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Saturday, 18 May 2019

Reviewing Contemporary Poetry Books


Being a freelance author and poet means I get to network with other poets who have their work readily available to buy or trade. I've had the pleasure of reading some wonderful literary works by some writers in the poetry scene and will be listing them here with short reviews, plus links to their books! (It's always nice to give back; we must help each other in this tough business).

Goodnight Son - Tommy Sissons: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Goodnight-Son-Tommy-Sissons/dp/1909136840

Sissons addresses contemporary and social issues of class, masculinity, mental health and crime while retaining a simple yet sophisticated use of language and wordplay. His poems are insightful and well written, expressing the troubles of our times concerning young people, particularly young working class men. He provides a voice for an often over-looked group that tend to be swept under the rug of society.

Broken Compass - Carys Hannah https://www.amazon.co.uk/Broken-Compass-Carys-Hannah/dp/191157034X

I LOVED this collection of poems and devoured it in one go! Hannah's clever use of language and wordplay mixes well with the bittersweet nature of her work. I liked the balance between long and short poems, and found her range of themes very relatable (mental illness, political dissatisfaction, shitty broken relationships) especially as a young woman. Her writing is sharp and precise, and she cuts through feelings felt by many that can't always be expressed.

Gold Shades: A True Gentleman - Lloyd Dwaah https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gold-Shades-Lloyd-Kingsley-Dwaah/dp/1786932067

The level of pure emotion in this collection of poems is beautiful and rich with depth and sensitivity. It is refreshing to see a man express his passionate feelings on a page with a genuine tenderness. It's nice that the poems are all related and woven under a singular theme of the impact women have had on Dwaah's life. I also like the rhythmic element and could imagine some of the poems as chilled R&B tracks!

However, I am not a 'romantic' lovey-dovey kind of person so this wasn't really my cup of tea! I would highly recommend to those who enjoy love or relationship poetry and want to experience the vulnerability through his words. Would definitely make a wonderful Valentine's gift!

By Me, Through Me - Ranald A. Barnicot https://www.amazon.co.uk/Me-Through-Ranald-Barnicot/dp/1912773139

Barnicot's use of language and metaphor is highly sophisticated and intellectual. However, for my personal taste I suppose it is a little too dense (which doesn't reflect the quality of the poems themselves, just my subjective poetic delights!) My favourites are 'Light Verse' and 'A Momentary Peace', both of which are simple yet poignantly reflect his messages. I like his observations on the places around him, especially Italy.

'By Me' is the first section of the book with his original poems about life, places and relationships. 'Through Me' is his translations from Classical and modern European languages which is suitable for those interested in classic European literature.

Zebra - Robert Garnham https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1911570161

Garnham has created a treasure of wit and warmth. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform live and can't remember the last time I'd laughed so hard. He refers to every day difficulties such as feeling out-of-place in a strange environment and being trapped in small-talk on the plane. He finds ways to make light out of his insecurities, fears and disappointment, particularly as a gay man ('The Men I Love Are All Straight' is a great example!) If you're feeling down and want something light, cheerful yet relatable to read, then I recommend this book!

Ways of Being - Miguel A. Rodriguez https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1548463035

There is an impressive mix of themes here, ranging from spirituality, love, loss, daily living, street violence and mental illness. I love the way Rodriguez has laid out his work in different formats, with some being listed and some being indented and scattered over the page to represent a fragmented mindset. There's real depth and articulate honesty and wonderful usage of metaphor which I always love in poetry!

The Cellist's Friend - Robert Fanshawe (not a poem book but wanted to give my friend a shout-out!)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cellists-Friend-Robert-J-Fanshawe/dp/1546288333

This started off fairly slow but around halfway through I didn't want to stop reading. I loved Ben and seeing him grow as a character and the beautiful ending made me want to cry. The writing was very well done and it was great seeing Ben's thoughts and fears and unfair guilt around the death of his friend. I like that the story highlighted how awful and hypocritical war can be with regard to justice, racism and people's attitudes.

Seeing the love develop between Ben and Pearl was a stroke of warmth against a cold and cruel regime. It's crazy to think that a hundred years ago people were fighting and dying in the most horrific of circumstances and told it was some brave heroic feat when it actuality no human should have to endure such horrors.

Would recommend if you want to read a quick and heartwarming story that is both sad and hopeful in its depiction of life for a soldier at war.

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