John Muckle (Shearsman Books Ltd., 2020); pbk, £12.95 There is nothing extraordinary about Highfields housing estate in Honiton, near Dunkswell, situated close to a military airfield in Devon which acts like a centrifugal force on the lives of the residents. Yet John Muckle, poet, writer, editor, animates the lives of the most ordinary characters in Read More
MLITT, WRITING PRACTICE AND STUDY 2019-21 SHOWCASE A small crowd consisting mostly of students sit around the wooden table. Some of them have grown rowdier with each swall sank and there have been a fair few swalls sank by now. I had wanted some time alone before having to join them. I’ve been standing by Read More
Some books lead readers gently by the hand and others push them in at the deep end. In her latest novel, The Night-Side of the Country, Meaghan Delahunt opens with a standalone sentence designed to launch you firmly into the post #metoo waters: ‘The days drew in and the men fell hard.’ From that moment on, the novel delivers a highly charged and fast paced read.
Elizabeth Chakrabarty’s first novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes takes the reader on a journey of racial hate crimes, through various lenses and differing angles. A surprising combination of charming romance and tense criminal investigation to narrow down a predator, these two genres put into play by Chakrabarty have a somewhat abrasive relationship with each other throughout the text, but their opposing forces are a perfect pairing.
Weather, the third novel from Jenny Offill, reveals a juxtaposition of modern anxieties: marriage and motherhood demand microscopic introspection at one end of the scale, while the amorphous threat of indistinct global destruction looms large at the other.
I read Summerwater in January 2021, on the eve of Brexit, and the shock has yet to wear off. Sarah Moss has six novels to her name and this, her most recent, poetically portends the dangers of casual prejudice. Set in a cabin park in the Highlands, a day of dreadful summer rain stretches out the solstice for the holiday makers.
Maaza Mengiste’s second novel, The Shadow King, was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2020 and bears all the hallmarks of the accolade. ‘Beautiful and devastating’ is Marlon James’ endorsement. What he means, we can assume, is that the writing is beautiful but its content devastating; the prose is vibrantly lyrical but the subject matter roams the darkest corners of conflict, something hard to reconcile with the word beautiful.
Adam is the true story of Adam Kashmiry, a young transgender man born in Alexandria, Egypt, who sought asylum in Glasgow to live safely as his authentic self. Adam has existed in various forms, including a Fringe production with only two actors. The version streaming on iPlayer, directed by Cora Bissett and Louise Lockwood, has been adapted from a stage play to a “theatrical on-screen drama”. Over the course of an hour, we watch Adam’s agonising search for a resolution to the trap in which he has been placed: no gender clinic will help him transition until he has been granted asylum, but he will not be granted asylum unless he can “prove” he is a trans man. Warm, uncompromising, funny, heart-breaking and above all human, Adam is an emotional tour-de-force.
For me, writing poetry demands different parts of my resources, whether it is my feelings, my energy, my brain, my ego, my sense of self, or my sense of audience. But I’m probably at my happiest when I’m writing a poem. The process is what excites me the most, and when I’m done, it feels quite removed from me. I’m not reluctant to send it out, which I think some poets are – they fear rejection. I think having been an actress helps. Nobody likes rejection, but it’s not going to kill me. I’m quite pragmatic; I see it as just another part of the process.
Ezra Pound suggested that poets ‘go in fear of abstractions’, and his advice continues to hold much weight. Like any principle of course, not only will excellent exceptions keep occurring, but it deserves to be held to account. Pound would have expected no less. In her second full collection Tripping Over Clouds, Lucy Burnett does exactly that, and ‘underpinning this is a re-imagining of abstraction as a prior state of possibility and potential from which the world and ourselves are constantly re-emerging – as abstraction to, not from.’