Review – Terrace – by Richard Skinner

It’s about Time.

Richard Skinner is skilled at unpacking the moment. His observations, like drops of ink into a bowl of water, blossom out in unexpected directions, unfolding and unfurling the world. His language is deceptively simple. It’s almost possible to miss the way that he plays with sound to draw the reader to a conclusion. The work engages the senses with a studied intensity taking them almost to the edge of comfort.

It’s about Time

He uses ekphrasis, haiku, lists as litany, to interrogate the instant and out pour colour, perfume, light, life, and death. They are laid out before us for observation. They are the What and the How. The Why is a personal exploration of his own place in the maelstrom of Time. This is the thread that runs through every poem in the collection. The question is one of where he stands and what that means. What does that mean for a man? And, given a man’s place in time, how does he move forward?

“They say that a Yew can walk an acre in a year.”

If so, how far might a man walk?  How far might I walk?  And do I have the wisdom to do that?

The work of Richard Skinner is a beautiful example of condensed questioning.

The Terrace by Richard Skinner is published by Smokestack. You can find him here:

@RichardNSkinner   http://www.richardskinner.weebly.com

Debut Novel Release – Author Chat with Caroline Roberts

Caroline writes contemporary fiction; emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. She lives in stunning rural Northumberland – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that inspire her writing. “The Torn Up Marriage” is her debut novel. In her own words, it is a powerful and poignant story about the bomb of an affair, and the key instinct to protect your family. But what happens when you tear that family apart?

The road to publication was long for Caroline, having written seriously for ten years, completed four novels and been submitting to agents and then publishers directly for the last five years. Finally it all came together in July last year, when 2 major publishers offered her deals within the hour! It’s all been a huge learning curve. She tale about her debut novel and shares a few tips for any aspiring authors below.

The Torn Up Marriage is an emotional story, where did you get your ideas from?

I am intrigued by relationships and by the “messier” side of love – it’s more true to life. A magazine article initially sparked the idea…by detailing how difficult it had been for a family coping with the fall-out of the affair, but how they were trying to make it work. I wanted to show how everyone involved would feel, the betrayer as well as the betrayed, the children, the grandparents; the idea just grew. And I wanted to show how love, even when battered and bruised, can survive.

Why did you choose Northumberland as a setting?

I have lived in Northumberland for the last 13 years and absolutely love the place – its rolling countryside, moorland hills, and the most amazing sandy beaches with castles perched on cliffs overlooking them, are just stunning. There are also historic towns, such as Alnwick, with its honey-coloured stone buildings. I think many people still don’t know a lot about it, being rather unique and undiscovered country tucked away on the borders between England and Scotland. My novels are all set in Northumberland – it’s just an inspiring setting to have!

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

* Write what you are passionate about. If you love what you write this will make the writing process so much easier, and it will come through to the readers (and hopefully publishers/agents) and spark their imagination and interest too.

* Finish the book! Just keep going forward and get the story out. Make time to write regularly, and you will get there. Editing is for later.

* Polish up your first 3 chapters, spend time on your synopsis and cover letter, and only then start sending it out. Try and be as professional as possible.

* Persevere – the submission process can be long and hard, and rejection is never easy. Try not to take it too personally – easier said than done, I know – but keep going and try and learn from any critical feedback you may get.

* Link up with other writers. Look for local groups, or link with groups in your genre. The support and friendship within organisations such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association is invaluable. (It was only by taking a deep breath and pitching at the RNA conference that I got my book deal offers.)

* Take a look at my blog for further tips and feedback on writing and submitting:
http://carolinerobertswriter.blogspot.co.uk/

You can find Caroline on Twitter here
@_caroroberts

Richard Skinner – Terrace

Richard Skinner is a novelist, essayist and poet as well as being one of the driving forces at the Faber Academy. His new pamphlet ‘Terrace’ is due to be published by Smokestack in April 2015.
I had an opportunity to ask him what this new collection is about.
Here is his reply:

The 22 poems in ‘Terrace’ were all written 2008-14. I didn’t put in any poems written before then into the collection because they seem distant to me now, almost as if written by someone else. It’s other people who are best at identifying any common themes running through your work and my editor at Smokestack, Andy Croft, describes ‘Terrace’ as a ‘book about the meanings of perfume, light and colour, exploring the world in a series of striking images, and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways to reveal at the end a ‘bigger picture’ that was always there, only hidden.’

The 22 poems published together allow me to see what interests me most in terms of form and technique. For example, I love lists and the idea of ‘list as litany’ and there are a couple of poems that are just lists of objects, but these objects take on a special significance, a near-sacredness even. In “Death in a French Garden”, the bottles of medicine are metonyms of a mysterious death. We don’t see what happens, only what remains after the event. “My grandmother’s things” is a list of things belonging to her that I have kept and which now act as aides-memoire. In making these lists, I’m writing about what’s tangible and visible as a way of talking about what’s intangible and invisible.
There are a couple of poems based on Greek myth/Biblical characters. I have always been fascinated by the Orpheus myth and every poet has to write a poem about him, don’t they? Orpheus’ ‘mistake’ lies in his desire, which leads him to see and possess Eurydice when he is only destined to sing about her. Only in song does Orpheus have power over Eurydice, but he loses Eurydice because he desires her beyond the power of the song, and he loses himself too. “Nefertiti” is a very earthy poem about sights, sounds and the smell of: ‘neroli, of oris butter,/ the roots of iris-floral,/ obscenely fleshy, like the odour/ beneath a breast or between buttocks.’

