Decades after leaving Iran as a child refugee, Dina Nayeri travels back to the location, both psychological and geographical, in which she waited for her asylum claim to be processed. Late in this powerful memoir, after a particularly distressing moment in her research, Nayeri must remind herself why she feels compelled to return to those early moments of her life: ‘Now that I have a daughter, it’s time I made sense of my own story and identity so she can be certain of hers.’ It is, of course, a common enough experience to find oneself reflecting on one’s origins, but to return to the themes and scenarios of Nayeri’s youth takes an especially courageous and direct gaze.
Andrés N. Ordorica (404Ink, 2022); pbk, £9.99 What does it mean to belong somewhere? In a body, in a family, in a writing group, in a country? These are the questions that inhabit this debut collection from Andrés N. Ordorica, a queer Latinx poet now based in Edinburgh, having lived in Mexico and the USA. Read More
If it is true that there’s nothing new under the sun, then Harry Josephine Giles has the ability to create an utterly convincing mirage of originality by crashing old ideas into each other. Whatever you think of Deep Wheel Orcadia, it would be difficult to argue that this work could have come from a mind other than theirs.
Joelle Taylor’s T S Eliot Prize nominated C+nto & Othered Poems is her third collection of poetry, following Songs my Enemy Taught Me (2017)… C+nto shares some similarities to Songs in its unflinching attention to the body and its enemies but this new collection returns to her roots both artistic (Taylor was a playwright before she found recognition as a poet) and personal. As in Songs, these are poems of resistance, this time set to the beat of the 90s gay bar jukebox. They remember these places as sanctuary and lament their passing in a time when queer community seems made and unmade on twitter threads rather than dancefloors.
Caleb Femi (Penguin Poetry, 2020); pbk £9.99 The North Peckham Estate, where Caleb Femi’s Forward shortlisted debut collection is set, is infamous for containing the stairwell in which Damilola Taylor died. And yes, death stalks these pages, those streets, as do rage and despair… but so too do love, imagination, defiance. Here is a voice Read More
The collection opens with two long poems; ‘Spolia’ and ‘War of the Beasts and the Animals’. Similar in form, they are both chaotic and deeply layered. In both poems, Stepanova sifts through language, culture and identity in an attempt to make sense of them all. She reaches no conclusions, but something fascinating is revealed in the attempt. In her poetry, Russia is a country torn apart and remade line by line, a patchwork of truth, myth and dogma stitched together with shreds of memory.
Hugh McMillan(Luath Press, 2018); pbk £8.99 I’ve never read a poetry book that has made me laugh out loud the way Hugh McMillan’s 2018 collection did (it is possible I’m reading the wrong poetry). But The Conversation of Sheep is more than just sheep jokes, and therein lies its brilliance. The artistry and rhythm of Read More
It is not hard to spot Joelle Taylor across a busy theatre foyer. The tall blonde quiff gives her away, but as I approach, I notice an open confidence that suggests performance poet too. I meet her on the penultimate day of the StAnza poetry festival, less than a fortnight before such gatherings become a Read More
Oh, shut up! Oonu can’t work widout talk! Thank God the man at the Embassy say that she would hear from them in another month or so. Hazel D. Campbell’s collected short stories opens in a cramped office with a young woman frustrated at her older colleagues’ gossip, daydreaming about her imminent move to America. Read More
I carry the war in my womb. At night it kicks and sings stories of the first night that war came calling. In the first lines of Songs My Enemy Taught Me, Joelle Taylor sets the reader on a journey that begins with her own early experience of abuse, and travels across the globe into Read More