Tuesday, 7 July 2020

A little vision of what is to come

There are still more reviews on their way from p&g but for the moment working on a commissioned piece. More details in due course but the preparation has been fun. Spent a rainy day on a roundabout in the borders...

Other new work can be found in the tasty new Banana Bread issue of Cake Magazine available from here.

One of the beautiful illustrations from Diana Steve

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Review: Of memory and furniture by Bron Bateman

Before we go any further, this is one of the best titles that I have seen for a while: it resonates right through to the end. A killer blow.

Australian poet Bron Bateman's latest collection develops through 4 parts and is described as exploring "experiences of female embodiment, sexuality, and relationships with family, lovers and institutions...concerned with expressions of female sexuality in its myriad forms – heterosexual, lesbian, and experiences of non-normative sexuality – as well as issues of maternal subjectivity, mental health and abuse and, throughout, the role of memory in enabling healing."

This is a collection that has a whole ecosystem of vividly realised friends, encounters and locations that ground and validate its often intense bodily and sexual language from the dedications to many of the poems in Part 1 to its lovers, family and transactions through to demeaning medical interventions. The poems' sequence is knitted together with motifs especially blood and piercings to the body. For adornment for example in the poem bars-

you could hang chandeliers from
these he says eyes half-closed
taking my right nipple between
his thumb...[]
I watch him redesign my body in his head.
we can pierce you here...

And pleasure - the intense Needle Play - to the painful self blame transfixing the sense of self in one of the brutal and self-healing concluding poems of part 4 Talisman:

be less serious not think I was a cut above use big words be so sensitive if I were special he would not have dared."

Everything that life throws at the poet in the end can be spoken and makes her voice and sense of self stronger. This is a collection that doesn't shrink from naming the casual diminishing sexism of institutions but also the power of healing available in situations that the poet's sensibility controls - even against what might appear to be the odds. For example in the poem Language

Either my blood, or my baby's.
Never mind, he'll say, his back to me, they're a dime a dozen.
Meaning miscarriages.
This is my first.

Later in the same poem:
I tell him. Tie me up all you like. I'm still a feminist.

The cuts are balanced by a lush sensuality of language and experience which are at times breath-taking; from the opening lines of the same poem,

At twenty, I have: my first child,
bruising, soft and black as summer plums...

to the loving "loll and sway of her thighs" in Catching up and hungry joy for example in PDAs

...I've searched and failed to find a word that adequately
describes the texture of your thighs,
or that my mouth against you
reminded of the peach I ate yesterday, its
tender fuzz against my lips...

The poems build to an understanding of sexual, body image and physical control and naming in the context of past life experience for the reader; glimpsed in poems such as shape of a girl that transforms a submissive sexual role into the powerful place inhabited by subs:

the longing to open your lips
feel the shape and weight
of that word
in your mouth

A visceral recasting of life experience of immense strength, this collection reclaims a body space long overlooked. A gift that repays study. You can find out more about Bron Bateman here @BronBateman and order the book here from @FremantlePress.


Cover is also very pleasing but no credit discoverable.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Review: This is virus by Joe Williams

This timely pamphlet from the poet and performer Joe Williams is described as a "sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic". The poems reimagines the coronavirus communication from the prime minister sent to the public in April 2020 by redacting information to create a new commentary on the relationship between those "leading" the response to the crisis and the rest of us living the lockdown (with, as we now know, more strength, consistency and conscience).

Redaction as a technique is very effective - the story of the source material's underlying meaning is glimpsed in a faceted retelling. Its appearance as a key component in tales of political scandal and message manipulation is turned on its ahead to reveal truth.

The poet questions the official tone and message pulling back the underlying assumptions - for example on herd immunity - as we have journeyed through lockdown and its aftermath. Verbal repetition, contradictions and and an underlying simple visual beauty as words get less and less to the final poem. The full effect is gained from a reading rather than quotes or snippets which we are keeping to a minimum in this review.

Like pyschobilly for John Peel, p&g feels the lure of visual techniques like cut up, distortion and erasure very strongly; and applauds the latter's use here to place strong focus on the message while simultaneously presenting the reader with shape and structure that goes beyond the poetic. In this case asking the deceptively simple question what is missing? What are we missing? What void lies within our so-called leaders?

