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
Blue Pearl is a gift to readers who, like me, are fascinated by wild places. These poems do not, however, offer easy representations of frozen wastes as unexplored purity. They are populated with life and stories waiting patiently for those who are prepared to dig for them. Lesley Harrison is a Scottish poet whose work Read More