Critique of the Criminal Justice System is the latest book from non‑binary Glasgow based poet, theatre maker, and producer Bibi June Schwithal. As one might infer from the title, this work deals intimately with themes surrounding prison and the ‘justice’ system. More so than that, there are echoes of common themes in Schwithal’s other works here as well: queerness, introspection, and a critique of capitalism. The book attempts, and successfully navigates, a balancing act between a detached distance and raw emotion, ideals and material reality, and the duality of suffering that incarceration brings.
Ruth Aylett’s first solo pamphlet exemplifies just what thematic poetry collections make possible. Pretty in Pink examines facets of girl and womanhood, and the pressures to conform to, internalise and perform ideals of femininity, through different lenses of time, geography, class and culture.
The M Pages opens with ‘Death of an Actress’, a poem layered with literary references, and heavy with a clever litany of clichés, both witty and poignant. That wit is intrinsic to these poems. Throughout tragic, shocking and sombre passages, Bryce’s fun with wordplay, and her tumbling rhyme never diminish, akin to the irreverent gallows humour which needfully so often accompanies mourning.
Harriet Tarlo(Shearsman Books, 2019);pbk, £14.95 Don Paterson makes a deliciously subversive point, describing the ‘post-reading vivisection’ of a poem. We all use that scalpel (Paterson included), but there are times when a forensic examination of verse is especially unreliable. Faced with work made on the move, as we might encounter in work by fell runner Read More
Tom Hubbard(Grace Note Publications, 2020); pbk: £7.99 The Devil and Michael Scott: A Gallimaufry of Fife and Beyond (2020) is the latest insightful offering from Tom Hubbard. In this intriguing collection of poems, essays and a stage play, Hubbard offers us a wonderful jumble of Fife, its history and its people. The famous polymath and Read More
Black Cotton is Sea Sharp’s second poetry collection after The Swagger of Dorothy Gale & Other Filthy Ways to Strut, a Prairie Seed Poetry prize winner, and it is hard to believe that Black Cotton would not have the same potential as its predecessor due to its ingenuity. Born in Kansas but with a dual Read More
This little book addresses big themes. It is a serious but engaging essay which invites reflection on loss and the ways we respond to it, individually and collectively, and how these have changed culturally over time. Josipovici tightly structures twelve short sections, each focussing on an aspect of forgetting and its counterpart remembering, weaving them Read More
Annie Zaidi is a writer, journalist, prize-winning playwright and essayist whose novel, A Prelude to a Riot was shortlisted in 2019 for the JCB prize for Indian literature. The book centres around three generations of two landowning families, one Hindu and one Muslim, in an unnamed town in Southern India. Other characters include Garuda, a Read More
When I lived in London my dad and I had a game about being happy. We called it the Happy Game … I nearly stopped playing the game for a while … but then I thought, well, happiness really doesn’t count for much if it only depends on good things happening to us, does it? Read More
Lenka Janiurek’s compelling memoir, Watermarks, ebbs and flows through a life shaped by trauma and loss. Beginning with her own birth, ‘I am in water, submerged and suspended’, Janiurek floods the text with densely detailed descriptions of a turbulent life. At six years old, the loss of her mother changes ‘absolutely everything and everyone for Read More