blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Newport Writers Anthology

Welcome to our first anthology. Since the group started, it has always been Tony’s vision to put together a collection of stories and poems penned by our members. Please proceed with caution – these short stories and poems will introduce you to the alternative side of Newport: ghostly grandparents, a displaced porpoise, a little bit of Welshness, two philosophical security guards, a child whose food plays music, the awesome side of autism, a woman who made teddy bears in a concentration camp, and much more. Take a whirlwind tour through bereavement, love, regret and parenthood. Laugh and defy fate as you run the gamut of life’s experiences – seen through the eyes of a bunch of writers who celebrate their individuality. You will meet a diverse group of people who enjoy what they do and want to share it with you. We invite you to sit back with a cuppa or maybe something stronger, relax and enjoy what promises to be a whirlwind ride.

We are a diverse group from south Wales with over 20 members, covering a broad age range and a variety of styles within the sphere of writing. We include poets, novelists, writers of flash fiction and short stories, plays and film scripts. 

We published an anthology in February 2020 entitled Newport Writers – An anthology of poetry and prose. Available from Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

We met on Zoom during the pandemic, but have now found a venue in central Newport where we can get together with plenty of space for social distancing. 

We hold an Open Mic night once a month at popular Newport coffee shop Horton’s, and in the summer of 2021 we participated in several spoken word events.

Some members of our group are available to read and offer critique, and we have a proofreader among our membership.

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My thoughts: this was an interesting collection of poems and flash fiction, covering a wide variety of themes from a diverse group of writers. Some are humorous, some sad, moving and clever. It was interesting to read these pieces by unknown writers, although some have been published elsewhere, and many hint at the potential for real success with a writing career.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

lifestyle

Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows 2020/21 announced

Three of the UK’s most exciting poets Romalyn Ante, Dzifa Benson, and Jamie Hale have been selected as the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows for 2020/21.

Each poet receives £15,000 and is given a year of critical support and mentoring. Turning the idea of an arts prize on its head, the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship provides each poet with the time and space to focus on their craft and fulfil their potential with no expectation that they produce a particular work or outcome.

Recognising the power of potential, the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship’s approach to funding advocates for a change in art funding practice in the UK, providing opportunities outside commercial pressures for artistic growth and new ideas to flourish. The Fellowship provides financial support towards the development of under-supported and diverse artistic practices across the UK, with a focus on the pursuit of artistic experimentation and the space for artists to thrive.

This alternative approach to recognising and rewarding outstanding poets, is now in its third and final edition. Previous recipients are: Raymond Antrobus, Jane Commane and Jackie Hagan (2017-18 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows) and Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Anthony Joseph and Yomi Ṣode (2019-20 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellows).

Romalyn Ante, Dzifa Benson, and Jamie Hale illustrate how diverse and exciting poetry has become in the 21st century. Through activism, visual arts, theatre, and drawing from their personal experiences/circumstances, the three poets express their practice through a multitude of ways, opening poetry up to a wide range of audiences. Each poet has produced outstanding work to date and have demonstrated enormous, unselfish generosity towards other poets, giving far more than they have received particularly during the pandemic. They have been selected for the potential they display at this critical point in their individual careers, when the support provided from the Fellowship will make the most difference.

Alongside the freely given grant of £15,000, the three Fellows will each receive mentoring from the programme’s manager Dr Nathalie Teitler FRSA and access to experts drawn from the poetry world and beyond. Nathalie has run literature programmes promoting diversity in the UK for over 20 years, founding the first national mentoring and translation programmes for writers living in exile. She is the Director of The Complete Works – a national development programme that helped to raise the number of Black and Asian poets published by major presses.

Romalyn Ante is an award-winning Filipino-born, Wolverhampton-based poet, translator, editor and essayist. She is co-founding editor of harana poetry, an online magazine for poets writing in English as a second or parallel language, and her accolades include the Poetry London Prize, Manchester Poetry Prize, Society of Author’s Foundation Award, Developing Your Creative Practice, Creative Future Literary Award, amongst others. Apart from being a writer, she also works full-time as a nurse practitioner, specializing in providing different psychotherapeutic treatments.

