Monday 20 August 2018

Keith Hutson's Troupers

My OPOI review of Keith Hutson's pamphlet Troupers (Smith-Doorstep, 2018) is now up at Sphinx. Here's a snippet from its opening lines...

"There’s an argument (often touted by this reviewer) that the most universal texts are rooted in specifics, that they engage and involve us in a specific context to such an extent that we easily transpose their connotations, suggestions and conclusions to a whole host of elsewheres..."

...but you can read it in full here.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Jack Little reviews The Knives of Villalejo for Riggwelter Press

I'm delighted to report that Jack Little has written a lovely review of The Knives of Villalejo for Riggwelter Press. His excellent insights are reinforced by the facets of our lives that we share - both with an English childhood and upbringing, followed by adult lives in Hispanic surroundings - and he has some very interesting points to make, such as the following:

"...The reader feels as if he or she is on a journey with the poet, through the backstreets of his childhood to the present day as he navigates his sense of being the other in both of his home countries..." 

You can read the review in full over at Riggwelter Press by following this link.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

OPOI review of Miriam Gordis' Vinyl

My OPOI review of Miriam Gordis' pamphlet Vinyl (Eyewear Publishing, 2018) is now up at Sphinx and you can read it by following this link.

OPOI stands for "One Point Of Interest" and asks the reviewer to respond to a single aspect of the collection in question that especially interests them. It's an excellent concept, yet another Helena Nelson project to help pamphlets gain exposure. To get a fuller flavour of what I mean, why not browse the extensive OPOI archive while you're over at Sphinx?

Sunday 5 August 2018

Richie McCaffery's Passport

As mentioned in a recent post, I don’t feel it’s ethical for me to review books which wear my endorsement on their back cover or which include me in their list of acknowledgements and thanks. The latter is true in the case of Richie McCaffery’s second full collection, Passport (Nine Arches Press, 2018), as I had the privilege of reading many of these poems in draft form. I choose the word “privilege” because I feel fortunate to have witnessed the clear development that these delicious new poems represent for one of my favourite poets.

Richie has previously gained a deserved reputation for being among the best in the business at writing poems that take objects as their point of departure, and this new collection won’t disappoint his fans. However, Passport also sees him taking his work in new directions. As a consequence (and in the light of not feeling able to write a review as such), I’m delighted to report that his publisher, the top-notch Nine Arches Press, have granted me permission to post the following poem from his book on Rogue Strands today:

Present Tense

I drift around the village pubs
like a soldier on leave from himself.

I’m fighting with the present tense –
I’ve never felt as ease in it.

I see sparrow fledglings on a wall
flapping their little tambour wings

as if they’re trying to shake off
the life they’ve been shackled with.

I’ve selected this poem because it combines many of Richie’s known virtues as a poet with a display of his freshly extended range. First off, there are examples of successful poetic leaps via his uses of “like” and “as if”. This is a typical McCaffery trait. He invokes a comparison that starts off by seeming incongruous before becoming enlightening and inevitable as in “like a soldier on leave from himself”.

For this reader, however, the poet’s innovation in “Present Tense” is represented by the way he interweaves the concrete and the abstract. McCaffery employs an immediacy and directness of language in a colloquial tone - contracted verbs and a prepositions at the end of a sentence – to reach out towards ambitious concepts. He begins by using a concept as the title and axis of the poem, before anchoring it to the specifics of sparrow fledglings and then finishing off by invoking “life” itself. That’s the ambition of a poet who’s grown rightly confident in the effects he can achieve in his writing.

Oh, and just one final point about the metrics of “Present Tense”. Most of the lines in this poem hover between eight and nine syllables, but the final line suddenly shifts to seven as McCaffery abruptly comes to the core of his inspiration. This is a top-notch example of how form can marry content, the whole thus greater than the sum of its parts.

In other words and in conclusion, this thoroughly biased blogger very much recommends Passport. It deserves to make several shortlists this year, though I wouldn’t put money on that happening even if I were a betting man. To get hold of a copy and see what I mean, why not follow this link to the Nine Arches website?