You can find out more from @JoeWilliamsPoet and purchase the pamphlet from Joe's website here https://joewilliams.co.uk/ - an investment of £4 p&g would recommend.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Review: Sacrifice Zones by Samuel Tongue

I was rereading Kathleen Jamie's book of essays Sightlines while I was reviewing Samuel Tongue's ambitious and gratifying first collection Sacrifice Zones. In Jamie's well-known essay The Hvalsalen she visits the whale hall at the Bergen Natural History Museum in Norway and works some of her magic to reset the whale skeletons - even as they are being restored by museum staff - and our view, our way of seeing ourselves in relations to the whales, in this world we share.

We work through something of the same process in Sacrifice Zones. The book is described as an exploration of "the meshwork and mess of living lives dependent on 'sacrifice zones'; places, peoples and animals that become expendable in the maintenance of civilised society." A view of the small isles with electricity pylons captures a pivotal debate:

Everything can change direction: the bee at the salvia
are newly political and the swallow swerves
into the gnat like a current jumping its cable

The collection looks closely and challenges our perception of animal and environment. Like the viewer's stance in the whale hall, we are implicated. Indeed human is so very close to animal that convict transforms into kangaroo in Not Government Issue:

A long tongue slides between his teeth, licks
his blue tattoos, tasting ink. There was a woman,
once, a child too - their names smudge under his hot rasp.

It is a recurring theme; we see gulls who "laugh down the chimneypots" until street is seashore in the full-throated What is it like to be a herring gull; and in the retelling of a Cheyenne/Navajo legend of Coyote It's long been on trend to turn your eyes into an I... the poet tries many forms of new eye/I while joyfully riffing through animal viewpoints; and transmigrates the very shape of things human, vegetable and animals in Mountain Hare

today, i catch a mountain hare in its form under frozen fists of bracken, eating the last of the snow. as if eating the snow will keep it white.

This poem also features one of the many lovely shifts throughout the collection between form and free verse which echo the sense of perceptive dislocation. And there is much to savour from the austere animal trials sequence to the pleasing inclusion of machine, technology and data. In Carhenge commodity is a already returning to earth

New car smell rammed into the roadbed until it stinks
of the earth's gut: muddy leaves,wet dog, plum-cake.

Its final lines "there are ugly gods - bitter in stomach, black in the lung" might describe the collections dogged questioning of the creed we have defaulted to - in an apparent absence of formal religion - connecting our faultlines spiritual and liminal by looking beyond.

Sacrifice Zones is available from Red Squirrel Press here and learn more @SamuelTongue. Enjoy!


Cover is superb - amazing work from Gerry Cambridge. And one small gripe - I don't like ALL CAPS headings for poems as used in this collection as I find them hard to read but trivial and maybe just me!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Seeking Lez Reid

Leslie Trevor Reid (1964 - 1991) - known as Lez - was a poet, singer, filmmaker and artist from Oxford. He lived most of his life in Oxford but spent several months in Columbus, Ohio and briefly took classes at Ohio State University.

When Lez died suddenly in 1991 he had just joined a band and music was his focus. But he was a gifted poet who had been active in Oxford scene and Bloomin'Arts for a number of years.

From 1987 until his tragic death in 1991 Lez had collaborated on several projects with Bridget Khursheed of p&g including performance poetry, video and crunch band PPP. His last unpublished collection was called Poems from the Housebuilder making reference to Lez' years as a bricklayer often working with his father.

p&g has been trying to locate his two sons Joseph and Duncan for several years to share a poetry collection and artwork - you can see our previous calls in http://www.poetandgeek.net/2014/08/poetic-inheritance-in-marks-and-spencer.html and http://www.poetandgeek.net/2014/08/searching-for-sons-of-poet-leslie-reid.html

What we have previously not revealed is that Lez and Bridget also made a film Celtic Pagans in Columbus. This has previously only ever been launched at a curated event in Columbus itself in 1990. We are seeking some help to get this restored and made available. After 30 years, it's time.

Please help in any way you can.

not really missed at all
I am a million fragments of light
and yet, I have only perceived a fragment of myself

Review: PASSION, PAIN and DEMON SLAYIN by Nick Igbokwe

The collection trilogy PASSION, PAIN and DEMON SLAYIN describes itself as written "through the heart, from the heart and for the heart". But it operates through the senses too in a visceral TikTok vision: anything can be resampled and welded together to create the new.