Dzifa Benson is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work intersects science, art, the body and ritual, which she explores through poetry, prose, theatre-making, performance, essays and criticism. She has performed nationally and internationally for Tate Britain, the Courtauld Institute of Art, BBC Africa Beyond and more, and she abridged the National Youth Theatre’s 2021 production of Othello in collaboration with Olivier award-winning director Miranda Cromwell.

Jamie Hale is a poet, script/screenwriter and essayist based in London, whose work often explores the disabled body, nature, and mortality. Their pamphlet, Shield – about disability, treatment prioritisation, and the COVID-19 pandemic was published in January 2020. Their solo poetry show, NOT DYING, was performed at the Lyric Hammersmith and Barbican Centre in 2019, and the filmed version has screened nationally and internationally since. Jamie is also the founder of CRIPtic Arts, an organisation showcasing and developing work by and for d/Deaf and disabled creatives.

Jon Opie, Deputy Director, Jerwood Arts, said: “The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships is a special programme, which over the last four years has charted significant changes in the poetry world as begins to embrace the diversity of voices, experience and histories it encompasses. Past Fellows, and now the ones we have announced today, exemplify some of the multitudes of forms and languages that makes poetry an essential part of this country’s life, inseparable from mainstream media, powerfully articulating lived-experiences and enhancing other art forms. I am hugely looking forward to working with Romalyn, Dzfia and Jamie over the coming year. Their talents are unique, and yet they share a generosity and sense of responsibility towards other poets and their communities. I have no doubt their Fellowships will be profound for them and for others around them.”

For the Love of Hendrik de Jongh, Drummer from Batavia

i
In the beginning,
he was my lord
of the 6 weeks.
When !Kaub showed
the dark side of his face
again, I had to slough off
my lover’s name.


ii
You are on the other side of the water.
Here, my forehead touches only air.
I map the radiant places of your body
the seams of my skin brittle and ablaze.


iii
Even when the rise and fall of our ribcages insist
we are still here, I try to live above the flood.
I breathe you in. You breathe me out. The world,
in rain-wind and dilate-sun, leans in to learn
which way to carve the howling sweep of years.


iv
You asked: What parts of you are unknown to me?
I answered: This too muchness of self in its not enoughness.


v
Day empties through us as a Cape sugarbird sparkles thinly
in the shadows.
You let me follow you into your dreams. Vast night looks in,
open-mouthed,
leads us by a nose of buchu into its fluid corners on the //Stars Road.
Our eyes don’t close.
I want to bury the chameleon of this love in a secret place of nerve and sinew
while we wait for the mantis to sing the !Great Hunger to sleep.


vi
If I arrived at your voice again would it fatten
into a new kind of passing time,
pour down my back into this thousand years
hollow of my spine? Your memory breathes
warmth over my skin. My body catches it
like when our astonished spirits
were every crashing leaf on every tree,
when our hallowed hands cupped
soft curving and fingered lean meat.


vii
You never left. We endured. I was still denied.


viii
My I was him.
In order to live
I had to use
the knife
between us.













Lusus Naturae at Bartholomew Fair: Natural-Born, Made and Fake

Ms Harvey’s eyes and hair made people weak at the knees with an uncommon fervour

They say I look like an angel with my hair
the pale straw colour of the silkworm’s thread
my eyes, a shade lighter than Indian pink.
They say I’m impertinent without being impolite
while maintaining a proper feminine dignity. Yet
the mob at Glasgow Fair was so unaffected by
my beauty, it turned me out of my cosy booth
as it also turned out a showful of wild beasts.


Ms Hipson, the tall Dutchwoman, dreams of dancing with a man tall enough to make her feel delicate

I cannot stand silence so it’s the glee and the din
of the stage for me. I sway among rafters to the patter
of the gaffer, to the gauge of long drum and hurdy-gurdy.
I am a spiritual sister of giraffe-necked women, daughter
of a stilt-walking Titan. Home is sawdust and greasepaint.
Kin is the spit-snarl of the rabble, half-cut with pale ale.