Some poets whose style and subject matter are close to my own heart are: Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Ian Hamilton. More recently: Pauline Stainer, Michael Symmons Roberts, Marion Tracy. And whichever way you turn, there is always TS Eliot. Short poems work best for me. I love the super-condensation of a short lyric or imagist poem. Short dense poems can expand your mind in every direction and the shorter the poem is, the more expansive it is. For me, that’s what David Burnett was getting at when he said,
‘Prose adds. A poem multiplies.’

You can find further details here
http://richardskinner.weebly.com/terrace.html
@RichardNSkinner

Review – The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre – by Mark Fiddes

I took my time with the work of Mark Fiddes.
I read and re-read, and then allowed it to percolate for a while.
The recipe seems to be this:

Take a pan of social commentary
Add a cup of literary allusion
and sprinkle with essence of wry

Then reduce over a low flame until it turns to gold
Turn the gold over
It is stamped
Precision

This is precise work without being delicate. It certainly carries a weight of meaning in a small space. The language is modern and the punctuation a necessary afterthought. The work is heavy with intent and the word choices careful, and yet, none of this gets in the way of the narrative.

This is intelligent, multi-layered modern Poetry and should be read.

It isn’t perfect, which is almost a relief, and there is in places an emphasis on waste which won’t appeal to everyone. But this is clever, deep and engaging. You can’t ask much more from a first collection.

The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre will be launched at Keats House by Templar Poetry on the 17th March 2015, and is the winner of the annual iShot Award. You can find more information at the sites below.

http://www.templarpoetry.co.uk
http://www.iotamagazine.co.uk
@fiddesmark
@KeatsHouse

The Poetry of – Michael Daviot

Michael Daviot is a barely contained explosion of a poet.
He relies heavily on stress and the sometimes pounding rhythm of his poetry drives the meaning forward. He favours strong emotive language and minimal punctuation, allowing the free lines and the consonance to speak for itself. Unusually for a poet versed in performance his work engages shape and contour on the page in a way that supports the intent of his poetry.
The overarching feeling is that of an uneasy intelligence kicking at the bars of conventionality, capable of great frustration as well as great gentleness.
This is well read but not derivative work.
If there is a flaw, and it’s a small one, he can sometimes fall into the feeling of being over studied. But here I am talking about the odd line and the odd occasion.
This is work that shines brighter with performance and if you get the opportunity to hear him read his work I encourage you to do so.
You might want to take body armour.

You can find him on twitter @MDaviot
and he is a regular performer at the Speakeasy in Edinburgh @SpeakeasyEd

Review – The Knowledge – Robert Peake

On the whole, this is a work of descriptive lyric poetry, shining with simile.
Then, in places, we find the curling smoke of narrative, of warfare, of welfare.
It is a collection in three parts, each with a distinctive feel and elegantly placed by the editorial team.
The poet moves from couplet through the numbered stanzas to free verse, and back again, with confidence and grace. The pace is impressive, largely because the poems are a joy of enjambment. We return repeatedly to insect imagery, sometimes in surprising places, and the buzz of the bee intermingles with the call to prayer and the heat of an unholy war.
The impression given is that of a reserved poet, a tightly contained poet.
The work is elegant and strong.
If it is silk then it is silk over steel.
And, I don’t think that I know him yet.
But I would like to.

The Knowledge is poetry by Robert Peake, who you can find here
@PeakePoetics
http://www.robertpeake.com
http://www.transatlanticpoetry.com

and will be released in April 2015 by Nine arches Press

http://www.ninearchespress.com
@NineArchesPress

Review – The Thin Book of Poems – by Lach

I wasn’t expecting this.

Lach can turn a beautiful line of poetry with the same cavalier indifference that he applies to his musical asides. The strange thing is – I don’t think that he knows that.
This is a transitional collection.
You can chart the journey from the conversation of music to the music of language, from song lyric to lyricism.
In places the autobiographical accents of Betjeman meet the curl of TS Eliot, but the driving force is pure Lach. It screams “What the hell are we doing?” and follows that immediately with a “What the hell am I doing?”

It is unsteady in places.

And Lach, like the rest of us, is a much better poet when he isn’t consciously trying to write “A poem”. There are a couple of unfortunate lines but only a couple and that is rare in an initial collection. There is a firm understanding of rhythm and cadence, voice and pause, which you would expect from a musician. There is a great deal of good here with a flourish of the outstandingly beautiful.

I look forward to the next collection.
If this is what maturity does to Anti beat heat,
I’m good with it.