To prefix the title of your debut Forward Prize nominated poetry collection ‘Bad’ may seem, at first, to be a brave choice. But Bad Diaspora Poems is clearly a title that encourages you to think about nuance – something which feels all the more important in a week in which Suella Braverman is having her ‘rivers of blood’ moment at the Tory party conference. ‘Diaspora’ – online definition ‘the dispersion or spread of a people from their original homeland’ – is a loaded term, so it is no wonder Momtaza Mehri wants us to think about the value judgements we might attach to it, just as she questions the ability of poetry to respond to such a topic. What does it mean to write ‘diaspora poetry’?
If the title Ephemeron conjures insignificant transience, that would be a misreading. Fiona Benson’s most recent collection examines the fragile, the momentary, the nearly unseen, all of which merit observation, understanding, and a permanent record.
Divided into four parts with seemingly disparate subject-matter, ‘Insect Love Songs’, ‘Boarding-School Tales’, ‘Translations from the Pasiphaë’ and ‘Daughter Mother’, the poet uncovers interconnections between them. The subtlety of that structuring and sequencing feat is remarkable.
Like elderly actresses, performing until they drop, one boasts an errant streak […] (‘These roses you gave me’) Perhaps it’s unsurprising that these lines come from a poem with the central metaphor of flowers. Vicki Feaver, more than almost anyone, has seized that subject, daring to write it – as a woman – not in Read More
Arias is American poet Sharon Olds’ twelfth poetry collection. Her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap, which focuses on the break-up of her thirty-year marriage, won the Pulitzer Prize and the TS Eliot Prize. To say that Olds’ poetry is personal would be an understatement. It is intimately personal, corporeal, visceral, but also somehow transcendent. Her work Read More
Capturing the experiences of womanhood with currency for our time may require an acknowledgement of contrast, notably between the furiously public domain of the #metoo campaign and its associated high-profile sexual assault cases, and the hidden realities of motherhood and female domesticity. Fiona Benson’s second collection of poetry, Vertigo & Ghost, delivers a duality that Read More
‘I think often of all the dead who live in the water.’ Everything Under is a disturbing examination of the way our fears and secrets haunt us. Gretel Whiting recalls her search for her flighty mother, Sarah, and the shadows it unearths. She remembers her childhood on the canals with the woman who abandoned her Read More
There is a tradition of photography that focuses on urban poverty, decay, disintegration, and entropy; in “urbex”, crumbling, abandoned buildings are transformed into hauntingly and fashionably beautiful images. I couldn’t help but bristle at the title of Ocean Vuong’s newly Forward Prize crowned and now TS Eliot Prize shorlister, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Is Read More
All I want now is my dignity back, To stand on my own unsteady feet […]. Testament is Robert Crawford’s seventh full length collection of poems, and here he writes about a myriad of themes in many different styles. Made up of forty-two poems, Testament is divided into five distinct sections; “Hard-Wearing Flowers”, “A Little Read More
A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape, 2016); hbk. £17.99 Dundee-born A.L. Kennedy needs no introduction, being extensively published in fiction, no slouch in non-fiction, and a respected commentator in various media. She sidelines as an acerbic stand-up comedian; all these abilities and honed forms of observation feed Serious Sweet. At the time of reviewing, this book has Read More
Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape, 2016); hbk: £14.99 Ottessa Moshfegh has won the Plimpton and Fence Modern Prizes for her shorter fiction, and her debut novel Eileen is now lined up for the Booker. One might ask what allows this author to dive in at the deep end of critical acclaim. If Eileen is anything to Read More