Ms Morgan, the Windsor Fairy, excited in the breasts of dukes sensations of wonder and delight

It’s a big world and I’m a little person. Blood can be
flowers or the very last thing you ever see. Even walking
can seem like a uncanny thing when you are a simulacrum
of woman, when something has been left behind. It’s a strange
tongue, this one my body has to speak. But please, do not
mistake the smallness of my anatomy for the smallness of a life.





Ms Sidonia married twice and retired a wealthy woman

God sent me this beard, I will not take it off!
How else would they notice me? This visage
is a lure, toast of the mob, I am a sight to silence
the baying crowd. I cheated death, I fought
and won. That makes me beautiful. I bow now
to the deities who live in my whiskers.


Ms Hopwood silenced the room when they lifted her out of the womb

They look at me as if this embarrassment of limbs
protruding from my chest is an act of war committed
against them. A wound, God in the shape of a jest,
the flight of chimaeras in hurricanes. My body is surely
not the most hospitable of hosts, cobbled together in taverns
and fairgrounds, in excess of the natural order of things.
They can’t imagine what I choose to believe in this armour.


Ms Vaughn of the piebald skin is also a trick-roper of royal lineage

Your bodies were given to you, not chosen by you.
You take your bodies for granted so you don’t exist
to me. When you thought of a daughter, you never
expected this. Shrivelled apple for a face, my epidermis
a hot to the touch patchwork of failed answers. Myth is
your yawning maw. I am the mooncalf who comes
and goes. After the fifth time my mother marked me
so she would know me again in other lives.


Ms Baartman wears her sense of self tightly, she musn’t let it float free

Here I am ripe and raw, carved root fashioned as woman.
Stone born from the brow of a dark mother whose many limbs
speak in tongues of glinting silver and singeing iron. I hang
like a curtain skirting the stage, my cloth pouring down endlessly.
These watchers, black holes where their hearts should be, would
walk right through me. They see in me the things they would do
to themselves if they were me. Who marked me while I was in the womb?
Who would curse me? I prance up and down these floorboards to keep
from weeping, sing myself away over and over again with the same red song.
blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Ghost in the Throat – Doireann Ní Ghríofa

‘When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries’
In the 1700s an Irish noblewoman, on discovering that her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem. Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh
Airt Uí Laoghaire was famously referred to by Peter Levi, then Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, as the ‘greatest poem written in these islands in the whole eighteenth century.’
In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its echoes in her own life and sets out to track down the rest of the poet’s
story.
Culminating in Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s own translation of the poem, A Ghost in the Throat is a devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past to hear
another’s.

DOIREANN NÍ GHRÍOFA is a bilingual writer whose books explore birth, death, desire, and domesticity. Doireann’s awards include a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Seamus Heaney Fellowship, the Ostana Prize and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She is a member of Aosdána. A Ghost in the Throat is her prose debut.

My thoughts: this was a really interesting book, part essay, part memoir, part poetry. The author explores the poem and the life of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, an 18th century woman whose husband is murdered. As well as exploring the extraordinary text, she puts it into context with the life and times of its creator, all while raising her own children and moving house over and over.

It’s a thoughtful and fascinating work, I enjoyed learning all these things – Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire is not a work I was familiar with, probably because being a Gaelic poem, it never made it onto any syllabus here in the UK. Which is a shame, it’s an incredible and powerful piece, full of grief and rage and intense love. The translation at the end of the book, with the English alongside the original Irish is gripping and haunting, despite its age, the words still move the reader. A really impressive book.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade – William Wall

