Friday, August 29, 2014

book review: fiona sinclair's write me into bed with casanova craft

Fiona Sinclair's new pamphlet is published by 'Original Plus' Publications, which I think is an apt description for the kind of writing that this publisher brings out, and Fiona's does not disappoint.  As in her previous collection, A Game of Hide and Seek (Indigo Dreams, 2012), Fiona writes with fearsome honesty abut expectations and appearances. Here, she takes us on a journey through internet dating:

'I search through my matches past Kray twin lookalikes,
married men wearing tell-tale dark glasses...'

(Internet dating)

These wry snapshots are interspersed with poems that poignantly explore the poet's relationships with both her parents, particularly her mother. Other poems look, with the same imaginative precision, at pets, proms, and clocks.

I particularly liked the realisations that the memories that stay longer in our minds are not necessarily the ones we expect to remember:

'For years, dreams familiar as TV repeats,
not of the boy, but the jilted A'levels.'

(Unfinished Business)

These are insightful and compassionate poems.

Fiona Sinclair, write me into bed with Casanova craft, Original Plus, Cumbria, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

publication of the inside-out house

'With 'The Inside-Out House' Joanna has elegantly written a humane story that fuses together poetry, family secrets, and magic in the urban landscape.' Steve Toase

To celebrate my novel, 'The Inside-Out House', being published next month, I'm offering one FREE copy in a prize draw.

The 'House' of the title is pretty much a main 'character' in the novel, so if you'd like a chance to enter the prize draw, and are 12 years old or over, send me your photo, (or a photo of your drawing or painting) of your own favourite building. You will then be automatically entered into the prize draw.

All photos will appear on my blog as a 'blog post special' on the publication date of 22nd September, so you'll be published, too!

My email is, or if you are already my friend on Facebook, you can contact me there. As I get a lot of spam emails, please send your work in the body of the email itself, rather than in an attachment, if you can, between now and the 20th September. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

book reviews: ken champion's urban narratives and cameo metro

I've been a fan of Ken Champion's work for quite a while now, and have enjoyed his collected stories and poems in these two publications. The titles and cover photos alone tell you quite a lot about his themes and images.

In Urban Narratives, the compelling descriptions of (mostly) urban landscapes - trains, cafes, parks, streets, graveyards, cinemas, plus kitchens and poetry readings - ground the restlessness and defiance of Ken's characters. This allows him to explore the themes of social mobility, death, relationships, and coping with the unexpected reactions of others:

'she, in a department store, disappearing, and him, unguarded, panicking, intellectually knowing that it was the child in him being left by mummy - no emotions are new'

There are thirty stories in this collection. Around half of them feature the recurring character of James Kent, a psychoanalyst who questions his choice of profession: these are interspersed with stories told from other points of view. My personal favourites were 'The Beat Years' and 'Educating Rita', which could both have had escapist endings for Chris, the narrator, but consciously didn't, which made them all the more authentic.

The beauty of a short story is that it doesn't have to tie up every loose end, and several of the stories contain coincidences that leave us wondering. They often contain hard truths:

'the equation being that if he looked fit and tanned then he wouldn't age, ergo, wouldn't die. It was a subject he'd never studied: the psychology of death.'
(Lay Preacher)

Cameo Metro contains new poems, and poems from Ken's previous collections, African Time (Tall Lighthouse, 2002), Cameo Poly (Tall Lighthouse, 2004), and But Black and White is Better (Tall Lighthouse, 2008). There are six sections, each on a different theme: City, African, Retro, Americana, Theatre, and Rewind. Ken is very good at writing about frustration and broken promises, often with dark humour, and this is a poet who understands the value of phrasing, especially how to use punctuation, line endings, and enjambment to increase tension.

I'm already looking forward to Ken's new publication.

Ken Champion, Urban Narratives, The Penniless Press, Preston, 2013.
Ken Champion, Cameo Metro, The Penniless Press, Preston, 2013.

Friday, August 08, 2014

book review: shanta everington's drowning in cherryade

This is an A6 size, fifteen page pamphlet, just right for slipping into a pocket or a handbag. The lively cover is pink and bubbly, contrasting with the mention of drowning. Many of the ten poems in this collection have been previously placed in competitions or published in respectable magazines.

Shanta is also a novelist for young adults, and as well as poems about family, relationships, and motherhood, she explores teenage friendships and crushes to show how private moments often take place in public:

'...I cut the others off

and wait till they walk out laughing, to take you to the counter.'

(Shrine to Justin)

Some of the titles, 'Old Dear', 'Girl's World,' also present us with everyday images that are subverted imaginatively in the poems:

'I make toffee apples of her cheeks,

her eyes a crinkly purple like fading bruises'

(Girl's World)

Bedouin Books is an American publisher, and from this British reviewer's perspective, there is a new vein of fresh poetic voices in the States at the moment, such as Alison Stine, Jordan Davis, and Edward Nudelman. Like these poets, Shanta takes situations that appear ordinary to the casual observer, and floods them with intensity and intimacy, often using longer lines and enjambment to keep us in the moment.
The poem 'Aquatic Alice', in fact, could be a fitting description of how Shanta's imagery look closely at the reality of a situation:

'... Be still. She

has something to say.'

(Aquatic Alice)

Shanta's poetry chapbook is this year's well-deserved winner of the Bedouin Books annual chapbook competition.

Shanta Everington, Drowning in Cherryade, Bedouin Books, Winconsin, 2014.

York Literature Festival HUB 2018 event, Tuesday, 20th March

I'm looking forward to my first event for absolutely ages - at the York Literature Festival HUB. Many thanks to YLF and Valley...