My dish is made of a recipe
of sugar, spice and everything nice;

This is a lengthy collection of three often overlapping sections each themed with a nod to Kid Cudi's 2016 release of the same name. In the original Kid Cudi collaborates on tracks with artists ranging from Andre 3000 through Travis Scott to Willow Smith. And in the book, poems bounce off each other in what the author describes as a “plethora of contributions”. Lines are samples, song themes riffed and artists walk though as characters; a mashup of singers, thinkers, film dialogue, quotes from poems, texts, tweets, jazz, lyrics; there's even a shout out to Danielle Steele.

Reimagining is key. A Mike Posner sample highlights this with its self-referential echoes of the meetup with Avicii that led to I took a pill in Ibiza: itself a remade encounter put into words and then remixed before the track found success. Intertextual hints question versional reality: who owns the truth here? The lyricist, the singer, the remixer, the fan? The reporter?

[Interlude: Mike Posner]
Avicii died, and little homie calls me up, and he's crying. (Drip) I told him, "I'ma be honest
with you, if you don't get your shit together, you're next." And the truth is, by the time you
hear this song, I don't fuckin' know if he's gon' be alive or not. This is all compounded by
the fact that she and I do not speak anymore. I mean, am I the only one here who doesn't
know what the fuck is going on?

Earlier extract from WHAT ARE WE

...Took a long long walk
down a street in Ibiza.
Thoughts of flashing lights,
you on my arm
The other arm in a sling and cast.

Plaster o. Plaster of Paris.
Everything was rosy
till you took a trip
and I thought it was a bright idea
to sneak my side piece into our night stand....

The reader needs to work at times - has to be surefooted - to see where the poet and the sample connect (as direct quotes although usually attributed are often given different presentation as shown in the Molasses sample below). The text sample is a different beast to its music counterpart; the poet has to be vigilant on the reader's behalf to avoid confusion.

p&g can envision this book filtered into 45 minutes of live music, spoken word and video but in its present state this collection is a whole performance in a book. We look forward to seeing what comes next from Nick Igbokwe and the Mans Way Of Seeing Things collective. PASSION, PAIN and DEMON SLAYIN is published by The Blueprint Ng and you can find out more here @_nothingnobody @thoughtsbyman 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Review: witness by Jonathan Kinsman

witness describes itself as taking the gospel back to its radical roots in a time that has whitewashed its message: a story of "a man executed by the state for saying things they didn’t want to hear" strikes an immediate attitude.

The new pamphlet from Jonathan Kinsman doesn't lie. The god word ends its dedication and then almost immediately snaps into the poems themselves. I think this word has to be dealt with first. This is a book about witnesses and it speaks through the stories of the followers of Jesus to refire the new testament. Let's just say it: this single word could stop a lot of people off buying the book and that would be a great shame.

Confession: I am a vicar's daughter. It is probably the very last thing I want to tell people. Like Theresa May and Kevin Rowland & thank goodness the Brontes. As a teenager I erased it. 

Yet this book reclaims a space I perhaps like many others gave away too willingly. The baby with the bathwater so to speak. The poems focus on the decisions, the mundane pain, the potential ignition:

so when god walks amongst you in those ramshackle streets
...whispers blessed is every last one you say
give me a gun, lord

That's the first thing to get out of the way; god is here in witness. The only weapons are words. Get used to it the poet says. Let this speak to you. And a word about the language; the poems need to be heard - I hope there are plans for a performance video. I read the poems out loud at the first reading spontaneously:

it begins outside , under the orange glow of a
lamp post while god smokes like he has been doing it
since fifteen. your ted baker suit a black stain  in
a crowd of charity shop jumpers and hand-me-down
boots. they're saying what, him?

and god says yeah, him.

There's a sense of purpose to each character's poem: both in a discreet biblical reference and their immediate currency. The witnesses tell their experience in the context of their social network: a world of pain right though to pornstar martinis, foodbanks, racism, brexit, cheap wine, transition. There's no separation in struggle. The retelling of the the loaves and the fishes was shortlisted of the Leeds poetry prize but comparison is invidious; Simon Peter is interrogated by Paxman; even the tabloid sting of Judas is a reclamation:

                                                       your tears are
hot on your face like molten silver and the barrel sits heavy on
your tongue, tastes like blood. (they asked you the price of
a kiss. you didn't know it.)

Whether this book makes you rethink the gospel or whether you think that is a place you will never go, this is a book to savour from a poet of great honesty. This 14 poem sequence repays study of its alert, suggestive narrative and bold, reclaimed space. You can buy the book here and for more follow @manykinsmen

And compliments to Burning Eye Books for their tactile emphatic cover.