Surprised by how few literary references exist for the Spanish ‘Flu pandemic of 1918/19, Man Booker Prize-nominated Irish poet William Wall decided to turn his remarkable talents to creating a poetry anthology inspired by ‘the strangest year we have lived’.
Published by Doire Press, Wall’s hauntingly beautiful poetry will be
available from Thursday 28 October.
In Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade: A Journal of the Plague Year, Wall captures the roller-coaster of emotions from the first terrible days in Italy to the highs and lows of the lockdown in Ireland, culminating in the frightening increase in numbers at Christmas 2020.
But this is not just a book about the plague: Wall turns to nature, to love, to his beloved Cork coast and sea-swimming for solace.
There are many tender memories, moments of personal inspiration, humour and hopefulness—the whole suffused with an acute awareness of the historical context. There have been other plagues and pandemics, the poems say, and we have survived: we will survive this too.

A sample from Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade: A Journal of the Plague Year.

The Silent Road
the road that passes our gate
has fallen silent
all our days in this house
thirty years and more
we have wished for this moment
and now we are bereft

WILLIAM WALL is the author of four novels, including This is the Country
(Sceptre), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; three collections of poetry; and one volume of short stories. He is the first Poet Laureate of Cork, his home city (2020/2021) and was the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize in the USA (2017). He has also won the Virginia Faulkner Award, The Sean O’Faoláin Prize, several Writer’s Week prizes and The Patrick Kavanagh Award. He was shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Award, the Irish Book Awards, the Raymond Carver Award, the Hennessy Award and numerous others. His work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Latvian, Serbian and Catalan. In 2014 William was part of the Italo-Irish Literature Exchange, organised through The Irish Writers’ Centre, which toured Italy with readings in Italian and English. In March 2010 he was Writer in Residence at The Princess Grace Irish Library, Monaco.
He was a 2009 Fellow of The Liguria Centre for the Arts & Humanities. He lives in Cork. You can see more readings from William through his YouTube page here.

My thoughts: this is not an easy, comforting collection of poems, 2020 was a terrible year for many, but it is strikingly honest and powerful. From the deeply personal to poems inspired by the news and politicians. The use of quotes from plague literature (e.g Samuel Pepys’ diaries, The Decameron) reminds us that this has happened before – many times, and will most likely happen again.

Charting the long lockdowned year, from its early moments to Christmas, the strangest festival in our homes, the poems explore the feelings and concerns of each troubled season, putting context into a frightening time. The use of images brings the eye to the accompanying text, a flash of life, startling against the stillness of the words.

There is probably much more to come as writers gather their thoughts and put pen to paper over the next few years but this collection feels of the moment and explains how so many felt faced with a year unlike any other in a century.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, films

World Poetry Day: inVERSE – poetry in motion

inVERSE is a collection of five of the world’s oldest surviving poems, re-imagined for the 21st century through the medium of film. Filmed during lockdown 2020, the inVerse series is the brainchild of BAFTA nominated film maker Jack Jewers – the film director behind the award-winning adaptations of CJ Daugherty’s bestselling Night School series, published by Little Brown. The inVerse series also features narration from Adam Roche, host of the Secret History of Hollywood podcast.

Each short film takes a historical poem, ranging from 15,000 BC to 1,000 AD, as a prism through which to explore our modern world. Far from being dry, remote echoes of a long-gone age, each poem chosen for the collection feels like it could have been written yesterday, offering new meaning and a fresh perspective on some of the key global issues we face today.

Against the backdrop of lockdown and the pandemic, today’s gender and identity wars, the climate crisis, Europe’s refugee crisis, and the fight against racism, discrimination and inclusion, the films are perfect examples of the timelessness and universal significance of poetry, and the deep-rooted connections between past and present. It’s poetry – reimagined for the modern world.

The five films being released to mark World Poetry Day on Sunday 21st March are:

· Love Song – An Egyptian love poem written in 1400 BCE reveals a meditation on the meaning of relationship and gender in 2021.

