Will Harris: “Rendang”

Will Harris gives no explanation of the title at the outset of his book, but in the first poem, which is part introduction, part dedication, he embarks on etymology: “In West Sumatra they call rendang randang. Neither shares a root with rending…” This is disconcerting on two levels. First, because if the reader is understandably

Lawrence Illsley – Nature and Bereavement

Lawrence Illsley’s “A Brief History of Trees” was one of the three winners of Live Canon’s 2020 Collection Competition, judged by Glyn Maxwell. It would be wrong to describe Lawrence’s book as a “collection” in the usual sense, since it has an overall unity/narrative untypical of the conventional collection. In eight carefully-crafted sections it describes

Rachel Long – more than enchanting

Blurb-writers have much to answer for. On the back of Rachel Long’s collection My Darling from the Lions, there is first a mention that it has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, then a quote from Bernardine Evaristo (“An enchanting and heartwarming new voice in poetry”) and then the blurb begins:

Lockdown pleasures – Evan Jones’ “Later Emperors”

Those of us living beyond an easy commute to the capital can sometimes feel like Romans banished to the outer wastes of the Empire – a simile appropriate enough in the present case. Attending launches of poetry publications becomes a major logistical exercise, involving the parking of dogs and finding a bed for the night.

Very Clever, Mr Muldoon

One of my warmest poetic memories is the reading given by Paul Muldoon a few years ago at the Charleston Festival. The great man’s gentle voice and self-deprecating approach combined to make it a very special occasion. The hour-long session was over all too soon. So I come to his poetry with a double bias,

The Quiet Tenderness of Mary Jean Chan

I have been struggling for some time to summarise my thoughts on Mary Jean Chan’s “Flèche”. The first time I read it I was impressed by the effortless experimentation with form, but – dare I confess? – found the underlying narratives of (a) coming out and (b) Chinese-person-encountering –Western-society a little too wellworn to give

Parataxis and Beyond in Hannah Sullivan

Reading some of the more eyecatching poetry collections recently, I’ve been struck by the change of consciousness resulting from the internet age. Zapping, surfing, Googling: these have brought us a world of instant stimulus and variety, arguably combined with a lowering of our attention span. I used to think that the result was a surge