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Showing posts from January, 2012

Review: Reed, Schmidt, Joseph, Jess-Cooke, Pugh

Jeremy Reed, West End Survival Kit, Waterloo, £10, ISBN 9781906742072
Michael Schmidt, Collected Poems, Smith/Doorstop, £18.95, ISBN 9781902382005
Jenny Joseph, Nothing like Love, Enitharmon, £9.99, ISBN 9781904634843
Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Inroads, Seren, £7.99, ISBN 9781854115119
Sheenagh Pugh, Later Selected Poems, Seren, £9.99, ISBN 9781854114976


Any poet worth their salt, as Michael Donaghy once noted, “tries to tell the truth by working truly.” Not by conforming to reified concepts of ‘fact’ or ‘actuality’, of course (but this is what actually happened!), but by being true to themselves, the reader, and the world they construct within a poem, however surreal or fantastical. The linguistic sense of a poem is a measure of this, ensuring that, rather than a private act, poems become a shared communication of recognisable truth, whether literal or imaginative. In short: you give a good poem a shove, and it always bounces back.

The poems in Jeremy Reed’s latest collection certainly depict a …

Review: John McCullough's The Frost Fairs

John McCullough's debut collection introduces a writer acutely aware of poetry's transformative power, its ability to question assumptions and subtly shift perspective. His musical work offers up an array of voices – speaking statues, spoons in a drawer, men sent to bed for a year "trialling pills for weightless conditions" – sometimes playing for laughs, but always thoughtful and touching. It also adopts various styles: from the sensuous lyricism of "The Light of Venus", which views love through the lens of astrophysics, to the witty chit-chat of "The Long Mile", drawing on Thom Gunn's brilliant "Night Taxi" in its cab driver persona while veering into weirder territory. Gunn can often seem the presiding influence here: sharp yet compassionate, formal yet nimble, the poems glitter with slang and modern culture while maintaining an engaging seriousness. Energy and abundance aside, though, it is the dark, quietly attentive poems that …