A timeless declaration of love and desire, this poem feels as fresh today as it did when it was written – a long, long time ago. The imagery is strikingly sensual; how the narrator describes the sound of their true love’s voice as being like the taste of sweet wine; or wishing they were her very her clothes, so that they could forever be close to her body. It’s passionate, erotic, and quite beautiful

None of the couples you see in the film had met before they came into the studio on the bright, spring day on which it was filmed – with one exception. The older couple are Alfred and Leila Hoffman, who were 92 and 83 at the time of filming, who have been together for over 60 years. The velvet-voiced narration is provided by Adam Roche, host of the Secret History of Hollywood podcast – required listening for all classic movie fans.

· Long Wall A poem about loss and suffering from the Han Dynasty in China, opens up a conversation about Europe’s refugee crisis.

Jack Jewers says: The first time I read this anonymous poem – dating from the Han Dynasty in China, sometime around 120BCE – I was blown away by its age. How can a poem this rich and vivid be so old? The idea for this whole series of films grew from there. The poem conveys such poignant feelings of separation and loss that it seemed to be perfectly suited to a tale of refugees, far from home.
The refugee crisis is close to actress Sophia Eleni’s heart. Her mother fled the war in Cyprus in the mid-1970s, Most of the footage that ends the film was donated by the charity Refugee Rescue, who undertake tireless work saving desperate people at sea.

· My Heart Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new.

Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new. Whether it’s in a world of dating apps and socially-distanced love, or from a time that feels unimaginably distant, people have been falling in love the same way forever.

inVERSE started life in a world before anyone had ever heard the word ‘Covid’ and lockdown was something to do with home security. So when the world ground to a half in the spring of 2020, Jack had to find alternative ways of finishing the project. Working with Los Angeles-based actress Joanne Chew, Jack devised a method of directing over Zoom while she recorded the takes on her phone, as selfies. The result is the lightest of the five films, and the sweetest.

· The Look – A first century poem taken from Ovid’s Ars Amarosa is reimagined as a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance.

The Romans knew how to have a good time. The Look is an abridged version of ‘Take Care With How You Look,’ a chapter from Ars Amarosa (“The Art of Love”), by the poet Ovid. Its themes of rejecting false nostalgia about the past, and embracing the richness of the modern age, sounded to me like a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance. Of course, Ovid was writing about a very different age to our own, but the message holds as true today as it always has been. And what more fabulous harbingers this message than Drag Queens United?
This is the only INSIGHT short that was put together from found footage, rather than filmed specially for the series. The lovely, colourful, joyous shots of Drag Queens United were taken at Amsterdam Pride in 2017.

· The Dawn – The ancient Indian poet Kālidāsa’s Salutation to the Dawn transforms into a rallying cry for a better tomorrow led by young street protestors.

Considered the greatest poet of ancient India, Kālidāsa is a founding figure of world literature. And yet, a lot of mystery surrounds Kālidāsa. Some scholars even question whether he was a real person, suggesting instead that his work a kind of collected greatest hits of the ancient Sanskrit world. And perhaps it’s appropriate that such an inspiring poem was written by a semi-mythical figure. It sounds to me like a rallying cry for a better tomorrow. And who better to get that across than young street protestors?

‘Bullet time’ is an effect that makes objects and people look like they are frozen in thin air. Creating true bullet time requires two things we did not have – time and money. So instead, Jack took a low-fi approach. Aside from a few simple computer-generated touches to enhance the overall effect, everything you see is done for real. The protestors are all professional dancers, who had the strength and balance necessary to be able to keep still for extended periods of time – often in difficult and uncomfortable poses.

Jack Jewers is a filmmaker and writer. Passionate about telling stories in all media, his body of work crosses film, TV, and digital. His short films and web series have been shown in and out of competition at dozens of film and web festivals, including Cannes, New York, Washington D.C., Marseille, Dublin, and London’s FrightFest.

In 2014 he developed and directed Night School, a web series based on the popular young adult novels of the same name. It quickly grew from a couple of low-budget short films to become one of the highest-profile British web series to date. Jack’s numerous short films as director include the critically-acclaimed Shalom Kabul, a dark comedy based on the true story of the last two Jews of Afghanistan.

