance that had me completely hooked. I’d very much recommend it.

Over the past few weeks, I have also enjoyed Jonathan Davidson’s Humfrey Coningsby (Valley Press). This pamphlet/chapbook has such a deliciously unusual slant (the South Shropshire lord of the manor walked out of this world in 1610 and now walks back in). I love the gentle humour mixed in with the striking imagery. Titles suggest as much in eg ‘A Car is Hired’, ‘Souvenir of Troy’, ‘Coningsby in Love’ and ‘Fly Business Class’ in particular. Also, delightful lines like “his parish, | all its teeth and bones”, “That’s not enough. I want sherbet” “a fluster of finches”, “dispossessed of hearth” and “a phalanx of helicopters” to mention just a few.

Signature Move by Robert Swereda (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press) is not a quick read but it is an addictive one, that also looks beautiful and works well dipping in and out at random. My favourite section is the book’s 7-page title poem. Reminiscent of language trees, this looks like frost on a window, the window of clarity, meaning and narrative. Each branch interprets the preceding words with definitions that are sometimes like, sometimes very different from, what you might find listed in a dictionary. So the ‘definition’ might be connotational or scenario-specific. As such, a kind of Chinese whispers multiple narratives/translations/interpretations unfolds in a way that has hints, for me, of the film Sliding Doors or the possibilities of quantum worlds, each single choice/definition at each level leading to one or two choices/definitions at the next level until that particular branch/scenario ends.

My second favourite section is ‘the dowsing ruse’ – a beguiling sequence of poetry fragments laid out in a way that uses standard letters/phonemes to create a picture/pattern/diagram – which, for me, is perhaps the various stages of finding water from/through language/linguistic ground. These are as beautiful to look at as they are intriguing to read. Other sections include ‘Shiritori solo’, a fascinating ‘phonetic chaining’ process that I was unaware of before, which, combined with alphabetical play, results in some interesting snippets. Meanwhile, the opening section ‘tones’ is like a dance of words, with the white page as a dance floor, meanings and images jostling each other and a music of vowels and alliteration. A fascinating book.

I have also been reading and admiring Robert Peake’s The Knowledge and Jo Bell’s Kith (both Nine Arches Press). More to follow on these soon hopefully (when I’ve had a chance to finish reading), as I am also re-reading Plath’s Ariel as part of a fabulous Poetry School reading course led by Clare Pollard.