The title of Mary Chan’s new poetry collection, Bright Fear, is intriguing. Fear is typically described as dark—even black—moods and colours that suggest negative qualities. In what sense is fear bright then? Well, we are taken on a journey of discovery in three distinctive sections: ‘Grief Lessons’, ‘Ars Poetica’ and ‘Field Notes on a Family’….
England’s Green is Zaffar Kunial’s second poetry collection. Everything about England in our cultural subconscious is intimated beautifully in these two words; the reader knows intuitively that within these pages there will be a world of exploration on that theme. Kunial’s previous collection, ‘Us’, was shortlisted for many poetry prizes, and was highly praised for its ‘ability to find meaning and symbolism in the hearth and home’. This collection undoubtedly sustains that investigation into the meaning of ‘home’.
In Jack Underwood’s timely second poetry collection, A Year in the New Life, shortlisted for the 2021 T.S. Eliot prize, he considers his place in the world having become a father. Underwood exposes his innermost deliberations and fears, placing them within a world that is becoming increasingly alien for all of us.
Shining through the darkness of our contemporary moment comes Living Weapon, a compositional tour de force that sings to our anxieties of the present. Covering everything from the pandemic to technology and black lives matter, this slim collection belongs to the increasingly popular form of civic poetry.
I first encountered the pejorative term ‘Mary Sue’ in a critical review of Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season and can still recall my bemusement; Shannon had secured an impressive seven-book deal with Bloomsbury yet stood accused of creating merely an idealised projection of herself. It is this gendered injustice which Sophie Collins now examines in her Read More
Deaf Republic begins with a gunshot. As an innocent deaf boy falls to the ground, the townspeople choose silence over the sound of a child’s body hitting the street, a sound that would be filled with pain and injustice: ‘The sound we do not hear lifts the gulls off the water’. The rest of the Read More
Freshwater follows the life of Ada, narrated by the gods who inhabited her at birth. What could be seen as a cluster of psychiatric disorders is depicted instead as a spiritual struggle of finding one’s way in the world, all happening in Ada’s head, in the marble room where all her selves are contained. Akwaeke Read More
In her second novel, Sally Rooney delivers a compelling love story set in the West of Ireland and grounded in the political realities of recent times. Normal People was hotly anticipated, well received, and continues to see Rooney lauded as a generational writer. Nevertheless, the passivity with which the millennial label is applied within critical Read More
Simple stories are sometimes the most appealing ones. Love, trying to fit in or to find oneself are examples of themes present not only in Akhil Sharma’s short story collection, but also in the everyday lives of most people. However, these topics are also painfully commonplace in art and culture, and thus often feel cliched Read More
“The loss of a mother must be something very strange…”. This epigraph from Sigmund Freud sets the scene for Emily Berry’s superb second collection, Stranger, Baby, which concerns the sense of dislocation, “dismantlement” and alterity brought about by intense grief. The suicide of her mother left the narrator/Berry all at sea from the age of Read More