Jack has won several accolades for his film work, including an award from the Royal Television Society and a nomination for Best Short Film by BAFTA Wales. He has been invited to speak about his work at several major film and TV industry events, including Series Mania in Paris. Jack has also worked in advertising.

Through his production company, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Jack is currently in development on the fantasy TV series Whatever After, featuring Jessica Brown Findlay. He is also working on a small slate of feature film projects, including a thriller set in the international protest movement, entitled Generation Revolution.

Away from the cinema in all its forms, Jack has a deep interest in literature and history. He writes historical fiction, and is the co-founder of the publishing company Moonflower Books.

He lives near London with his wife, the author Christi Daugherty, a small menagerie of pets, and a friendly ghost. But that’s another story.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Million Story City – Marcus Preece*

An author whose experience embodies the struggle faced by millions of other working class regional writers

When the filmmaker, teacher and editor Marcus Preece died in 2017 he left behind incomplete notes and drafts for dozens of short stories, screenplays, comic strips, poems and music journalism. He was also in the process of writing an inter-connective short story collection Adventures in Million-Story City from which this collected works, edited by his friend, author Malu Halasa, takes it name.

Million-Story City is a fabulous place populated by highly original, delightful characters, where storybook conventions mix and flow in a sequence of tales for both adult and younger readers: Two guys named Tom Bone. A spaceman speaking only lyrics from pop songs, confusing the aliens. A Gogolesque telesales agent with a dog problem. A return to a desolate Australian mining town. Cowboys, detectives and witches, unlike any you’ve ever seen. An irate email to Sepp Blatter. Wise children. Musings on whiskey, the sea and the end of the damn world. It all made Preece one of the most interesting writers you never got the chance to hear of.

Marcus Preece was a solidly working class writer based largely in the Midlands, and the themes of his screenplays, short fiction and poetry – racism, migration, sexism and corrupt government – resonate loudly today. He was a punk at college in Walsall when he became friends with the Birmingham-based director John Humphreys. Their first film together was United Bad Art (1989) about graffiti and other scripts of his were made into films for Yorkshire TV and BBC2. If someone in a bedsit on one of those tumbled down two-up-two-down terraced houses had some success in the wider world than anyone in Birmingham could do it.

But Preece’s personal story is one still experienced by writers around the country, and especially in the regions. In Birmingham it was too hard to make the necessary contacts and when he couldn’t earn a living from his scripts and articles Preece worked as a builder with his dad in East Grinstead. In the 2009 he retrained as a teacher of English as a second language and moved to Hanoi, where he taught English, edited the Voice of Vietnam’s English-language website and held legendary pub quizzes in dive bars when he wasn’t obsessing over his latest short story for the page or film.

Preece’s life was tragically cut short but what remains are his wonderfully acerbic and witty comics and screenplays, his melancholic poems and this anthology is a sheer delight and tribute to that.

As the UK faces an uneasy future, Marcus’s undiscovered writings, his outrage and politics speak volumes now.

Paper + Ink founder Mitch Albert said, ‘Marcus Preece’s writings reveal a man who had considerable talent and vision, and once I tucked into the stories, comics, screenplays and poems, it was a while before I looked up again. In short, I’m a fan, in addition to admiring Malu’s meaningful and highly worthwhile tribute to a fallen friend.’

Malu Halasa is an editor, writer and curator based in London. She has written the novel, Mother of All Pigs, and edited many anthologies including Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline and The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design. Usually she writes about the Middle East but for Million-Story City she returns to Britain’s second city, which inspired her after she moved to the UK in the 1980s.

My thoughts:

Even in the shortest of this collection of writing you can feel how good a writer Marcus Preece was and what a loss his death is.

He creates a strong sense of place and time, drawing pictures that linger in the mind. Even in the opening piece about his birthplace of Ima in the Australian Outback, a tiny no horse town, you can see the things he’s describing so clearly, without ever having been there.

