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Reviews of Fiction and Poetry
OUT OF EMPIED CUPS
Reviews Editor, Emma Lee
Does a poem’s medium matter? It is better to read a poem from a page or listen to it from stage or a podcast? It is less of a poem because it’s presented as lyrics in a song or printed on or alongside an image online? Arguably, a poem that can stand alone from its extras – the music accompanying a song, the image or a brilliant reading – is still a poem. But a piece of work reliant and inseparable from its performance, its accompanying image or music, has failed.
The reviews in this issue are of writing very much concerned with craft. Anne Casey is both a lyricist and poet. “out of emptied cups” (Salmon Poetry) has a broad eye, looking at contemporary concerns with #MeToo and the climate crisis on its radar, and explores what it means to leave a birth country to settle in another country and the resulting limbo of being not entirely at home in a new country but not belonging to the country of one’s birth either.
James Fountain finds Ruth Stacey’s “How to Wear Grunge” (Knives Forks and Spoons Press) connected with echoes linking the poems narrated by a tragic anti-heroine but nonetheless enticing and playful with forms to examine a cracked world through inquiring observation. “How to Wear Grunge” was runner-up in the 2019 Saboteur Award for Best pamphlet.
Susmita Bhattacharya’s “Table Manners and other stories” (Dahlia Publishing) won the 2019 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection. The stories’ main theme is of home, particularly making a new home in a new country, and the nurturing, comforting power of food. Although the main setting appears to be domestic on the surface, the stories journey from Wales to India and elsewhere. Food becomes a substitute for language in the title story where an English widower, who doesn’t speak Chinese, joins a Chinese immigrant, who doesn’t speak English, for a meal; communication is shared through food and manners.
Richard Lance Keeble looks at Raymond Antrobus’s Ted Hughes Prize-winning “Perseverance” which dares to use one of Ted Hughes’ poems as an erasure. Within it, Antrobus explores the D/deaf world, compounded by racial discrimination and some tender, lyrical poems about his father. His poems also convincingly take on the voices of others.
In addition there are reviews on The Blue Nib’s website ranging from debut collections from new UK poetry press, Yaffle, Penny Sharman’s “Fair Ground”, a second collection from a nonagenarian, Valerie Lynch’s “In a Time of Rabbits”, Chrissie Gittins’ “Sharp Hills” with poems inspired by her father’s photographs from India, Kevin Higgins’ “Sex and Death in Merlin Park Hospital” which manages to be upbeat about serious illness, Diane Simmons flash fiction exploration of the effects of grief on a family in “Finding My Way”, humour in Ali Whitelock’s “my heart is a crumpled coke can”, a crafted journey from the West of Ireland to the UK and other travels through arts in David Cooke’s “Reel to Reel”, an experiment to prove writers’ block doesn’t exist in Alan Corkish’s “a-BIRTH-a-DAY”, and intergenerational influences in Esther Morgan’s “The Wound Register” amongst others.