Living in the UK’s second city, Birmingham, for much of his adult life, gave him a unique perspective on its inhabitants and society. As an outsider he could see the idiosyncrasies while also feeling a deep bond and affection for his adopted home town.

This is a book that shows you snapshots of people and places, gifting them to you on the page. In the short stories, poems and screen plays, he creates whole worlds in a few words, strongly drawing you into his characters’ lives. Truly an underrated writer.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Bookstagram Tour: Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble – edited by Paul Cookson, illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon*

Today i’m over on Instagram sharing my thoughts on a new book, so head on over to follow the tour.Can you hear the distant dragon’s rumble of thunder? And smell the sweet swampy aroma of the ogre? Can you taste the tangy tarantula tarts? And see the girl who’s really a wizard? From magic carpets and wands to unicorns, potions, creams and lotions, Paul Cookson’s brewing a spell of fantastically magic poems.
On this tattered magic carpet You can choose your destination For nothing’s quite as magical as your imagination. Beautifully illustrated, this enchanting anthology brings together work from a range of classic, established and rising poets including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard, Valerie Bloom, Matt Goodfellow, Joshua Seigal and A.F. Harrold.Whether you’re in the mood for a haunting or a spell gone wrong, this collection of mesmerising poems will have you bewitched from beginning to end!

Goodreads Amazon

Paul Cookson lives in Retford with his wife, two children, a dog and several ukuleles. He has worked as a poet since 1989 and has visited thousands of schools and performed to hundreds of thousands of pupils and staff. Paul is the official Poet in Residence for the National Football Museum, the Poetry Ambassador for United Learning and Poet Laureate for Slade. He worked as the Poet for Everton Collection at Liverpool Library, was Poet in Residence for Literacy Times Plus and, as part of the National Year of Reading, was nominated a National Reading Hero and received his award at 10 Downing Street.

Paul has 60 titles to his name and poems that appear in over 200 other books. His work has taken him all over the world from Argentina, Uganda and Malaysia to France, Germany and Switzerland.
Paul is the official Poet in Residence for the National Football Museum, the Poetry Ambassador for United Learning and Poet Laureate for Slade. He worked as the Poet for Everton Collection at Liverpool Library, was Poet in Residence for Literacy Times Plus and, as part of the National Year of Reading, was nominated a National Reading Hero and received his award at 10 Downing Street.Paul has 60 titles to his name and poems that appear in over 200 other books. His work has taken him all over the world from Argentina, Uganda and Malaysia to France, Germany and Switzerland.My thoughts:This is a really fun collection of poems old and new, from Shakespeare’s weird sisters in Macbeth, to spells to make your teacher turn purple, in praise of unicorns and make your sister combust!Poetry is tremendous fun and should ideally be read aloud so you can hear the rhythm and flow of the words.There’s also poems for every reader, and while this collection is aimed at younger readers, with its fun illustrations, it can certainly be enjoyed by anyone.*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Cursed – Edited by Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane

ALL THE BETTER TO READ YOU WITH
It’s a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents…
Here you’ll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world – expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic.
TWENTY TIMELESS FOLKTALES, NEW AND OLD
NEIL GAIMAN
JANE YOLEN
KAREN JOY FOWLER
M.R. CAREY
CHRISTINA HENRY
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN
TIM LEBBON
MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS
JEN WILLIAMS
CATRIONA WARD
JAMES BROGDEN
MAURA McHUGH
ANGELA SLATTER
LILLITH SAINTCROW
CHRISTOPHER FOWLER
ALISON LITTLEWOOD
MARGO LANAGAN

My thoughts:

I am always available for new takes on fairy tales and folklore, so this collection was a treat. A mix of poems, short stories and vignettes focusing on the role of curses in classic fairy tales, twisting them into new creatures.

A host of established and critically acclaimed authors offer up their takes on being cursed.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book with no obligation to review.

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National Poetry Day

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Cherry blossoms - via Twitter

Here’s one of my favourite poems for National Poetry Day.

The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths 
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W. B. Yeats

ramblingmads